Guinea pig
Overview
The guinea pig also called the cavy, is a species of rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

 belonging to the family Caviidae
Caviidae
The cavy family is a family of rodents native to South America, and including the domestic guinea pig, wild cavies, and the capybara, among other animals...

 and the genus Cavia
Cavia
Cavia is a genus in the subfamily Caviinae that contains the rodents commonly known as guinea pigs. The best-known species in this genus is the domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, an important meat animal in South America and a common household pet in the West.-Taxonomic controversy:Cavia are...

. Despite their common name
Common name
A common name of a taxon or organism is a name in general use within a community; it is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism...

, these animals are not in the pig family
Suidae
Suidae is the biological family to which pigs belong. In addition to numerous fossil species, up to sixteen extant species are currently recognized, classified into between four and eight genera...

, nor are they from Guinea
Guinea (region)
Guinea is a traditional name for the region of Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It stretches north through the forested tropical regions and ends at the Sahel.-History:...

. They originated in the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

, and earlier studies based on biochemistry and hybridization suggested they are domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 descendants of a closely related species of cavy such as Cavia aperea
Brazilian Guinea Pig
The Brazilian Guinea Pig is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay....

, C. fulgida
Shiny Guinea Pig
The Shiny Guinea Pig, Cavia fulgida, is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Brazil and ArgentinaWagler in 1831 first called the species Cavia fulgida; P. W. Lund identified a Cavia rufescens in 1841, but since Oldfield Thomas these are considered to be identical species....

, or C. tschudii
Montane Guinea Pig
The Montane Guinea Pig, Cavia tschudii, is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Peru.Peruvian wild guinea pigs were first described by E. T. Bennett in 1835, who termed them Cavia cutleri...

and, therefore, do not exist naturally in the wild.
Encyclopedia
The guinea pig also called the cavy, is a species of rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

 belonging to the family Caviidae
Caviidae
The cavy family is a family of rodents native to South America, and including the domestic guinea pig, wild cavies, and the capybara, among other animals...

 and the genus Cavia
Cavia
Cavia is a genus in the subfamily Caviinae that contains the rodents commonly known as guinea pigs. The best-known species in this genus is the domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, an important meat animal in South America and a common household pet in the West.-Taxonomic controversy:Cavia are...

. Despite their common name
Common name
A common name of a taxon or organism is a name in general use within a community; it is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism...

, these animals are not in the pig family
Suidae
Suidae is the biological family to which pigs belong. In addition to numerous fossil species, up to sixteen extant species are currently recognized, classified into between four and eight genera...

, nor are they from Guinea
Guinea (region)
Guinea is a traditional name for the region of Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It stretches north through the forested tropical regions and ends at the Sahel.-History:...

. They originated in the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

, and earlier studies based on biochemistry and hybridization suggested they are domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 descendants of a closely related species of cavy such as Cavia aperea
Brazilian Guinea Pig
The Brazilian Guinea Pig is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay....

, C. fulgida
Shiny Guinea Pig
The Shiny Guinea Pig, Cavia fulgida, is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Brazil and ArgentinaWagler in 1831 first called the species Cavia fulgida; P. W. Lund identified a Cavia rufescens in 1841, but since Oldfield Thomas these are considered to be identical species....

, or C. tschudii
Montane Guinea Pig
The Montane Guinea Pig, Cavia tschudii, is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Peru.Peruvian wild guinea pigs were first described by E. T. Bennett in 1835, who termed them Cavia cutleri...

and, therefore, do not exist naturally in the wild. Recent studies applying molecular markers, in addition to studying the skull and skeletal morphology of current and mummified animals, revealed that the ancestor is most likely Cavia tschudii.

The guinea pig plays an important role in the folk culture
Folk culture
Folk culture refers to the lifestyle of a culture. Historically, handed down through oral tradition, it demonstrates the "old ways" over novelty and relates to a sense of community. Folk culture is quite often imbued with a sense of place...

 of many Indigenous South American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 groups, especially as a food source, but also in folk medicine
Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...

 and in community religious ceremonies. Since the 1960s, efforts have been made to increase consumption of the animal outside South America.

In Western
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 societies, the guinea pig has enjoyed widespread popularity as a household pet
Pet
A pet is a household animal kept for companionship and a person's enjoyment, as opposed to wild animals or to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic or productive reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful...

 since its introduction by European traders in the 16th century. Their docile nature, their responsiveness to handling and feeding, and the relative ease of caring for them, continue to make the guinea pig a popular pet. Organizations devoted to competitive breeding
Animal fancy
Animal fancy is a hobby involving the appreciation, promotion, or breeding of pet or domestic animals.Fancy may include ownership, showing, trialling and other competitions, breeding and judging. Hobbyists may simply collect specimens of the animal in appropriate enclosures, such as aquaria and...

 of guinea pigs have been formed worldwide, and many specialized breeds of guinea pig, with varying coat colors and compositions, are cultivated by breeders.

Biological experimentation on guinea pigs has been carried out since the 17th century. The animals were frequently used as a model organism
Model organism
A model organism is a non-human species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms. Model organisms are in vivo models and are widely used to...

 in the 19th and 20th centuries, resulting in the epithet
Epithet
An epithet or byname is a descriptive term accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, objects, and binomial nomenclature. It is also a descriptive title...

 "guinea pig" for a test subject, but have since been largely replaced by other rodents such as mice
House mouse
The house mouse is a small rodent, a mouse, one of the most numerous species of the genus Mus.As a wild animal the house mouse mainly lives associated with humans, causing damage to crops and stored food....

 and rats
Brown Rat
The brown rat, common rat, sewer rat, Hanover rat, Norway rat, Brown Norway rat, Norwegian rat, or wharf rat is one of the best known and most common rats....

. They are still used in research, primarily as models for human medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Diabetes mellitus type 1 is a form of diabetes mellitus that results from autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. The subsequent lack of insulin leads to increased blood and urine glucose...

, tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

, and pregnancy complications
Pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia or preeclampsia is a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine....

.

History

The common guinea pig was first domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 as early as 5000 BC for food by tribes in the Andean
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 region of South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

 (present-day the southern part of Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

, Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, and Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

), some thousands of years after the domestication of the South American camelid
Camelid
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only living family in the suborder Tylopoda. Dromedaries, Bactrian Camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos are in this group....

s. Statue
Statue
A statue is a sculpture in the round representing a person or persons, an animal, an idea or an event, normally full-length, as opposed to a bust, and at least close to life-size, or larger...

s dating from ca.
Circa
Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

 500 BC to 500 AD that depict guinea pigs have been unearthed in archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 digs in Peru and Ecuador. The Moche
Moche
'The Moche civilization flourished in northern Peru from about 100 AD to 800 AD, during the Regional Development Epoch. While this issue is the subject of some debate, many scholars contend that the Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state...

 people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and often depicted the guinea pig in their art. From ca. 1200 AD to the Spanish conquest
Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire
The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. This historic process of military conquest was made by Spanish conquistadores and their native allies....

 in 1532, selective breeding resulted in many varieties of domestic guinea pigs, which form the basis for some of the modern domestic breeds. They continue to be a food source in the region; many households in the Andean highlands raise the animal, which subsists off the family's vegetable scraps. Folklore
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 traditions involving guinea pigs are numerous; they are exchanged as gifts, used in customary social and religious ceremonies, and frequently referenced in spoken metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

s. They also play a role in traditional healing rituals by folk doctors, or curandero
Curandero
A curandero or curandeiro is a traditional folk healer or shaman in Latin America, who is dedicated to curing physical or spiritual illnesses. The role of a curandero or curandera can also incorporate the roles of psychiatrist along with that of doctor and healer. Many curanderos use Catholic...

s
, who use the animals to diagnose
Medical diagnosis
Medical diagnosis refers both to the process of attempting to determine or identify a possible disease or disorder , and to the opinion reached by this process...

 diseases such as jaundice
Jaundice
Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, the conjunctival membranes over the sclerae , and other mucous membranes caused by hyperbilirubinemia . This hyperbilirubinemia subsequently causes increased levels of bilirubin in the extracellular fluid...

, rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

, arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

, and typhus
Typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

. They are rubbed against the bodies of the sick, and are seen as a supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 medium. Black guinea pigs are considered especially useful for diagnoses. The animal also may be cut open and its entrails examined to determine whether the cure was effective. These methods are widely accepted in many parts of the Andes, where Western medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 is either unavailable or distrusted.

Spanish
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

, Dutch
Dutch Empire
The Dutch Empire consisted of the overseas territories controlled by the Dutch Republic and later, the modern Netherlands from the 17th to the 20th century. The Dutch followed Portugal and Spain in establishing an overseas colonial empire, but based on military conquest of already-existing...

, and English
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 traders brought guinea pigs to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, where they quickly became popular as exotic pet
Exotic pet
An exotic pet is a rare or unusual animal pet, or an animal kept as a pet which is not commonly thought of as a pet.The definition is an evolving one; some rodents, reptiles, and amphibians have become firmly enough established in the world of animal fancy to no longer be considered exotic...

s among the upper classes and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

. The earliest known written account of the guinea pig dates from 1547, in a description of the animal from Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

; because cavies are not native to Hispaniola
Hispaniola
Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

, it was earlier believed that the animal was likely introduced there by Spanish travelers. However, based on more recent excavations on West Indian islands, it has become known that the animal must have been introduced by ceramic-making horticulturalists from South America to the Caribbean around 2500 BP, and it was present in the Ostionoid period, for example, on Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, long before the advent of the Spaniards. The guinea pig was first described in the West in 1554 by the Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 naturalist Conrad Gessner
Conrad Gessner
Conrad Gessner was a Swiss naturalist and bibliographer. His five-volume Historiae animalium is considered the beginning of modern zoology, and the flowering plant genus Gesneria is named after him...

