Guinea pig

Facts about guinea pig

We found 20 facts about guinea pig

Cavia porcellus

The guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), also known as the domestic cavy, is a medium-sized rodent native to the Andean regions of South America. Where it comes from, it is a delicacy, while in Western culture it is widely popular as a pet. The guinea pig came to Europe and North America in the 16th century through European traders. Its docile nature, friendly reactions to being cared for and fed, and, above all, its very friendly appearance have made this rodent a very common choice for buying a pet, especially for children.

Guinea pig
Commonly referred to as a guinea pig, it is a house cat (Cavia porcellus), a species of medium-sized domesticated rodent in the Caviidae family.

The caviidae family includes 6 genera with 20 species. Modern living representatives of the Caviidae include the house marten, Patagonian mara, Brazilian marten, and great capybara, among others.

Cavies usually reach a small size. The house peacock grows 20-30 cm, the Patagonian mara is much larger - 50-60 cm and the largest is the meter-long great capybara - the largest of the rodents. Extinct genera were even larger.

Capricorns live in South America, from Venezuela to Argentina.

They inhabit a variety of environments. Some prefer open, grassy areas (like the kava), others live in mountainous areas, deftly climbing on rocks or trees (like the moko), while others lead an earth-and-water lifestyle, like the capybara.

They feed on plant foods.

The domestic cavy does not occur naturally in the wild.

It is likely descended from closely related species of cavies, such as Cavia aperea, Cavia fulgida, and Cavia tschudii, which are still commonly found in various regions of South America.

Wild cavies are found in grassy plains. They are social animals, living in the wild in small groups (herds) that consist of several females (sows), a male (boar), and their young (pups). Herds move together, eating grass or other vegetation, but do not store food. Although they do not dig burrows themselves, they often seek shelter in the burrows of other animals, as well as in crevices and tunnels created by vegetation. They are most active at dawn and dusk, when it is harder for predators to spot them.

The guinea pig was first domesticated as early as 5000 BC for food, by tribes in the Andean region of South America (today's southern parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia).

Archaeological excavations in Peru and Ecuador have uncovered statues dating from around 500 BC to 500 AD depicting guinea pigs.

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped these animals and often depicted the guinea pig in their art.

From around 1200 until the Spanish conquest in 1532, indigenous peoples used selective breeding of guinea pigs to develop many varieties that have become the basis for some modern domestic breeds.

Guinea pigs are still a source of food in the region. Many farms in the Andean highlands raise these animals, feeding them vegetable scraps.

Folklore traditions regarding guinea pigs are numerous.

They make up gifts, are used in customary social and religious ceremonies, and are often invoked in metaphors. They are also used in traditional healing rituals by folk healers (curanderos), who use guinea pigs to diagnose diseases such as jaundice, rheumatism, arthritis, and typhoid fever. The guinea pig is rubbed against the sick person's body and seen as a supernatural medium. Black guinea pigs are considered particularly useful in diagnosis - the animal can be dissected and its entrails examined to determine whether the medicine was effective.

These methods are accepted in many parts of the Andes where Western medicine is either unavailable or not trusted.

Spanish, Dutch and English traders took guinea pigs to Europe, where they quickly became popular as exotic pets among the upper classes and royal families, including Queen Elizabeth I.

The earliest known written record of a guinea pig dates back to 1547. It is a description of an animal from Santo Domingo. Since the animals are not native to the Caribbean, it was thought that the guinea pig was brought there early by Spanish travelers.

More recent excavations, however, have shown that the animal must have been brought to the Caribbean around 500 BC by South American pottery makers.

In the West, the guinea pig was first described in 1554 by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner.

The earliest known European illustration of a domestic guinea pig is a painting by an unknown artist from the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, dated 1580. The painting depicts a girl in a typical Elizabethan dress holding a guinea pig in a tortoise shell.

The earliest recorded guinea pig remains being a partial skeleton were found at Hill Hall, an Elizabethan manor house in Essex. They date to around 1575.

The guinea pig, compared to other rodents, is a fairly large animal.

It has a stocky body, a short neck, a short snout, and very short limbs; no tail, or a vestigial tail. The cavy’s coat is short, and thick, with a fine undercoat - long-haired varieties are relatively rare (Peruvian Silkie and Texel).

