:: Fantastic Facts of Friendly Furballs  

My guinea pig - Misty, taken from my cameraI chose to research Cavia porcellus because when I was younger I had a guinea pig of my own, named Misty.  I adored her and her incessant squeaking for romaine lettuce.  Along with that, I found guinea pigs interesting for their diverse use around the world and through the ages.  They’ve been used as food by the South American’s while in North America they are made as pets and shown in elaborate guinea pig competitions.  As discussed in the interactions section the guinea pig was originally domesticated for its meat.  It was first considered a delicacy and only eaten on special occasions but since the 1960’s it has been widely accepted as a regular food source for people.  Natives of Peru are estimated to consumer approximately 65 million guinea pigs each year.  The guinea pigs are so meshed together with the Peruvian culture that even in a facsimile of daVinci’s Last Supper painting that is hung in the main cathedral, shows Christ and his twelve disciples feasting on guinea pig.

Long before the discovery of America, the South American Indians kept domestic guinea pigs.  There have been archaeological excavations of Inca settlements and tombs that have turned up guinea pig mummies, skeletons, and hair.  Not only did the Incas use guinea pigs as food, but also as sacrificial animals to their gods.

Guinea pigs are famous for being used in scientific experiments.  They have great biological similarities to humans in their hearing, immune system and need for certain vitamins.   They have led to great breakthroughs including the discovery of Vitamin C, the tuberculosis bacterium, and adrenaline.  With that, guinea pigs have contributed to 23 Nobel prizes for physiology or medicine.  Follow this link to a great website on the scientific uses of guinea pigs.


A cute guinea pig laying in its bedding, courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/The name ‘guinea pig’ seems like an unusual name for this creature, seeing as it’s not a pig, or even that it didn’t originate from Guinea!  There are a couple theories on why the guinea pigs name is what it is.  One is that the guinea pig has a similar physique to that of a pig: a relatively large head compared to their bodies, plump necks and rounded rumps with no tail of any importance.  Also, some of the sounds they create are quite similar to the lovely squeals made by pigs.  Another theory for the ‘pig’ part of the guinea pigs name is that they are able to survive for long periods of time in small spaces, like a ‘pig pen.’  The ‘guinea’ in guinea pig is a little more difficult to explain.  Some are led to think that the creatures were brought to Europe through Guinea, making people believe the animal had originated from there.  Another theory says that back through the ages ‘guinea’ was frequently used as a reference to anything that was from far-off, or from an unknown country, so the name may have merely stuck to the animal through its unbeknownst origin.

The guinea pig has some interesting relatives.  It is related to the porcupine, the chinchilla, the mara and the capybara.  The capybara is the largest rodent and can weigh up to 100 pounds!

The guinea pig: an animal that has aided in scientific discoveries, a great pet, and a delightful meal.  What is not to find interesting about this wonderful creature?