Deciding that you want a guinea pig as your next pet is easy. They’re cute, affectionate, and smart animals, which makes them great as pets. However, since there are over a dozen different breeds it can sometimes be difficult to decide which breed you want. In today’s breed spotlight, we’re going to take a closer look at the Sheba guinea pig.
The Sheba guinea pig, also known as the Sheba Mini Yak, is a breed that stands out because of its wild hair which gives them a scruffy appearance. Oftentimes, their coat is described as giving them a “bad hair day” type of look. They’re a medium-haired breed with hair that grows in many different directions. Because of their wild coat, they’re relatively high maintenance and require frequent grooming. This breed is quite heavy-set, with a large body and square-shaped head. Shebas are often described as intelligent, curious, easy-going, and a little bit shy.
History of the Sheba guinea pig
While the name “guinea pig” suggests that they are native to Guinea, this is not the case. In reality, guinea pigs are native to the Andes mountains in South America. They’ve lived there for thousands of years and have long been domesticated by humans. In fact, humans have domesticated and kept guinea pigs as livestock as early as 5000 BC! In the early days, humans mainly raised guinea pigs as a source of food, but gradually we stopped eating them and instead started raising them as our companions. Many breeding programs popped up as a result of this transition, and that’s why we have so many different guinea pig breeds today.
The Sheba guinea pig originated in Australia in 1969 as a result of crossing an Abyssinian with a Peruvian. This crossing was done by Mrs. Wynne Eecen who wrote a book in 1974 titled Pigs isn’t Pigs where she described the breed as follows: “Heavy, sturdy thick-set animal” with a head described as “squarish in aspect, with parakeet frontal and mutton-chop whiskers”. The fur is to be “medium texture, thick and luxuriant.” and the guinea pig to be shown “Rosetted, in a natural state, not to be highly groomed or to have hair parted in the middle”.
Unfortunately, this breed is not officially recognized yet by the American Cavy Breeders’ Association.
The Sheba guinea pig is the poster child for a bad hair day guinea pig. Their wild coat contains many rosettes which gives them that desired fresh-out-of-bed look that many guinea pig owners love so much.
The Sheba is not officially classified as a long-haired breed, but their hair does keep growing forever. Most shorthairs have coats that do not continuously grow, while longhairs have coats that grow up to an inch a month. The Sheba falls somewhere in between – their coat does keep growing, but at a slower rate than that of longhaired guinea pigs.
Shebas have a heavy and thick body with squared heads. On average, they weigh anywhere from 800 to 1200 grams, with males typically being bigger than females. This breed can come in many different colors and their patterns are usually rosetted, tortoiseshell, tricolor, or solid.
Take a look at this video to get a better idea of what this beautiful breed looks like:
The Sheba guinea pig is known for its inquisitive, curious, kind, and sometimes shy nature. The breed gets along very well with other animals and children, making them an excellent family pet. They’re also quite noisy for a cavy compared to other breeds, they like to make their presence known by popcorning, purring, or wheeking. Furthermore, they’re relatively active and need a lot of playtime and space to run around.
While this breed might be shy initially, once they warm up to you they’re one of the most loving and affectionate breeds that you can find. They enjoy being petted, playing, and learning tricks.
Because Sheba guinea pigs are social animals they do not do well in solitude. When purchasing one of the animals you have to make sure that you buy at least one companion for them. They will not be happy if they live alone. No matter how much love and attention you give them, they need a guinea pig buddy to keep them company.
There is one thing that is a little bit strange about this breed and that is that they have a tendency to chew on their own coat. Initially, you might think that they do this because they’re bored or because they do not have enough hay, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Even Shebas with access to plenty of hay and mental stimulation still chew on their coats. It’s unclear why exactly it is they do this.
The lifespan of the Sheba guinea pig is the same as that of other breeds – about 4 to 8 years. Of course, the lifespan of your cavy does depend a lot on the quality of care they receive and their genes. A guinea pig that has genes that makes them predisposed to disease and illness will often have a shorter lifespan than a healthy one. Because of that, it’s important that you get your Sheba from a reputable breeder to ensure that you get a healthy animal.
If you have a healthy Sheba that receives good care, quality food, enough exercise, and a lot of love they can live much longer than their average lifespan. The oldest guinea pig in history lived for almost 15 years.
