Guinea pigs, or cavies as they are also known, have been kept in households as companion animals since being introduced by European traders in the 16th century.
Amazing Facts About the Guinea pig
- Guinea pigs were first domesticated around 5000 BC by tribes in the Andes for use as a food source.
- Guinea pigs are particularly vocal. They have a range of vocalisations to communicate with each other, including ‘purring’ when content and ‘chirping’ when stressed.
- Although male guinea pigs are called boars and females are called sows, they are actually rodents, and not related to pigs at all. They don’t come from Guinea either!
- Guinea pigs are highly social. Wild ancestors lived in groups with a dominant male. When kept in captivity as pets, they can become lonely and depressed if kept without other guinea pig companions.
- Young guinea pigs can run only 3 hours after being born.
- Unlike other rodents, guinea pig pups are born with a full body of hair and their eyes open.
- Although domestication has led to a reduction in brain size for guinea pigs, they are still just as smart as their wild relatives. They have excellent spatial orientation and are able to learn complex maze tasks using symbols as sign posts.
- Guinea pigs do not have visible tails.
- Gnawing is an essential behaviour for guinea pigs. This helps to wear off the tips of their incisors which grow continually throughout their lives. If they are not able to gnaw, the teeth will grow too long and they will be unable to eat.
- Like humans, guinea pigs are unable to make vitamin C and need to acquire it through food sources. Failing to do so can be extremely problematic, and can lead to scurvy and eventually death.
- Guinea pigs tend to be most active in the morning and evening.
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Herbivore
- Lifespan: 5-8 years
- Size: 20-25 cm
- Weight: 700-1,200 g
- Habitat: Tropical grassland
- Range: Descendants originated in the Andes, South America
- Scientific name: Cavia porcellus