. Its binomial
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

 scientific name was first used by Erxleben
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben
Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben was a German naturalist from Quedlinburg.Erxleben was Professor of physics and veterinary medicine at the University of Göttingen. He wrote Anfangsgründe der Naturlehre and Systema regni animalis...

 in 1777; it is an amalgam of Pallas
Peter Simon Pallas
Peter Simon Pallas was a German zoologist and botanist who worked in Russia.- Life and work :Pallas was born in Berlin, the son of Professor of Surgery Simon Pallas. He studied with private tutors and took an interest in natural history, later attending the University of Halle and the University...

' generic designation (1766) and Linnaeus' specific conferral (1758).

Name

The scientific name
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

 of the common species is Cavia porcellus, with porcellus being Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for "little pig". Cavia is New Latin
New Latin
The term New Latin, or Neo-Latin, is used to describe the Latin language used in original works created between c. 1500 and c. 1900. Among other uses, Latin during this period was employed in scholarly and scientific publications...

; it is derived from cabiai, the animal's name in the language of the Galibi tribes once native to French Guiana
French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department located on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It has borders with two nations, Brazil to the east and south, and Suriname to the west...

. Cabiai may be an adaptation of the Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 çavia (now savia), which is itself derived from the Tupi
Tupian languages
The Tupi or Tupian language family comprises some 70 languages spoken in South America, of which the best known are Tupi proper and Guarani.-History, members and classification:...

 word saujá, meaning rat. Guinea pigs are called quwi or jaca in Quechua and cuy or cuyo (pl. cuyes, cuyos) in the Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Ironically, breeders
Animal fancy
Animal fancy is a hobby involving the appreciation, promotion, or breeding of pet or domestic animals.Fancy may include ownership, showing, trialling and other competitions, breeding and judging. Hobbyists may simply collect specimens of the animal in appropriate enclosures, such as aquaria and...

 tend to use the more formal "cavy" to describe the animal, while in scientific and laboratory contexts it is far more commonly referred to by the more colloquial "guinea pig".

How the animals came to be called "pigs" is not clear. They are built somewhat like pig
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

s, with large heads relative to their bodies, stout necks, and rounded rumps with no tail of any consequence; some of the sounds they emit are very similar to those made by pigs, and they also spend a large amount of time eating. They can survive for long periods in small quarters, like a 'pig pen', and were thus easily transported on ships to Europe.

The animal's name carries porcine
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 connotations in many European languages. The German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word for them is Meerschweinchen, literally "sea piglet", which has been translated into Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 as świnka morska, into Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

 as tengerimalac and into Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 as морская свинка. This derives from the Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 name "merswin". This originally meant "dolphin
Dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

" and was used because of the animals' grunting sounds (which were felt to be similar). There are however many other, possibly less scientifically based explanations of the German name. For example, sailing ships stopping to reprovision in the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

 would pick up stores of guinea pigs, which provided an easily transportable source of fresh meat. The French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 term is Cochon d'Inde (Indian pig) or cobaye; the Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 call it Guinees biggetje (Guinean piglet) or cavia (while in some Dutch dialects it is called Spaanse rat); and in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 the guinea pig is variously referred to as cobaia, from the Tupi word via its Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

ization, or as porquinho da Índia (little Indian pig). This is not universal; for example, the common word in Spanish is conejillo de Indias (little rabbit of the Indies). The Chinese refer to them as Holland pigs (荷蘭豬, hélánzhū). The Japanese word for guinea pig is "モルモット"(morumotto), which derives from the name of another mountain-dwelling rodent, the marmot
Marmot
The marmots are a genus, Marmota, of squirrels. There are 14 species in this genus.Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in...

; this is what guinea pigs were called by the Dutch traders who first brought them to Nagasaki in 1843.

The origin of "guinea" in "guinea pig" is harder to explain. One theory is that the animals were brought to Europe by way of Guinea
Guinea (region)
Guinea is a traditional name for the region of Africa that lies along the Gulf of Guinea. It stretches north through the forested tropical regions and ends at the Sahel.-History:...

, leading people to think they had originated there. "Guinea" was also frequently used in English to refer generally to any far-off, unknown country, and so the name may simply be a colorful reference to the animal's foreignness. Another theory suggests the "guinea" in the name is a corruption of "Guiana
The Guianas
The Guyanas or the Guianas refers to a region in north-eastern South America which includes the following three territories:* French Guiana, an overseas department of France;...

", an area in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, though the animals are not native to that region. A common misconception is that they were so named because they were sold for the price of a guinea coin
Guinea (British coin)
The guinea is a coin that was minted in the Kingdom of England and later in the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom between 1663 and 1813...

; this theory is untenable, because the guinea was first struck in England in 1663, and William Harvey
William Harvey
William Harvey was an English physician who was the first person to describe completely and in detail the systemic circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the body by the heart...

 used the term "Ginny-pig" as early as 1653. Others believe "guinea" may be an alteration of the word coney (rabbit); guinea pigs were referred to as "pig coneys" in Edward Topsell
Edward Topsell
Edward Topsell was an English cleric and author best remembered for his bestiary.Topsell attended Christ's College, Cambridge, earned his B.A. and probably an M.A. as well, before beginning a career in the Church of England. He served as the first rector of East Hoathly, and subsequently became...

's 1607 treatise on quadrupeds.

Traits and environment

Guinea pigs are large for rodents, weighing between 700 and 1200 g
Gram
The gram is a metric system unit of mass....

 (1.5–2.5 pounds
Pound (mass)
The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the Imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement...

), and measuring between 20 and 25 cm
Centimetre
A centimetre is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one hundredth of a metre, which is the SI base unit of length. Centi is the SI prefix for a factor of . Hence a centimetre can be written as or — meaning or respectively...

 (8–10 inch
Inch
An inch is the name of a unit of length in a number of different systems, including Imperial units, and United States customary units. There are 36 inches in a yard and 12 inches in a foot...

es) in length. They typically live an average of four to five years, but may live as long as eight years. According to the 2006 Guinness Book of Records
Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records, known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records , is a reference book published annually, containing a collection of world records, both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world...

 the longest living guinea pig survived 14 years, 10.5 months.

In the 1990s, a minority scientific opinion emerged proposing that caviomorphs
Caviomorpha
Caviomorpha is the rodent infraorder or parvorder that unites all South American hystricognaths. It is supported by both fossil and molecular evidence.-Origin:...

, such as guinea pigs, chinchilla
Chinchilla
Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents, slightly larger and more robust than ground squirrels, and are native to the Andes mountains in South America. Along with their relatives, viscachas, they make up the family Chinchillidae....

s, and degu
Degu
The degu is a small caviomorph rodent that is endemic to central Chile.It is sometimes referred to as the brush-tailed rat, and is also called the common degu, to distinguish it from the other members of the genus Octodon. Other members are also called degus, but they are distinguished by...

s, are not rodents and should be reclassified
Taxonomy
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 as a separate order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 of mammals (similar to lagomorphs
Lagomorpha
The lagomorphs are the members of the taxonomic order Lagomorpha, of which there are two living families, the Leporidae , and the Ochotonidae...

). Subsequent research using wider sampling has restored consensus among mammalian biologists that the current classification of rodents as monophyletic
Monophyly
In common cladistic usage, a monophyletic group is a taxon which forms a clade, meaning that it contains all the descendants of the possibly hypothetical closest common ancestor of the members of the group. The term is synonymous with the uncommon term holophyly...

 is justified.

Natural habitat

Cavia porcellus is not found naturally in the wild; it is likely descendant from some closely related species of cavies
Cavia
Cavia is a genus in the subfamily Caviinae that contains the rodents commonly known as guinea pigs. The best-known species in this genus is the domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, an important meat animal in South America and a common household pet in the West.-Taxonomic controversy:Cavia are...

, such as Cavia aperea
Brazilian Guinea Pig
The Brazilian Guinea Pig is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay....

, Cavia fulgida
Shiny Guinea Pig
The Shiny Guinea Pig, Cavia fulgida, is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Brazil and ArgentinaWagler in 1831 first called the species Cavia fulgida; P. W. Lund identified a Cavia rufescens in 1841, but since Oldfield Thomas these are considered to be identical species....

, and Cavia tschudii
Montane Guinea Pig
The Montane Guinea Pig, Cavia tschudii, is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Peru.Peruvian wild guinea pigs were first described by E. T. Bennett in 1835, who termed them Cavia cutleri...

, which are still commonly found in various regions of South America. Some species of cavy identified in the 20th century, such as Cavia anolaimae
Cavia anolaimae
Cavia anolaimae is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in Colombia near Bogotá. It is believed to be a feral offshoot of the domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus, and is often treated as a synonym of C. porcellus.-References:...

and Cavia guianae
Cavia guianae
Cavia guianae is a guinea pig species from South America. It is found in southern Venezuela, Guyana, and portions of northern Brazil. Some biologists believe it to be a feral offshoot of the domestic guinea pig, Cavia porcellus; others subsume it under the wild cavy, Cavia aperea.-References:*...