Sheba Guinea Pig Price
Buying a Sheba guinea pig is not always easy. Because they are not officially recognized by the ACBA it can be difficult to find a breeder that has one available and they’re not often found in pet shops. However, while they’re hard to find, it’s not impossible.
The best way to find a breeder is to look around in your area, and if that fails, you can also ask a local shelter to see if they have one available. Some breeders also have websites, such as JnJpugsnpaps where they list the guinea pigs they have available for sale.
On average, you should expect to spend around $75 on a Sheba, but do keep in mind that there are many recurring costs that you have to account for, such as their food, veterinary checkups, and bedding, which altogether will cost you around $40 a month.
Caring for Sheba guinea pigs
Caring for a Sheba guinea pig is not too difficult. It’s slightly easier than caring for a long-haired breed, and slightly more difficult than caring for a short-haired breed. Because their hair grows more slowly than that of long-haired breeds they need less grooming.
Nevertheless, while they’re not the most difficult breed to care for, there are still certain things you need to know, such as their dietary requirements, health, and housing needs.
The diet of the Sheba is the same as that of other guinea pigs. They’re strict vegetarians, so they should only ever eat plant-based foods.
In short, the Sheba needs a diet that consists of the following components:
- An unlimited supply of Timothy Hay. Timothy hay is necessary for guinea pigs because it allows them to grind down their teeth and it aids their digestion. Make sure that they always have access to timothy hay so that they can eat it whenever they need to. Don’t worry about your cavy gaining weight – hay is very low in calories.
- Fresh vegetables. According to veterinarians, about 10 to 20% of your guinea pig’s daily food intake by weight should consist of fresh vegetables. The majority of their vegetable intake should come from leafy greens, with smaller amounts coming from colored vegetables. On average, your Sheba needs about a cup of fresh vegetables per day.
- Fruits and other treats. Fruits and other treats should be fed to your guinea pig in moderation. It should by no means be a large part of their diet due to the fact that fruit is relatively high in sugar and calories, but the occasional piece of fruit is definitely not bad for them. It’s a good source of vitamin C and other important vitamins and minerals.
- Water. Just like all living creatures, your guinea pig needs water to survive. Ensure that your cavy has access to plenty of water at all times. Refresh their water bottle often and make sure to frequently clean it.
The Sheba guinea pig is overall a healthy and strong breed. They’re not prone to any breed-specific diseases. Nevertheless, they can still get sick, so you have to make sure to take them to a vet regularly for checkups. Veterinarians recommend taking them for a check-up at least once a year.
Furthermore, guinea pigs are incapable of creating their own vitamin C. Because of this, they need to obtain it from the food they eat. Unfortunately, many guinea pigs do not get enough vitamin C from their diet, which is why it’s recommended to supplement their diet with additional vitamin C. The veterinarians at VCA hospitals recommend that your cavy has a total daily vitamin C intake of 10-50 mg per day, depending on their condition. They advise guinea pig owners to give their cavy a vitamin C tablet every day to ensure that they meet their Vitamin C needs.
Housing your Sheba guinea pig
The Sheba is a relatively active breed so they need a cage that is large enough to accommodate them.
When in doubt when choosing between two cages, bigger is always better. Generally speaking, 30 inches x 50 inches is a decent cage size for 2 Sheba guinea pigs. Do make sure that you take them out of their cage often so that they can explore and play around. No animal likes being locked up in its cage 24/7.
Also, they need to have bedding, toys, water bottles, food bowls, and a sheltered area where they can sleep in their cage.
You have to make sure to avoid cedar and pine bedding because those materials can cause irritation to your piggy’s skin. Your best bet is buying specialized guinea pig bedding such as this. Further, make sure that you get at least two water bottles and food bowls to avoid conflicts when they want to eat or drink at the same time.
Now you know everything there’s to know about the beautiful Sheba guinea pig breed. We’ve gone over their rich history, their striking appearance, their kind personality, and how to properly care for these beautiful animals. I hope this overview has given you a good idea of what to expect when you decide to adopt one of these lovely creatures into your home.
If you’re looking for information about other guinea pig breeds, check out the links below for an overview of the following breeds: