Tortoiseshell Breed Standard

Promoted to Full Standard 1st January 2024

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Standard of points

Head, Eyes & Ears Head to be of good size, bold and broad, with a gently curving profile. 10
Muzzle to be of good width and rounded at the nostrils.
Eyes to be large, bright and bold and set with good width between.
Ears to be large and drooping, and set with good width between.
Body Shape To have short, cobby body with good width across shoulders and body. 10
To be fit and of good substance, with plenty of firm flesh.
To have good size appropriate to age.
Markings To consist of square cut patches of black and red evenly distributed on each side of the body on either side of a central 'line' formed by the meeting of patches of different colours. 60
of which
Head Markings Head to have two colours divided down the centre. (5)
Line & Distribution of Patches Patches to be placed on each side of the body so as to give no overlaps over the central line top or under.
Each side of the body of the cavy to have three or more patches. (30)
Shape & Clarity of Patches Patches to be square-cut with straight edges and of equal size (25)
Patches to be square-cut with straight edges and of equal size.
Colour Colours ideally to conform as nearly as possible to ESCC Standards, although slight variations from these should not be penalised so long as colour is rich, even, of glossy sheen and carried well down to the skin to avoid any appearance of flakiness. 15
To be free from white hairs (see Faults below).
Eye colour to be dark.
Coat To be soft, clean and groomed free of guard hairs. 5

Guidance notes

The Tortoiseshell is a smooth coated cavy, carrying a chequerboard pattern of square-cut patches of black and red, of equal size, with a dividing ‘line’ formed by the meeting of patches on opposite sides of the body running the length of the cavy both top and underside.

No patches should overlap the central line, either on top or under side.

There is no set sequence for the patches; but in considering the quality of a Tortoiseshell the overall balance of patches and colour on each side and top & under is important.

On well marked exhibits 4 or 5 patches on each side would be preferable to three, but not at the expense of a loss of uniformity in the size and shape of the patches.

Each patch should consist of a solid colour, clearly defined from surrounding patches, and with no intermingling of hairs of a different colour.

Because a fault that is seen readily on the top side of the cavy has a greater adverse impact on the overall appearance than one which is ‘hidden’ underneath, preference should be given to a cavy with a good top and less good under than one with the opposite characteristics.

However, patching on the belly must be taken into account when considering overall quality.

When assessing the Tortoiseshell, the quality of the markings is by far the most important aspect of the cavy; and minor faults in type, such as a straight head or ears not drooping, are of very little significance. However, soundness of both colours is important to creating the overall impact of the patchwork.

Because it is extremely difficult to fix the desired markings on the Tortoiseshell, judges should not be too harsh in assessing ‘good attempts’ with clear patches and solid colour.

Specific disqualifications

Specific faults

Line Faults

(In descending order of significance, i.e. worst faults first, but dependent on extent of failing)

Distribution Faults

(In descending order of significance, i.e. worst faults first)

Clarity Faults

Colour Faults


White Hairs

Exhibits carrying small clumps of white hairs that do not in total exceed the size of a £1 coin may be shown in Tortoiseshell classes. This to be penalised according to the size of the clumps.

Wash 2: Designed by Simon Neesam for the British Cavy Council © 2020