, may be domestic guinea pigs that have become feral
Feral
A feral organism is one that has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. In the case of plants it is a movement from cultivated to uncultivated or controlled to volunteer. The introduction of feral animals or plants to their non-native regions, like any introduced species, may...

 by reintroduction into the wild. Wild cavies are found on grassy plains and occupy an ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

 similar to that of the cow
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. They are social, living in the wild in small groups which consist of several females (sows), a male (boar), and the young (which in a break with the preceding porcine
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 nomenclature are called pups). They move together in groups (herd
Herd
Herd refers to a social grouping of certain animals of the same species, either wild or domestic, and also to the form of collective animal behavior associated with this or as a verb, to herd, to its control by another species such as humans or dogs.The term herd is generally applied to mammals,...

s) eating grass or other vegetation, and do not store food. While they do not burrow
Burrow
A burrow is a hole or tunnel dug into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct of locomotion. Burrows provide a form of shelter against predation and exposure to the elements, so the burrowing way of life is quite popular among the...

 or build nests, they frequently seek shelter in the burrows of other animals, as well as in crevices and tunnels formed by vegetation
Vegetation
Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...

. They are crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

, tending to be most active during dawn and dusk, when it is harder for predators to spot them.

Domestic habitat

Domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 guinea pigs thrive in groups of two or more; groups of sows, or groups of one or more sows and a neutered boar are common combinations. Guinea pigs learn to recognize and bond with other individual guinea pigs, and testing of boars shows that their neuroendocrine stress response is significantly lowered in the presence of a bonded female when compared to the presence of unfamiliar females. Groups of boars may also get along, provided that their cage has enough space, they are introduced at an early age, and no females are present. Domestic guinea pigs have developed a different biological rhythm from their wild counterparts, and have longer periods of activity followed by short periods of sleep in between. Activity is scattered randomly over the 24 hours of the day; aside from avoidance of intense light, no regular circadian
Circadian rhythm
A circadian rhythm, popularly referred to as body clock, is an endogenously driven , roughly 24-hour cycle in biochemical, physiological, or behavioural processes. Circadian rhythms have been widely observed in plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria...

 patterns are apparent.

Domestic guinea pigs generally live in cages, although some owners of large numbers of guinea pigs will dedicate entire rooms to their pets. Cages with solid or wire mesh
Mesh
Mesh consists of semi-permeable barrier made of connected strands of metal, fiber, or other flexible/ductile material. Mesh is similar to web or net in that it has many attached or woven strands.-Types of mesh:...

 floors are used, although wire mesh floors can cause injury and may be associated with an infection commonly known as bumblefoot
Bumblefoot (infection)
Bumblefoot is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction on the feet of birds and rodents. This infection is much more likely to occur in captive animals than in those in the wild.- Bumblefoot on birds of prey :...

 (ulcerative pododermatitis). "Cubes and Coroplast
Coroplast
Coroplast is a brand name of corrugated plastic and a registered trademark of Coroplast, Inc., a member of the Jim Pattison Group of companies. Because of the success of this brand, it has become a generically used tradename and many people in North America today refer to all corrugated plastic as...

" (or C&C) style cages are now a common choice. Cages are often lined with wood shavings or a similar material. Bedding made from red cedar (Eastern or Western) and pine
Pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

, both softwood
Softwood
The term softwood is used to describe wood from trees that are known as gymnosperms.Conifers are an example. It may also be used to describe trees, which tend to be evergreen, notable exceptions being bald cypress and the larches....

s, were commonly used in the past, however these materials are now believed to contain harmful phenol
Phenol
Phenol, also known as carbolic acid, phenic acid, is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5OH. It is a white crystalline solid. The molecule consists of a phenyl , bonded to a hydroxyl group. It is produced on a large scale as a precursor to many materials and useful compounds...

s (aromatic hydrocarbons) and oils. Safer beddings include those made from hardwood
Hardwood
Hardwood is wood from angiosperm trees . It may also be used for those trees themselves: these are usually broad-leaved; in temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen.Hardwood contrasts with softwood...

s (such as aspen
Aspen
Populus section Populus, of the Populus genus, includes the aspen trees and the white poplar Populus alba. The five typical aspens are all native to cold regions with cool summers, in the north of the Northern Hemisphere, extending south at high altitudes in the mountains. The White Poplar, by...

), paper products, and corn cob materials are other alternatives. Guinea pigs tend to be messy within their cages; they often jump into their food bowls or kick bedding and feces into them, and their urine
Urine
Urine is a typically sterile liquid by-product of the body that is secreted by the kidneys through a process called urination and excreted through the urethra. Cellular metabolism generates numerous by-products, many rich in nitrogen, that require elimination from the bloodstream...

 sometimes crystallizes on cage surfaces, making it difficult to remove. After its cage has been cleaned, a guinea pig will typically urinate and drag the lower body across the floor of the cage to mark its territory. Male guinea pigs may also mark their territory in this way when they are taken out of their cages.

Guinea pigs do not generally thrive when housed with other species. Cohousing of guinea pigs with other rodents such as gerbil
Gerbil
A gerbil is a small mammal of the order Rodentia. Once known simply as "desert rats", the gerbil subfamily includes about 110 species of African, Indian, and Asian rodents, including sand rats and jirds, all of which are adapted to arid habitats...

s and hamster
Hamster
Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species, classified in six or seven genera....

s may increase instances of respiratory and other infections, and such rodents may act aggressively toward the guinea pig. Larger animals may regard guinea pigs as prey
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

, though some (such as dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

s) can be trained to accept them. Opinion is divided over the cohousing of guinea pigs and domestic rabbit
Domestic rabbit
A domestic rabbit, or more commonly known as simply the rabbit, is any of the several varieties of European rabbit that have been domesticated....

s. Some published sources say that guinea pigs and rabbits complement each other well when sharing a cage. However, as lagomorphs
Lagomorpha
The lagomorphs are the members of the taxonomic order Lagomorpha, of which there are two living families, the Leporidae , and the Ochotonidae...

, rabbits have different nutritional requirements, and so the two species cannot be fed the same food. Rabbits may also harbor diseases (such as the respiratory infections Bordetella
Bordetella
Bordetella is a genus of small , Gram-negative coccobacilli of the phylum proteobacteria. Bordetella species, with the exception of B. petrii, are obligate aerobes as well as highly fastidious, or difficult to culture. Three species are human pathogens ; one of these Bordetella is a genus of small...

and Pasteurella
Pasteurella
Pasteurella is a genus of Gram-negative, facultatively anaerobic bacteria. Pasteurella species are non-motile and pleomorphic. Most species are catalase-positive and oxidase-positive....

), to which guinea pigs are susceptible. Even the dwarf rabbit is much stronger than the guinea pig and may cause intentional or inadvertent injury.

Behavior

Guinea pigs can learn complex paths to food, and can accurately remember a learned path for months. Their strongest problem solving strategy is motion. While guinea pigs can jump small obstacles, they are poor climbers, and are not particularly agile. They startle extremely easily, and will either freeze in place for long periods or run for cover with rapid, darting motions when they sense danger. Larger groups of startled guinea pigs will "stampede", running in haphazard directions as a means of confusing predators. When excited, guinea pigs may repeatedly perform little hops in the air (known as "popcorning"), a movement analogous to the ferret's war dance
Weasel war dance
The weasel war dance is a colloquial term for a behavior of excited ferrets and weasels. In wild animals, it is speculated that this dance is used to confuse or disorient prey. In domestic animals, the war dance usually follows play or the successful capture of a toy or a stolen object and shows...

. They are also exceedingly good swimmers.
Like many rodents, guinea pigs sometimes participate in social grooming
Social grooming
In social animals, including humans, social grooming or allogrooming is an activity in which individuals in a group clean or maintain one another's body or appearance. It is a major social activity, and a means by which animals who live in proximity can bond and reinforce social structures, family...

, and they regularly self-groom. A milky-white substance is secreted from their eyes and rubbed into the hair during the grooming process. Groups of boars will often chew each other's hair, but this is a method of establishing hierarchy within a group, rather than a social gesture. Dominance is also established through biting (especially of the ears), piloerection
Goose bumps
Goose bumps, also called goose flesh, goose pimples, chill bumps, chicken skin, funky spots, Dasler Bumps, chicken bumps or the medical term cutis anserina, are the bumps on a person's skin at the base of body hairs which may involuntarily develop when a person is cold or experiences strong...

, aggressive noises, head thrusts, and leaping attacks. Non-sexual simulated mounting for dominance is also common among same-sex groups.

Guinea pig sight is not as good as a human, but they have a wider range of vision (about 340°) and see in partial color (dichromacy). They have well-developed senses of hearing, smell
Olfaction
Olfaction is the sense of smell. This sense is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, and, by analogy, sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates...

, and touch. Vocalization is the primary means of communication between members of the species. Some sounds are:
  • Wheek – A loud noise, the name of which is onomatopoeic, also known as a whistle. An expression of general excitement, it may occur in response to the presence of its owner or to feeding. It is sometimes used to find other guinea pigs if they are running. If a guinea pig is lost, it may wheek for assistance.
  • Bubbling or purring – This sound is made when the guinea pig is enjoying itself, such as when being petted or held. They may also make this sound when grooming, crawling around to investigate a new place, or when given food.
  • Rumbling – This sound is normally related to dominance within a group, though it can also come as a response being scared or angry. In these cases the rumble often sounds higher and the body vibrates shortly. While courting, a male usually purrs deeply, swaying and circling the female in a behavior called "rumblestrutting". A low rumble while walking away reluctantly shows passive resistance.
  • Chutting and whining – These are sounds made in pursuit situations, by the pursuer and pursuee, respectively.
  • Chattering – This sound is made by rapidly gnashing the teeth
    Tooth
    Teeth are small, calcified, whitish structures found in the jaws of many vertebrates that are used to break down food. Some animals, particularly carnivores, also use teeth for hunting or for defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are embedded in the Mandible bone or the Maxillary bone and are...

