The sweet simple little animal we know as the guinea pig- or cavy, as he is also known-having a rich and exotic past.
The guinea pig’s history begins with the earliest rodent fossils form the Paleocene era, around 57 million years ago. Different rodent families evolved from these very early mammals until, 20 million years ago, during the mid-Miocene era, the caviidae family of rodents appeared in south America. From these ancient species, the modern guinea pig evolved.
The natural guinea pig
The scientific name for the domestic guinea pig is family Caviidae porcellus. The guinea pig belongs to the caviar genus, of which there are four other members, all wild cavies still living in south America. These wild relatives are found in the grasslands and scrub of south America, as well as in desert climates and the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains.
The guinea pig is a rodent and is related to such diverse creatures as the mouse, behaver, porcupine and capybara. Like most rodents, the guinea pig is an herbivore, or plant eater. His front teeth, or incisors, grow continuously as do the incisors of all rodent, and must be worn down through gnawing.
Most guinea pig’s domestic and wild share the same physical form. They have a round, Cobby body and a large head that makes up about one-third of the animal’s length. The eyes and ears are big. The hind feet have three clawed toes, while the front feet have four toes with claws. The guinea pig has no tail.
Both wild and domestic guinea pigs are known for their ability to reproduce quickly. Females are capable of bearing young at one month old. Gestation tales nearly two or three months in guinea pigs, depending on the species. Litters usually consist of three or four pups.
The wild cavy cousins of the domestic guinea pig live on social groups called herds, in which they use a series of sequels, squeaks, and squawks to communicate with one another. To keep peace within the herd, cavies establish an order of dominance. A male cavy becomes the dominant animal in the group and is the only one allowed to mate with the females.
Because wild cavies have few physical defense against predators, they use their social groupings for protection. Members of a wild herd create trails between their burrows so they can easily run for cover when danger approaches. They also warn each other of lurking predators with vocalizations and boy language that other cavies can understand.
Guinea pig in the United States:
In the united states, the specialized breeding of guinea pigs for exhibition began in the early 1900s. In 1910, a group called the National pet stock Association was formed to govern the breeding of small mammals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters. In 1923, the organization modified its name to the yankee rabbit and rodent Breeders Association, and it dealt solely with rabbits and guinea pigs.
Cavy breeders opted to leave the American Rabbit and cavy breeders Association in 1952 and formed their own organization called the American cavy breeders Association (ACBA). The American Rabbit and cavy Breeders Association became the American rabbit breeders Association (ARBA) and began dealing only with rabbits.
Eventually, the American cavy breeders Association reunited with the American rabbit breeders association, and now the ACBA function as a division of the ARBA. To this day, the ACBA is still the governing body for the guinea pig fancy in this country.
The guinea pig today:
The guinea pig is a popular pet in the united states because of this affection nature and easy care. Guinea pig fanciers breed their animals to exhibit in events round the country. The guinea pig has also thrived as a companion, and millions of children- and adults-have developed relationship with this sweet little creature.
In north America and Europe, the guinea pig’s main function is as a pet, show and research animal. However, in other parts of the world, the Guinea pig serves different purposes.
In south America, where the guinea pig originated, the animal is still used for food and in religious ceremonies. Known as the “cuy” in south American culture, people of social classes eat the guinea pig because of the high protein content of his meat. Guinea pig meat is also eaten in some urban areas in North America where Hispanic populations are high.
In small Indian villages in the Andes Mountains, guinea pigs are raised in the home, usually in the kitchen. Here the inhabitants of the home live in close quarters with the animals. Raising guinea pigs in the home is not limited to small villages. In large cities such as Lima, Peru and La Paz, Bolivia, guinea pigs are also raised at home. However, commercial breeding of guinea pigs for food is becoming more common.
The guinea pig is an important factor in the economies of several South American countries. Even his manure, a byproduct of the commercial guinea pig meat trade, is used as fertilizer.
In western society, the guinea pig also serves another function: that of laboratory animal. In the English language, the term guinea pig is associated with experimentation because the animals are popular subjects in scientific research. Specially bred guinea pigs are sold to laboratories, where they are used to study human disease. Approximately 500,000 guinea pigs a year are used in scientific research.
Cavy: guinea pig
Boar: male guinea pig
Sow: female guinea pig