How Much Do You Know About Guinea Pigs?



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The Domestic Guinea Pig: A South American Rodent

  • The guinea pig, also known as the cavy, is a domesticated rodent belonging to the genus Cavia in the family Caviidae.

  • They are not native to Guinea, nor are they related to pigs, and the origin of the name is unclear.

  • Guinea pigs originated in the Andes of South America and are domesticated animals that do not exist naturally in the wild.

  • Guinea pigs were originally domesticated as livestock for a source of meat and are still consumed in some parts of the world.

  • Guinea pigs have enjoyed widespread popularity as pets in Western society since their introduction to Europe and North America by European traders in the 16th century.

  • Guinea pigs are used in folk medicine and community religious ceremonies, and are raised for their meat, which is a culinary staple in the Andes Mountains where they are known as cuy.

  • Guinea pigs have been used in biological experimentation since the 17th century and are still used in research today to study medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy, and pregnancy complications.

  • Guinea pigs are descended from closely related species of cavies and were first domesticated for food by tribes in the Andean region of South America around 5000 BC.

  • Guinea pigs have long been a part of indigenous Andean culture and folklore and are exchanged as gifts, used in customary social and religious ceremonies, and referred to in spoken metaphors.

  • Guinea pigs are large for rodents and weigh between 700 and 1200 g when fully grown, with some livestock breeds weighing up to 3 kg.

  • Guinea pigs are social animals, living in small groups that consist of several females, a male, and their young, and are active during dawn and dusk.

  • Guinea pigs communicate primarily through vocalization and thrive in groups of two or more, bonding with individual pigs and recognizing their companions.Facts About Guinea Pigs

  • The origin of the name "guinea pig" is uncertain, but it may be a reference to Guinea, an area in West Africa, or to Guiana, an area in South America.

  • Guinea pigs are called by different names in various languages, such as quwi or jaca in Quechua, cuy or cuyo in Spanish, Meerschweinchen in German, and túnshǔ or morskaya svinka in Chinese and Russian, respectively.

  • Guinea pigs have a unique dietary system that involves coprophagy, the consumption of soft fecal pellets, to recycle B vitamins, fiber, and bacteria required for proper digestion.

  • A balanced diet for guinea pigs requires fresh grass hay, food pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables to provide essential nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, D, and E.

  • Guinea pigs can breed year-round, and a sow can have as many as five litters a year, with litter sizes ranging from one to six.

  • Common health problems in domestic guinea pigs include respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, scurvy, abscesses, and infections by lice, mites, or fungus.

  • Guinea pigs are prey animals that mask pain and signs of illness, making it challenging to detect health problems until they are severe.

  • Guinea pigs can become familiar with their owners and become amenable to being picked up and carried, and they show considerable curiosity when allowed to walk freely.

  • Guinea pigs tend to be fickle eaters when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, and they may develop bad habits if food is not present, such as chewing on their hair.

  • Guinea pigs are not well suited to environments that feature wind or frequent drafts, and they respond poorly to extremes of humidity outside of the range of 30-70%.

  • Guinea pigs can live for up to eight years, and they make good pets for children and adults alike.

  • Guinea pigs are social animals that form strong bonds with their cage mates and require companionship, preferably from other guinea pigs, to thrive.Guinea Pigs: Their Coats, Clubs, Allergies, Pop Culture, Food, and Role in Scientific Research

Coats and grooming:

  • Guinea pigs come in many breeds with varying hair and color composition.
  • Popular breeds include the English shorthair, Abyssinian, Peruvian, Sheltie, and Texel.
  • Grooming is primarily done using combs or brushes, with shorthair breeds needing weekly brushing and longhair breeds requiring daily grooming.

Clubs and associations:

  • Worldwide, cavy clubs and associations exist for showing and breeding guinea pigs.
  • Governing bodies include the American Cavy Breeders Association, British Cavy Council, Australian National Cavy Council, and New Zealand Cavy Council.
  • Each club publishes its own standard of perfection and determines which breeds are eligible for showing.

Human allergies:

  • Allergic reactions to guinea pigs have been documented in laboratory animal workers and those exposed to them in domestic settings.
  • Two major guinea pig allergens, Cav p I and Cav p II, have been identified.
  • People allergic to guinea pigs are often allergic to hamsters and gerbils as well.
  • Allergy shots can treat guinea pig allergies, but treatment can take up to 18 months.

Pop culture and media:

  • Guinea pigs have appeared in literature, including "Pigs Is Pigs" by Ellis Parker Butler and the Olga da Polga series by Michael Bond.
  • They have also appeared in film and television, such as the character Rodney in Dr. Dolittle and Linny in Wonder Pets.
  • Guinea pigs have been used in advertising campaigns for Egg Banking plc, Snapple, and Blockbuster Video.


  • Guinea pigs, called cuy, cuye, or curí, were originally domesticated for their meat in the Andes.
  • They are still consumed as a delicacy in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia.
  • Guinea pig meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol, and is served fried, broiled, or roasted.
  • Pachamanca or huatia, a process similar to barbecuing, is also popular.

Scientific research:

  • Guinea pigs have been used in scientific experimentation since the 17th century.

  • They played a major role in establishing germ theory in the 19th century.

  • Guinea pigs have been replaced in laboratory contexts primarily by mice and rats since the middle 20th century.

  • They were most extensively used for research and diagnosis of infectious diseases and identifying brucellosis, tuberculosis, and various strains of typhus.

  • Guinea pigs are one of the few animals that cannot synthesize vitamin C, making them ideal for researching scurvy.

  • They are identified as model organisms for the study of juvenile diabetes and pre-eclampsia in human females.The History and Significance of Guinea Pigs in Research and Culture

  • Guinea pigs have been used in scientific research since the 17th century, particularly in the fields of biology, medicine, and pharmacology.

  • They were first domesticated for food by indigenous peoples in the Andes Mountains of South America, and were later introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.

  • Guinea pigs have served as a model organism for studying human diseases, such as tuberculosis, scurvy, and Salmonella infections, and for testing the safety and efficacy of drugs and vaccines.

  • They are also used in behavioral and psychological research, such as the study of social behavior, aggression, and learning and memory.

  • Two strains of guinea pigs, "Strain 2" and "Strain 13," are still used frequently in research today.

  • Hairless breeds of guinea pigs have been used in dermatological research since the 1980s, and are also kept as pets under the name "skinny pigs."

  • The term "guinea pig" is commonly used as a metaphor for a subject of scientific experimentation or testing, as well as consumerism and totalitarianism.

  • The book "100,000,000 Guinea Pigs" by F. J. Schlink and Arthur Kallet, published in 1933, popularized the metaphor and spurred the growth of the consumer protection movement.

  • During World War II, the Guinea Pig Club was established as a social club and mutual support network for plastic surgery patients undergoing previously untested procedures.

  • The negative connotation of the term "guinea pig" was later employed in the novel "The Guinea Pigs" by Czech author Ludvík Vaculík as an allegory for Soviet totalitarianism.

  • Guinea pigs have also been used in cultural traditions and folklore, such as in the Andean festival of Inti Raymi, where they are used in divination.

  • Despite their historical and contemporary significance, the use of guinea pigs in research remains controversial, with some advocating for alternative methods and others arguing for their continued use under ethical guidelines.


Test your knowledge on the adorable and fascinating domestic guinea pig with our quiz! Learn about their origin, use in scientific experimentation, popular breeds, dietary needs, and cultural significance. From their unique dietary system to their role in pop culture, this quiz covers everything you need to know about guinea pigs. Challenge yourself and see how much you know about these beloved rodents!

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