    , and is generally a sign of warning. Guinea pigs tend to raise their heads when making this sound. A more relaxed type of gnashing often means the guinea pig wants a treat that is somewhere nearby but out of reach.
  • Squealing or shrieking – A high-pitched sound of discontent, in response to pain or danger.
  • Chirping – This less-common sound, likened to bird song, seems to be related to stress, or when a baby guinea pig wants to be fed. Very rarely, the chirping will last for several minutes.

Breeding

The guinea pig is able to breed year-round, with birth peaks usually coming in the spring; as many as five litters can be produced per year. The gestation
Gestation
Gestation is the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside a female viviparous animal. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time ....

 period lasts from 59–72 days, with an average of 63–68 days. Because of the long gestation period and the large size of the pups, pregnant females may become large and eggplant-shaped, although the change in size and shape varies. Unlike the offspring of most other rodents, which are altricial
Altricial
Altricial, meaning "requiring nourishment", refers to a pattern of growth and development in organisms which are incapable of moving around on their own soon after hatching or being born...

 at birth, newborn pups are well-developed with hair, teeth, claws, and partial eyesight; they are immediately mobile, and begin eating solid food immediately, though they continue to suckle
Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts rather than from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. It is recommended that mothers breastfeed for six months or...

. Litters
Litter (animal)
A litter is the offspring at one birth of animals from the same mother and usually from one set of parents. The word is most often used for the offspring of mammals, but can be used for any animal that gives birth to multiple young. In comparison, a group of eggs and the offspring that hatch from...

 yield 1–6 pups, with an average of three; the largest recorded litter size is 17.

In smaller litters, difficulties may occur during labour due to over-sized pups. Large litters result in higher incidences of stillbirth
Stillbirth
A stillbirth occurs when a fetus has died in the uterus. The Australian definition specifies that fetal death is termed a stillbirth after 20 weeks gestation or the fetus weighs more than . Once the fetus has died the mother still has contractions and remains undelivered. The term is often used in...

, but because the pups are delivered at an advanced stage of development, lack of access to the mother's milk has little effect on the mortality rate of newborns. Cohabitating females assist in mothering duties if lactating.

Male and female guinea pigs do not differ in external appearance
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

 apart from general size. The position of the anus is very close to the genitals in both sexes. Female genitals are distinguished by a Y-shaped configuration formed from a vulvar flap; while the male genitals may look similar with the penis and anus forming a like shape, the penis will protrude if pressure is applied to the surrounding hair. The male's testes may also be visible externally from scrotal swelling.

Males reach sexual maturity at 3–5 weeks; females can be fertile as early as four weeks and can carry litters before they are adults. Females that have never given birth commonly develop irreversible fusing of the pubic symphysis
Pubic symphysis
The pubic symphysis or symphysis pubis is the midline cartilaginous joint uniting the superior rami of the left and right pubic bones. It is located anterior to the urinary bladder and superior to the external genitalia; for females it is above the vulva and for males it is above the penis...

, a joint in the pelvis
Pelvis
In human anatomy, the pelvis is the lower part of the trunk, between the abdomen and the lower limbs .The pelvis includes several structures:...

, after ten months of age. If they become pregnant after this has happened, the birth canal will not widen sufficiently; this may lead to dystocia
Dystocia
Dystocia is an abnormal or difficult childbirth or labour. Approximately one fifth of human labours have dystocia.Dystocia may arise due to incoordinate uterine activity, abnormal fetal lie or presentation, absolute or relative cephalopelvic disproportion, or a massive fetal tumor such as a...

 and death as they attempt to give birth. Females can become pregnant 6–48 hours after giving birth, but it is not healthy for a female to be thus constantly pregnant.

Toxemia of pregnancy
Pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia or preeclampsia is a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine....

 is common and kills many pregnant females. Signs of toxemia include anorexia, lack of energy, excessive salivation, a sweet or fruity breath odor due to ketone
Ketone
In organic chemistry, a ketone is an organic compound with the structure RCR', where R and R' can be a variety of atoms and groups of atoms. It features a carbonyl group bonded to two other carbon atoms. Many ketones are known and many are of great importance in industry and in biology...

s, and seizure
Seizure
An epileptic seizure, occasionally referred to as a fit, is defined as a transient symptom of "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain". The outward effect can be as dramatic as a wild thrashing movement or as mild as a brief loss of awareness...

s in advanced cases. Pregnancy toxemia appears to be most common in hot climates. Other serious complications of pregnancy can include a prolapsed uterus
Prolapse
Prolapse literally means "to fall out of place", from the Latin prolabi meaning "to fall out". In medicine, prolapse is a condition where organs, such as the uterus, fall down or slip out of place. It is used for organs protruding through the vagina or the rectum or for the misalignment of the...

, hypocalcaemia
Hypocalcaemia
In medicine, hypocalcaemia is the presence of low serum calcium levels in the blood, usually taken as less than 2.1 mmol/L or 9 mg/dl or an ionized calcium level of less than 1.1 mmol/L or 4.5 mg/dL. It is a type of electrolyte disturbance...

, and mastitis
Mastitis
Mastitis is the inflammation of breast tissue. S. aureus is the most common etiological organism responsible, but S. epidermidis and streptococci are occasionally isolated as well.-Terminology:...

.

Diet

Grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

 is the guinea pig's natural diet. Their molars
Molar (tooth)
Molars are the rearmost and most complicated kind of tooth in most mammals. In many mammals they grind food; hence the Latin name mola, "millstone"....

 are particularly suited for grinding plant matter, and grow continuously throughout the animal's life. Most grass-eating mammals are quite large and have a long digestive tract; while guinea pigs have much longer colons
Colon (anatomy)
The colon is the last part of the digestive system in most vertebrates; it extracts water and salt from solid wastes before they are eliminated from the body, and is the site in which flora-aided fermentation of unabsorbed material occurs. Unlike the small intestine, the colon does not play a...

 than most rodents, they must also supplement their diet by coprophagy
Coprophagia
Coprophagia or coprophagy is the consumption of feces, from the Greek κόπρος copros and φαγεῖν phagein . Many animal species practice coprophagia as a matter of course; other species do not normally consume feces but may do so under unusual conditions...

, the eating of their own feces. However, they do not consume all their feces indiscriminately, but produce special soft pellets, called cecotropes, which recycle B vitamins
B vitamins
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play important roles in cell metabolism. The B vitamins were once thought to be a single vitamin, referred to as vitamin B . Later research showed that they are chemically distinct vitamins that often coexist in the same foods...

, fiber, and bacteria required for proper digestion. The cecotropes (or caecal pellets) are eaten directly from the anus, unless the guinea pig is pregnant or obese. They share this behaviour with rabbit
Rabbit
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

s. In geriatric boars or sows (the condition is rarer in young ones), the muscles which allow the softer pellets to be expelled from the anus for consumption can become weak. This creates a condition known as anal impaction, which prevents the boar from redigesting cecotropes, though harder pellets may pass through the impacted mass. The condition may be temporarily alleviated by carefully expelling the impacted feces.

Guinea pigs benefit from feeding on fresh grass hay, such as timothy hay
Timothy-grass
Timothy-grass , is an abundant perennial grass native to most of Europe except for the Mediterranean region. It grows to 50–150 cm tall, with leaves up to 45 cm long and 1 cm broad. The flowerhead is 7–15 cm long and 8–10 mm broad, with densely packed spikelets...

, in addition to food pellets which are often based from timothy. Alfalfa
Alfalfa
Alfalfa is a flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in the US, Canada, Argentina, France, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and many other countries. It is known as lucerne in the UK, France, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and known as...

 is also a popular food choice; most guinea pigs will eat large amounts of alfalfa when offered it, though there exists some controversy over the feeding of alfalfa to adult guinea pigs. Some pet owners and veterinary organizations have advised that, as a legume rather than a grass hay, alfalfa consumed in large amounts may lead to obesity
Obesity
Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems...

, as well as bladder stones
Bladder stone (animal)
Bladder stones or uroliths are a common occurrence in animals, especially in domestic animals such as dogs and cats. Occurrence in other species, including tortoises, have been reported as well. The stones form in the urinary bladder in varying size and numbers secondary to infection, dietary...

 due to excess calcium
Calcium
Calcium is the chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It has an atomic mass of 40.078 amu. Calcium is a soft gray alkaline earth metal, and is the fifth-most-abundant element by mass in the Earth's crust...

, in any but pregnant and very young guinea pigs. However, published scientific sources mention alfalfa as a source for replenishment of protein, amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s, and fiber.

Like humans, but unlike most other mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s, guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C
Vitamin C
Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. In living organisms ascorbate acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body against oxidative stress...

 and must obtain this vital nutrient from food. If guinea pigs do not ingest enough vitamin C, they can suffer from potentially fatal scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

. Guinea pigs require about 10 mg of vitamin C daily (20 mg if pregnant), which can be obtained through fresh, raw fruits and vegetables (such as broccoli, apple, cabbage, carrot, celery, and spinach) or through dietary supplements. Healthy diets for guinea pigs require a complex balance of calcium, magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

, phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

, potassium
Potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

, and hydrogen ion
Hydrogen ion
Hydrogen ion is recommended by IUPAC as a general term for all ions of hydrogen and its isotopes.Depending on the charge of the ion, two different classes can be distinguished: positively charged ions and negatively charged ions....

s; adequate amounts of vitamins E
Vitamin E
Vitamin E is used to refer to a group of fat-soluble compounds that include both tocopherols and tocotrienols. There are many different forms of vitamin E, of which γ-tocopherol is the most common in the North American diet. γ-Tocopherol can be found in corn oil, soybean oil, margarine and dressings...