The animal's body length varies from 20 to 25 cm and weighs from 700 to 1200 g (some breeds can weigh as much as 3 kg when fully grown). Males are noticeably larger than females.

The two front limbs of the domestic cavy end in four toes, and the hind limbs end in three. Each toe is equipped with a pad and a claw. Sensory hairs are located on the lateral surface of the head, near the nose, as well as under the chin and near the eyes.

The guinea pig has teeth that grow throughout its life.

This type of dentition requires constant grinding. It consists of two pairs of incisors, two pairs of premolars, and six pairs of molars. The mandibular incisors are much longer than their counterparts in the jaw. There is a diastema between the incisors and premolars. The mandible is slightly narrower than the maxilla.

There is sexual dimorphism in the domestic jackdaw.

Males are noticeably larger than females. Representatives of both sexes have one pair of nipples, each located in the axillary zone.

In both sexes, the appearance of external sexual characteristics is similar, the genitalia is located directly near the anus. Sex differentiation is possible mainly by examining the external genitalia.

Male guinea pigs reach sexual maturity in 3-5 weeks, females similarly - they can be fertile as early as 4 weeks old.

A female can have five litters in a year, although six are theoretically possible. Unlike the offspring of most rodents, guinea pig puppies have well-developed hair, teeth, claws, and partial sight. They are immediately mobile and begin to eat solid food, although they continue to suckle.

Females can become pregnant again within 6-48 hours after giving birth. Pregnancy lasts an average of 63-68 days, and the litter size varies from 1 to 6, with an average of three cubs. A sow can adopt cubs from another female.

The guinea pig's body temperature ranges from 38.6-39.4 degrees Celsius.

The average resting pulse rate is 275 beats per minute.

The domestic guinea pig is a herd animal, highly territorial and social.

They live in small groups of 5-10 individuals, forming polygamous or monogamous relationships.

Cavies mark their territory by marking it with secretions from anal glands and urine. Males defend their territory by sound warnings, shaking their rump, possibly engaging in fighting. Domesticated kavas are gentler than their wild relatives, those that spend a lot of time with their owner establish strong emotional contact with him. Characteristically, they whistle happily to greet the owner or respond enthusiastically to food.

Guinea pigs have well-developed hearing.

With four cochlear ganglia in the inner ear, they can hear sounds as high as 33.000 Hz. Among other things, they communicate among themselves by the sounds they make, 11 of which have been distinguished.

These animals recognize each other by their voice.

Sight is also equally well developed in them.

The animals distinguish colors: blue, green, yellow, and brown. They have a large angle of vision and can look forward and sideways without turning their heads.

The domestic cavy is an herbivorous animal.

Guinea pigs living in the wild, due to the poor quality of their food, may be prone to coprophagia and chew their feces during the day. They usually eat fecal pellets directly from their anus.

Newborn cavies eat their mother's feces, which allows the necessary bacterial flora to be introduced into their digestive system.

In South American countries, the domestic cavy is a fattening animal, raised for culinary purposes.

These animals are not commercially reared, they are intended to be eaten during periods of various holidays - dishes made from cavies are prepared, for example, as an offering to the dead on All Souls' Day.

More and more South American restaurants are introducing cavy dishes to their menus.

In the Andean countries, the cavy is still used in divination, as it was in Inca times.

From the appearance of their entrails, diviners predict the prognosis of illness, and the animal's fat is used in folk medicine as a treatment for earache or to ease nervous tension.

In the nineteenth century, the domestic cavy began to be used as a laboratory animal.

The advantage of these animals was their small size, gentle disposition, and their anatomical features. Over time, they became synonymous with scientific research and experimentation.

In the 1920s, the breeding of domestic cavies for their research was carried out by the Pasteur Institute - this breeding provided laboratories with several thousand animals per year. These animals are used for research into treatments for cancer, hearing diseases, Alzheimer's, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, influenza, atherosclerosis, hemorrhagic fever, and many others.

Animals of the Hartley, albino, and hairless varieties are most often selected for research.

In 1961, a guinea pig was placed aboard the Vostok-type spacecraft Korabl-Sputnik 4.

Along with a dog, several mice, and a dummy, one or two guinea pigs circled the Earth once and landed safely.

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