, A
Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a vitamin that is needed by the retina of the eye in the form of a specific metabolite, the light-absorbing molecule retinal, that is necessary for both low-light and color vision...

, and D
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids. In humans, vitamin D is unique both because it functions as a prohormone and because the body can synthesize it when sun exposure is adequate ....

 are also necessary. Imbalanced diets have been associated with muscular dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is a group of muscle diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal system and hamper locomotion. Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins, and the death of muscle cells and tissue.In the 1860s, descriptions of boys who...

, metastatic calcification
Metastatic calcification
Metastatic calcification is deposition of calcium salts in otherwise normal tissue, because of elevated serum levels of calcium in blood, which can occur because of deranged metabolism as well as increased absorption or decreased excretion of calcium and related minerals.It occurs as opposed to...

, difficulties with pregnancy, vitamin deficiencies, and teeth problems. Guinea pigs tend to be fickle eaters when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, having learned early in life what is and is not appropriate to consume, and their habits are difficult to change after maturity. They do not respond well to sudden changes in diet; they may stop eating and starve rather than accepting new food types. A constant supply of hay or other food is generally recommended, as guinea pigs feed continuously and may develop habits such as chewing on their own hair if food is not present. Because guinea pigs' teeth grow constantly, they routinely gnaw, lest their teeth become too large for their mouth, a common problem in rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

s. Guinea pigs will also chew on cloth, paper, plastic, and rubber.

A number of plants are poisonous to guinea pigs, including bracken
Bracken
Bracken are several species of large, coarse ferns of the genus Pteridium. Ferns are vascular plants that have alternating generations, large plants that produce spores and small plants that produce sex cells . Brackens are in the family Dennstaedtiaceae, which are noted for their large, highly...

, bryony, buttercup
Ranunculus
Ranunculus is a large genus of about 600 species of plants in the Ranunculaceae. Members of the genus include the buttercups, spearworts, water crowfoots and the lesser celandine....

, charlock
Sinapis arvensis
Sinapis arvensis is an annual or winter annual plant of the genus Sinapis, belonging to the family Brassicaceae. It is commonly known as Field mustard, Wild mustard or charlock.-Etymology:...

, deadly nightshade, foxglove
Digitalis
Digitalis is a genus of about 20 species of herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and biennials that are commonly called foxgloves. This genus was traditionally placed in the figwort family Scrophulariaceae, but recent reviews of phylogenetic research have placed it in the much enlarged family...

, hellebore
Hellebore
Commonly known as hellebores, members of the genus Helleborus comprise approximately 20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae...

, hemlock
Conium
Conium is a genus of two species of highly poisonous perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to Europe and the Mediterranean region as Conium maculatum, and to southern Africa as Conium chaerophylloides....

, Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley
Convallaria majalis , commonly known as the lily-of-the-valley, is a poisonous woodland flowering plant native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia and Europe....

, mayweed
Mayweed
Matricaria is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family . Some of the species have the common name of "mayweed," but this name also refers to plants not in this genus....

, monkshood
Aconitum
Aconitum , known as aconite, monkshood, wolfsbane, leopard's bane, women's bane, Devil's helmet or blue rocket, is a genus of over 250 species of flowering plants belonging to the buttercup family .-Overview:These herbaceous perennial plants are chiefly natives of the mountainous parts of the...

, privet
Privet
Privet was originally the name for the European semi-evergreen shrub Ligustrum vulgare, and later also for the more reliably evergreen Ligustrum ovalifolium , used extensively for privacy hedging. It is often suggested that the name privet is related to private, but the OED states that there is no...

, ragwort
Senecio
Senecio is a genus of the daisy family that includes ragworts and groundsels. The flower heads are normally rayed, completely yellow, and the heads are borne in branched clusters...

, rhubarb
Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a group of plants that belong to the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. They are herbaceous perennial plants growing from short, thick rhizomes. They have large leaves that are somewhat triangular-shaped with long fleshy petioles...

, speedwell
Veronica arvensis
Veronica arvensis is a medicinal plant and noxious weed native to Africa, Asia and Europe ....

, toadflax
Toadflax
Toadflax is the English name of several related genera of plants in the family Plantaginaceae and Scrophulariaceae:*Anarrhinum*Antirrhinum *Chaenorhinum*Cymbalaria*Linaria*Misopates*Nuttallanthus...

, and wild celery. Additionally, any plant which grows from a bulb
Bulb
A bulb is a short stem with fleshy leaves or leaf bases. The leaves often function as food storage organs during dormancy.A bulb's leaf bases, known as scales, generally do not support leaves, but contain food reserves to enable the plant to survive adverse conditions. At the center of the bulb is...

 (e.g., tulip
Tulip
The tulip is a perennial, bulbous plant with showy flowers in the genus Tulipa, which comprises 109 species and belongs to the family Liliaceae. The genus's native range extends from as far west as Southern Europe, North Africa, Anatolia, and Iran to the Northwest of China. The tulip's centre of...

 and onion
Onion
The onion , also known as the bulb onion, common onion and garden onion, is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium. The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food, such as the Japanese bunching onion The onion...

) is normally considered poisonous. also Ivy and oak tree leaves.

Health

Common ailments in domestic guinea pigs include respiratory tract infections
Lower respiratory tract infection
Lower respiratory tract infection while often used as a synonym for pneumonia, can also be applied to other types of infection including lung abscess and acute bronchitis...

, diarrhea
Diarrhea
Diarrhea , also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day. It is a common cause of death in developing countries and the second most common cause of infant deaths worldwide. The loss of fluids through diarrhea can cause dehydration and...

, scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

 (vitamin C
Vitamin C
Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. In living organisms ascorbate acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body against oxidative stress...

 deficiency, typically characterized by sluggishness), abscess
Abscess
An abscess is a collection of pus that has accumulated in a cavity formed by the tissue in which the pus resides due to an infectious process or other foreign materials...

es due to infection (often in the neck, due to hay embedded in the throat, or from external scratches), and infections by lice
Louse
Lice is the common name for over 3,000 species of wingless insects of the order Phthiraptera; three of which are classified as human disease agents...

, mite
Mite
Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.-Diversity and systematics:...

s, or fungus
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

.

Mange mites (Trixacarus caviae) are a common cause of hair loss, and other symptoms may also include excessive scratching, unusually aggressive behavior when touched (due to pain), and, in some instances, seizures. Guinea pigs may also suffer from "running lice" (Gliricola porcelli), a small white insect which can be seen moving through the hair; the eggs of these lice, which appear as black or white specks attached to the hair, are sometimes referred to as "static lice". Other causes of hair loss can be due to hormonal upsets caused by underlying medical conditions such as ovarian cyst
Ovarian cyst
An ovarian cyst is any collection of fluid, surrounded by a very thin wall, within an ovary. Any ovarian follicle that is larger than about two centimeters is termed an ovarian cyst. An ovarian cyst can be as small as a pea, or larger than an orange....

s.

Foreign bodies, especially small pieces of hay or straw, can become lodged in the eyes of guinea pigs, resulting in excessive blinking, tearing, and in some cases an opaque film over the eye due to corneal ulcer. Hay or straw dust can also cause sneezing
Sneeze
A sneeze is a semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa...

. While it is normal for guinea pigs to sneeze periodically, frequent sneezing may be a symptom of pneumonia
Pneumonia (non-human)
Pneumonia is an illness which can result from a variety of causes, including infection with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Pneumonia can occur in any animal with lungs, including mammals, birds, and reptiles....

, especially in response to atmospheric changes. Pneumonia may also be accompanied by torticollis
Torticollis
Torticollis, or wryneck, is a stiff neck associated with muscle spasm, classically causing lateral flexion contracture of the cervical spine musculature...

 and can be fatal.

Because the guinea pig has a stout, compact body, the animal more easily tolerates excessive cold than excessive heat. Its normal body temperature
Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different...

 is 101 –, and so its ideal ambient air temperature range is similar to the human's
Room temperature
-Comfort levels:The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has listings for suggested temperatures and air flow rates in different types of buildings and different environmental circumstances. For example, a single office in a building has an occupancy ratio per...

, about 65 –. Consistent ambient temperatures in excess of 90 °F (32.2 °C) have been linked to hyperthermia
Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia is an elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation. Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate...

 and death, especially among pregnant sows. Guinea pigs are not well suited to environments that feature wind or frequent drafts, and respond poorly to extremes of humidity
Humidity
Humidity is a term for the amount of water vapor in the air, and can refer to any one of several measurements of humidity. Formally, humid air is not "moist air" but a mixture of water vapor and other constituents of air, and humidity is defined in terms of the water content of this mixture,...

 outside of the range of 30–70%.

Guinea pigs are prey
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

 animals whose survival instinct is to mask pain and signs of illness, and many times health problems may not be apparent until a condition is severe or in its advanced stages. Treatment of disease is made more difficult by the extreme sensitivity guinea pigs have to most antibiotic
Antibiotic
An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

s, including penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

, which kill off the intestinal flora
Gut flora
Gut flora consists of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of animals and is the largest reservoir of human flora. In this context, gut is synonymous with intestinal, and flora with microbiota and microflora....

 and quickly bring on episodes of diarrhea and in some cases, death.

Similar to the inherited genetic diseases
Genetic disorder
A genetic disorder is an illness caused by abnormalities in genes or chromosomes, especially a condition that is present from before birth. Most genetic disorders are quite rare and affect one person in every several thousands or millions....

 of other breeds of animal (such as hip dysplasia in canines), a number of genetic abnormalities of guinea pigs have been reported. Most commonly, the roan coloration of Abyssinian guinea pigs is associated with congenital
Congenital disorder
A congenital disorder, or congenital disease, is a condition existing at birth and often before birth, or that develops during the first month of life , regardless of causation...

 eye disorders and problems with the digestive system. Other genetic disorders include "waltzing disease" (deafness coupled with a tendency to run in circles), palsy
Palsy
In medicine, palsy is the paralysis of a body part, often accompanied by loss of sensation and by uncontrolled body movements, such as shaking. Medical conditions involving palsy include cerebral palsy , brachial palsy , and Bell's palsy ....

, and tremor
Tremor
A tremor is an involuntary, somewhat rhythmic, muscle contraction and relaxation involving to-and-fro movements of one or more body parts. It is the most common of all involuntary movements and can affect the hands, arms, eyes, face, head, vocal folds, trunk, and legs. Most tremors occur in the...

 conditions.

Pets

If handled correctly early in their life, guinea pigs become amenable to being picked up and carried, and seldom bite or scratch. They are timid explorers and often hesitate to attempt an escape from their cage even when an opportunity presents itself. Still, they show considerable curiosity when allowed to walk freely, especially in familiar and safe terrain. Guinea pigs that become familiar with their owner will whistle on the owner's approach; they will also learn to whistle in response to the rustling of plastic bags or the opening of refrigerator doors, where their food is most commonly stored.

Guinea pigs should be kept in pairs or, preferably groups, unless there is a specific medical condition that requires isolation. Lone guinea pigs are more likely to suffer from stress and depression; for this reason, it is illegal in Sweden to sell a lone guinea pig to a buyer who does not have any other guinea pigs. It is a common misconception that male guinea pigs cannot be kept in groups; male guinea pigs can make excellent companions, especially when introduced from a young age and, generally, aggression would only occur if there was limited space or resources or a higher ratio of males to females. Guinea pig compatibility relies more heavily on personality than on gender.

Domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 guinea pigs come in many breeds, which have been developed since their introduction to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

. These varieties vary in hair and color composition. The most common varieties found in pet stores are the English shorthair (also known as the American), which have a short, smooth coat, and the Abyssinian, whose coat is ruffled with cowlick
Cowlick
A cowlick is a section of hair that stands straight up or lies at an angle at odds with the style in which the rest of an individual's hair is worn. Cowlicks appear when the growth direction of the hair forms a spiral pattern. The term "cowlick" originates from the domestic bovine's habit of...

s, or rosettes
Rosette (zoology)
A rosette is a rose-like marking or formation found on the fur and skin of some animals, particularly cats of the family Felidae. Rosettes are used to camouflage the animal, either as a defense mechanism or as a stalking tool. Predators use their rosettes to simulate the different shifting of...

. Also popular among breeders are the Peruvian and the Sheltie (or Silkie), both straight longhair breeds, and the Texel, a curly longhair.

Cavy Clubs and Associations dedicated to the showing and breeding of guinea pigs have been established worldwide. The American Cavy Breeders Association, an adjunct to the American Rabbit Breeders' Association
American Rabbit Breeders' Association
The American Rabbit Breeders Association is a national club for domestic rabbit and cavy breeders. The ARBA is headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois in the United States...

, is the governing body in the United States and Canada. The British Cavy Council
British Cavy Council
The British Cavy Council is the governing body in the United Kingdom for national, regional, and local cavy clubs, and also for the wide range of 'breed clubs' which exist on a national basis to further the interests of particular cavy breeds, and to provide a forum for those with an interest in...

 governs cavy clubs in the United Kingdom. Similar organizations exist in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 (Australian National Cavy Council) and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 (New Zealand Cavy Club). Each club publishes its own Standard of Perfection and determines which breeds are eligible for showing.

Cultural and media influence

As a result of their widespread popularity in human domestic life, and especially because of their popularity in households with children, guinea pigs have shown a presence in culture and media. Some noted appearances of the animal in literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 are The Fairy Caravan
The Fairy Caravan
The Fairy Caravan is a book written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter. It was first published in 1929. The story follows the adventures of Tuppenny, a young guinea pig who runs away from home to join a travelling circus....

, a novel by Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter
Helen Beatrix Potter was an English author, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist best known for her imaginative children’s books featuring animals such as those in The Tale of Peter Rabbit which celebrated the British landscape and country life.Born into a privileged Unitarian...

, and Michael Bond
Michael Bond
Thomas Michael Bond, OBE is an English author, most celebrated for his Paddington Bear series of books.-Life:Bond was educated at Presentation College, a Catholic school in Reading...

's Olga da Polga
Olga da Polga
Olga da Polga is a fictional character and heroine of Michael Bond's The Tales of Olga da Polga series. Unlike his more famous character Paddington Bear, Olga is a teller of tall tales in the style of Baron Münchhausen...

 series for children, both of which feature guinea pigs as the central protagonist
Protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

. Another appearance is in The Magician's Nephew
The Magician's Nephew
The Magician's Nephew is a fantasy novel for children written by C. S. Lewis. It was the sixth book published in his The Chronicles of Narnia series, but is the first in the chronology of the Narnia novels' fictional universe. Thus it is an early example of a prequel.The novel is initially set in...

by C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis
Clive Staples Lewis , commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as "Jack", was a novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist from Belfast, Ireland...

: in the first (chronologically) of his The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels for children by C. S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages...

series, a guinea pig is the first creature to travel to the Wood between the Worlds
Wood between the Worlds
The Wood between the Worlds is a linking room location in The Magician's Nephew, part of The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.-The Magician's Nephew:...

. The short story Pigs Is Pigs
Pigs Is Pigs
Pigs Is Pigs is a story by American writer Elis Parker Butler, first published in 1905.Pigs Is Pigs may also refer to:*Pigs Is Pigs , a 1937 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon...

by Ellis Parker Butler
Ellis Parker Butler
Ellis Parker Butler was an American author.Butler was born in Muscatine, Iowa. He was the author of more than 30 books and more than 2,000 stories and essays and is most famous for his short story "Pigs is Pigs", in which a bureaucratic stationmaster insists on levying the livestock rate for a...

 is a tale of bureaucratic
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

 incompetence; two guinea pigs held at a train station
Train station
A train station, also called a railroad station or railway station and often shortened to just station,"Station" is commonly understood to mean "train station" unless otherwise qualified. This is evident from dictionary entries e.g...

 breed unchecked while humans argue as to whether they are "pigs" for the purpose of determining freight charges. Butler's story, in turn, inspired the Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions . Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969...

episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", written by David Gerrold
David Gerrold
Jerrold David Friedman , better known by his pen name David Gerrold, is an American science fiction author who started his career in 1966 while a college student by submitting an unsolicited story outline for the television series Star Trek. He was invited to submit several premises, and the one...

. In the Golden Hamster Saga
Golden Hamster Saga
The Golden Hamster Saga is a book series written by German author Dietlof Reiche, and translated by John Brownjohn. It was illustrated by Joe Cepeda. The series revolves around a golden hamster named Freddy Auratus, two silly guinea pigs named Enrico and Caruso, a black, civilized tomcat named Sir...

 books, there are two guinea pigs named Enrico and Caruso who are modern-day thespians (named after Enrico Caruso) who serve as secondary characters, and often irritate the main character, Freddy Auratus
Freddy Auratus
Freddy Auratus is the main character of the "Golden Hamster Saga", written by Deitlof Reiche and translated from the German by John Brownjohn. He is a hamster that feels that he serves a greater purpose in life than just sitting in a pet shop all day. So, he learns to read and write and goes...

 who strongly dislikes their acting antics.

Guinea pigs have also been featured in film and television. In the TV movie Shredderman Rules
Shredderman Rules
Shredderman Rules is a 2007 television movie based on Wendelin Van Draanen's Shredderman book series. It originally aired on Nickelodeon along with the series finale episode of Ned's Declassified on June 9, 2007, and had 3.9 million viewers...

, the main character and the main character's crush both have guinea pigs which both play a minor part in the plot. A guinea pig named Rodney, voiced by Chris Rock
Chris Rock
Christopher Julius "Chris" Rock III is an American comedian, actor, screenwriter, television producer, film producer and director. He was voted in the US as the 5th greatest stand-up comedian of all time by Comedy Central...

, was a prominent character in the 1998 film Dr. Dolittle
Dr. Dolittle (film)
Dr. Dolittle is a 1998 American family comedy film starring Eddie Murphy as a doctor who discovers that he has the ability to talk to animals...

and Linny the Guinea pig is a co-star on Nick Jr.'s Wonder Pets
Wonder Pets
Wonder Pets is an American animated children's television series. It debuted on March 3, 2006, on the Nick Jr. block of the Nickelodeon cable television network and Noggin on the same day...

. Guinea pigs were used in some major advertising campaigns
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 in the 1990s and 2000s, notably for Egg Banking plc, Snapple
Snapple
Snapple is a brand of tea and juice drinks which is owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group and based in Plano, Texas. The brand was founded in 1972. The brand achieved some notoriety due to various pop-culture references including television shows.-History:...

, and Blockbuster Video. The Blockbuster campaign is considered by some guinea pig advocates to have been a factor in the rise of caging guinea pigs and rabbits together. In the South Park
South Park
South Park is an American animated television series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. Intended for mature audiences, the show has become famous for its crude language, surreal, satirical, and dark humor that lampoons a wide range of topics...

season 12
South Park (season 12)
Season twelve of South Park, an American animated television series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, began airing on March 12, 2008. The twelfth season concluded after 14 episodes on November 19, 2008...

 episode "Pandemic 2: The Startling", giant guinea pigs dressed in costumes rampage over the Earth. The 2009 Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures is an American film studio owned by The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney Pictures and Television, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Studios and the main production company for live-action feature films within the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, based at the Walt Disney...

 movie G-Force
G-Force (film)
G-Force is a 2009 spy-fi comedy film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer for Walt Disney Pictures in Disney Digital 3-D. Written by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, the film is the directorial debut of Hoyt Yeatman, whose earlier work includes contributions in the area of visual effects...

features a group of highly intelligent guinea pigs trained as operatives of the U.S. government. A highly popular video game, based on the movie, was also released.

Scientific research

The use of guinea pigs in scientific experimentation dates back at least to the 17th century, when the Italian biologists Marcello Malpighi
Marcello Malpighi
Marcello Malpighi was an Italian doctor, who gave his name to several physiological features, like the Malpighian tubule system.-Early years:...

 and Carlo Fracassati conducted vivisection
Vivisection
Vivisection is defined as surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure...

s of guinea pigs in their examinations of anatomic
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

 structures. In 1780, Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine Lavoisier
Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier , the "father of modern chemistry", was a French nobleman prominent in the histories of chemistry and biology...

 used a guinea pig in his experiments with the calorimeter
Calorimeter
A calorimeter is a device used for calorimetry, the science of measuring the heat of chemical reactions or physical changes as well as heat capacity. Differential scanning calorimeters, isothermal microcalorimeters, titration calorimeters and accelerated rate calorimeters are among the most common...

, a device used to measure heat production. The heat from the guinea pig's respiration melted snow surrounding the calorimeter, showing that respiratory gas exchange is a combustion
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

, similar to a candle burning. Guinea pigs played a major role in the establishment of germ theory
Germ theory of disease
The germ theory of disease, also called the pathogenic theory of medicine, is a theory that proposes that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases...

 in the late 19th century, through the experiments of Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist born in Dole. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and he created the first vaccine for rabies and anthrax. His experiments...

, Émile Roux
Pierre Paul Émile Roux
Pierre Paul Émile Roux FRS was a French physician, bacteriologist and immunologist who was one of the closest collaborators of Louis Pasteur , a co-founder of the Pasteur Institute and discoverer of the anti-diphtheria serum, the first effective therapy for this disease.Roux got his baccalaureate...

, and Robert Koch
Robert Koch
Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch was a German physician. He became famous for isolating Bacillus anthracis , the Tuberculosis bacillus and the Vibrio cholerae and for his development of Koch's postulates....

. Guinea pigs have been launched into orbital space-flight
Animals in space
Animals in space originally only served to test the survivability of spaceflight, before manned space missions were attempted. Later, animals were also flown to investigate various biological processes and the effects microgravity and space flight might have on them...

 several times, first by the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 on the Sputnik 9
Sputnik 9
Korabl-Sputnik 4 or Vostok-3KA No.1, also known as Sputnik 9 in the West, was a Soviet spacecraft which was launched in 1961. It was a test flight of the Vostok spacecraft, carrying the mannequin Ivan Ivanovich, a dog named Chernushka, some mice and a guinea pig.Korabl-Sputnik 4 was launched at...

 biosatellite
Biosatellite
A biosatellite is a satellite designed to carry life in space. The first satellite with animal was Soviet Sputnik 2 at November 3, 1957. On August 20, 1960 Soviet Sputnik 5 first time recovered animals from orbit to Earth....

 of March 9, 1961 – with a successful recovery. China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 also launched and recovered a biosatellite in 1990 which included guinea pigs as passengers.

In English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, the term guinea pig is commonly used as a metaphor for a subject of scientific experimentation, or any experiment or test in modern times. This dates back to the early 20th century; the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

 notes its first usage in this capacity in 1913. In 1933, Consumers Research
Consumers Research
Consumers' Research is a defunct non-profit organization established in 1929 by Stuart Chase and F.J. Schlink , after the success of their book Your Money's Worth: a study in the waste of the Consumer's Dollar galvanized interest in testing products on behalf of consumers...

 founders F. J. Schlink
F. J. Schlink
Frederick J. Schlink was an American consumer rights activist. He co-wrote the book 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs with Arthur Kallet, and co-founded the watchdog groupConsumers Research.-Biography:...

 and Arthur Kallet
Arthur Kallet
Arthur Kallet was a leading consumer advocate.An engineer, Kallet co-authored a 1933 book entitled 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics with fellow engineer Frederick Schlink.In 1936 he left as director of Consumers Research after its head F.J...

 wrote a book entitled 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, extending the metaphor to consumer society. The book became a national bestseller in the United States, thus further popularizing the term, and spurred the growth of the consumer protection
Consumer protection
Consumer protection laws designed to ensure fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace. The laws are designed to prevent businesses that engage in fraud or specified unfair practices from gaining an advantage over competitors and may provide additional...

 movement. The negative connotation of the term was later employed in the novel The Guinea Pigs by Czech author Ludvík Vaculík
Ludvík Vaculík
Ludvík Vaculík is a Czech writer and journalist. A prominent samizdat writer, he is most famous as the author of the "Two Thousand Words" manifesto of June 1968.-Pre-1968:...

 as an allegory for Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 totalitarianism
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

.

Guinea pigs were popular laboratory animals until the later 20th century; about 2.5 million guinea pigs were used annually in the U.S. for research in the 1960s, but that total decreased to about 375,000 by the mid-1990s. As of 2007, they constitute approximately 2% of the current total of laboratory animals. In the past they were widely used to standardize vaccine
Vaccine
A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins...

s and antiviral agents
Antiviral drug
Antiviral drugs are a class of medication used specifically for treating viral infections. Like antibiotics for bacteria, specific antivirals are used for specific viruses...

; they were also often employed in studies on the production of antibodies
Antibody
An antibody, also known as an immunoglobulin, is a large Y-shaped protein used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses. The antibody recognizes a unique part of the foreign target, termed an antigen...

 in response to extreme allergic reactions
Allergy
An Allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur when a person's immune system reacts to normally harmless substances in the environment. A substance that causes a reaction is called an allergen. These reactions are acquired, predictable, and rapid...

, or anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is defined as "a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death". It typically results in a number of symptoms including throat swelling, an itchy rash, and low blood pressure...

. Less common uses included research in pharmacology
Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function...

 and irradiation
Irradiation
Irradiation is the process by which an object is exposed to radiation. The exposure can originate from various sources, including natural sources. Most frequently the term refers to ionizing radiation, and to a level of radiation that will serve a specific purpose, rather than radiation exposure to...

. Since the middle 20th century, they have been replaced in laboratory contexts primarily by mice and rats. This is in part because research into the genetics of guinea pigs has lagged behind that of other rodents, although geneticists W. E. Castle and Sewall Wright
Sewall Wright
Sewall Green Wright was an American geneticist known for his influential work on evolutionary theory and also for his work on path analysis. With R. A. Fisher and J.B.S. Haldane, he was a founder of theoretical population genetics. He is the discoverer of the inbreeding coefficient and of...

 made a number of contributions to this area of study, especially regarding coat color
Biological pigment
Biological pigments, also known simply as pigments or biochromes are substances produced by living organisms that have a color resulting from selective color absorption. Biological pigments include plant pigments and flower pigments...

. In 2004, the U.S.'s National Human Genome Research Institute
National Human Genome Research Institute
The National Human Genome Research Institute is a division of the National Institutes of Health, located in Bethesda, Maryland.NHGRI began as the National Center for Human Genome Research , which was established in 1989 to carry out the role of the NIH in the International Human Genome Project...

 announced plans to sequence the genome
Genome
In modern molecular biology and genetics, the genome is the entirety of an organism's hereditary information. It is encoded either in DNA or, for many types of virus, in RNA. The genome includes both the genes and the non-coding sequences of the DNA/RNA....

 of the domestic guinea pig.

The guinea pig was most extensively implemented in research and diagnosis of infectious disease
Infectious disease
Infectious diseases, also known as communicable diseases, contagious diseases or transmissible diseases comprise clinically evident illness resulting from the infection, presence and growth of pathogenic biological agents in an individual host organism...

s. Common uses included identification of brucellosis
Brucellosis
Brucellosis, also called Bang's disease, Crimean fever, Gibraltar fever, Malta fever, Maltese fever, Mediterranean fever, rock fever, or undulant fever, is a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals or close contact with their secretions...

, Chagas disease
Chagas disease
Chagas disease is a tropical parasitic disease caused by the flagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi. T. cruzi is commonly transmitted to humans and other mammals by an insect vector, the blood-sucking insects of the subfamily Triatominae most commonly species belonging to the Triatoma, Rhodnius,...

, cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

, diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

, foot-and-mouth disease
Foot-and-mouth disease
Foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovids...

, glanders
Glanders
Glanders is an infectious disease that occurs primarily in horses, mules, and donkeys. It can be contracted by other animals such as dogs, cats and goats...

, Q fever
Q fever
Q fever is a disease caused by infection with Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium that affects humans and other animals. This organism is uncommon but may be found in cattle, sheep, goats and other domestic mammals, including cats and dogs...

, Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most lethal and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. It has been diagnosed throughout the Americas. Some synonyms for Rocky Mountain spotted fever in other countries include “tick typhus,” “Tobia fever” , “São Paulo fever” or “febre...

, and various strains of typhus
Typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

. They are still frequently used to diagnose tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, since they are easily infected by human tuberculosis bacteria. Because guinea pigs are one of the few animals which, like humans, cannot synthesize vitamin C
Vitamin C
Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate is an essential nutrient for humans and certain other animal species. In living organisms ascorbate acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body against oxidative stress...

 but must obtain it from their diet, they are ideal for researching scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

. From the accidental discovery in 1907 that scurvy could be induced in guinea pigs, to their use to prove the chemical structure of the "ascorbutic factor" in 1932, the guinea pig model proved a crucial part of vitamin C research.

Complement
Complement system
The complement system helps or “complements” the ability of antibodies and phagocytic cells to clear pathogens from an organism. It is part of the immune system called the innate immune system that is not adaptable and does not change over the course of an individual's lifetime...

, an important component for serology
Serology
Serology is the scientific study of blood serum and other bodily fluids. In practice, the term usually refers to the diagnostic identification of antibodies in the serum...

, was first isolated from the blood of the guinea pig. Guinea pigs have an unusual insulin mutation, and are a suitable species for the generation of anti-insulin antibodies. Present at a level 10 times that found in other mammals, the insulin in guinea pigs may be important in growth regulation, a role usually played by growth hormone
Growth hormone
Growth hormone is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals. Growth hormone is a 191-amino acid, single-chain polypeptide that is synthesized, stored, and secreted by the somatotroph cells within the lateral wings of the anterior...

. Additionally, guinea pigs have been identified as model organism
Model organism
A model organism is a non-human species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms. Model organisms are in vivo models and are widely used to...

s for the study of juvenile diabetes
Diabetes mellitus type 1
Diabetes mellitus type 1 is a form of diabetes mellitus that results from autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. The subsequent lack of insulin leads to increased blood and urine glucose...

 and, because of the frequency of pregnancy toxemia, of pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia or preeclampsia is a medical condition in which hypertension arises in pregnancy in association with significant amounts of protein in the urine....

 in human females.

Guinea pig strains
Strain (biology)
In biology, a strain is a low-level taxonomic rank used in three related ways.-Microbiology and virology:A strain is a genetic variant or subtype of a micro-organism . For example, a "flu strain" is a certain biological form of the influenza or "flu" virus...

 used in scientific research are primarily outbred strains. Aside from the common American or English stock, the two main outbred strains in laboratory use are the Hartley and Dunkin-Hartley; these English strains are albino
Albinism
Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin...

, although pigmented strains are also available. Inbred strain
Inbred strain
Inbred strains are individuals of a particular species which are nearly identical to each other in genotype due to long inbreeding. Inbred strains of animals are frequently used in laboratories for experiments where for reproducibility of conclusions all the test animals should be as similar as...

s are less common and are usually used for very specific research, such as immune system molecular biology. Of the inbred strains that have been created, the two that are still used with any frequency are, following Sewall Wright's designations, "Strain 2" and "Strain 13".

Hairless breeds of guinea pigs have been used in scientific research since the 1980s, particularly for dermatological
Dermatology
Dermatology is the branch of medicine dealing with the skin and its diseases, a unique specialty with both medical and surgical aspects. A dermatologist takes care of diseases, in the widest sense, and some cosmetic problems of the skin, scalp, hair, and nails....

 studies. A hairless and immunodeficient
Immunodeficiency
Immunodeficiency is a state in which the immune system's ability to fight infectious disease is compromised or entirely absent. Immunodeficiency may also decrease cancer immunosurveillance. Most cases of immunodeficiency are acquired but some people are born with defects in their immune system,...

 breed was the result of a spontaneous genetic mutation in inbred laboratory strains from the Hartley stock at the Eastman Kodak Company
Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak Company is a multinational imaging and photographic equipment, materials and services company headquarted in Rochester, New York, United States. It was founded by George Eastman in 1892....

 in 1979. An immunocompetent hairless breed was also identified by the Institute Armand Frappier in 1978, and Charles River Laboratories has reproduced this breed for research since 1982. Cavy fanciers then began acquiring hairless breeds, and the pet hairless varieties are referred to as "skinny pig
Skinny pig
The Skinny Pig is an almost hairless breed of Guinea pig. Skinny pigs typically have hair on their muzzles, feet and legs, but are hairless over the remainder of their bodies. Some have a thin covering of fuzzy hair on their backs as well. A healthy Skinny has skin that is mostly smooth with some...

s".

As food

Guinea pigs (called cuy, cuye, curí) were originally domesticated for their meat in the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

. Traditionally, the animal was reserved for ceremonial meals by indigenous people in the Andean highlands, but since the 1960s it has become more socially acceptable for consumption by all people. It continues to be a major part of the diet in Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 and Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

, particularly in the Andes Mountains highlands; it is also eaten in some areas of Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

 (mainly in the Sierra) and Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

. Because guinea pigs require much less room than traditional livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 and reproduce extremely quickly, they are a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals, such as pigs and cows; moreover, they can be raised in an urban environment. Both rural and urban families raise guinea pigs for supplementary income, and the animals are commonly bought and sold at local markets and large-scale municipal fairs.
Guinea pig meat is high in protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 and low in fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 and cholesterol
Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a complex isoprenoid. Specifically, it is a waxy steroid of fat that is produced in the liver or intestines. It is used to produce hormones and cell membranes and is transported in the blood plasma of all mammals. It is an essential structural component of mammalian cell membranes...

, and is described as being similar to rabbit
Rabbit
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

 and the dark meat of chicken
Chicken (food)
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world, and is prepared as food in a wide variety of ways, varying by region and culture.- History :...

. The animal may be served fried (chactado or frito), broiled (asado), or roasted (al horno), and in urban restaurants may also be served in a casserole
Casserole
A casserole, from the French for "saucepan", is a large, deep dish used both in the oven and as a serving vessel. The word casserole is also used for the food cooked and served in such a vessel, with the cookware itself called a casserole dish or casserole pan...

 or a fricassee
Fricassee
Fricassee or Fricassée is a catch-all term used to describe a stewed dish typically made with poultry, but other types of white meat can be substituted. It is cut into pieces and then stewed in gravy, which is then thickened with butter and cream or milk . It often includes other ingredients and...

. Ecuadorians commonly consume sopa or locro de cuy, a soup dish. Pachamanca
Pachamanca
Pachamanca is a traditional Peruvian dish based on the baking, with the aid of hot stones , of lamb, mutton, pork, chicken or guinea pig, marinated in spices...

or huatia
Huatia
A huatia is a traditional Peruvian earthen oven which dates back to the days of the Inca Empire. A banquet prepared with this sort of oven is known as a Pachamanca...

, a process similar to barbecue
Barbecue
Barbecue or barbeque , used chiefly in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia is a method and apparatus for cooking meat, poultry and occasionally fish with the heat and hot smoke of a fire, smoking wood, or hot coals of...

ing, is also popular, and is usually served with corn beer (chicha
Chicha
For the musical genre, see Peruvian cumbiaChicha is a term used in some regions of Latin America for several varieties of fermented and non-fermented beverages, rather often to those derived from maize and similar non-alcoholic beverages...

) in traditional settings.

South America

Peruvians consume an estimated 65 million guinea pigs each year, and the animal is so entrenched in the culture that one famous painting of the Last Supper
Last Supper
The Last Supper is the final meal that, according to Christian belief, Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as "communion" or "the Lord's Supper".The First Epistle to the Corinthians is...

 in the main cathedral in Cusco
Cusco
Cusco , often spelled Cuzco , is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cuzco Province. In 2007, the city had a population of 358,935 which was triple the figure of 20 years ago...

 shows Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 and the twelve disciples dining on guinea pig. The animal remains an important aspect of certain religious events in both rural and urban areas of Peru. A religious celebration known as jaca tsariy ("collecting the cuys") is a major festival in many villages in the Antonio Raimondi province of eastern Peru, and is celebrated in smaller ceremonies in Lima
Lima
Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central part of the country, on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima...

. It is a syncretistic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 event, combining elements of Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 and pre-Columbian
Pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 religious practices, and revolves around the celebration of local patron saint
Patron saint
A patron saint is a saint who is regarded as the intercessor and advocate in heaven of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family, or person...

s. The exact form that the jaca tsariy takes differs from town to town; in some localities, a sirvinti (servant) is appointed to go from door to door, collecting donations of guinea pigs, while in others, guinea pigs may be brought to a communal area to be released in a mock bullfight
Bullfighting
Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Latin American countries , in which one or more bulls are baited in a bullring for sport and entertainment...

. Meals such as cuy chactado are always served as part of these festivities, and the killing and serving of the animal is framed by some communities as a symbolic satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 of local politicians or important figures. In the Tungurahua
Tungurahua Province
Tungurahua is one of the twenty-four provinces of Ecuador. Its capital is Ambato. The province takes its name from the Tungurahua volcano, which is located within the boundaries of the provinces.-Population:...

 and Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi Province
Cotopaxi is one of the provinces of Ecuador. The capital is Latacunga. The province contains the Cotopaxi Volcano, an intermittent volcano with a height of 19,388 feet.- Cantons :The province is divided into 7 cantons...

 provinces of central Ecuador, guinea pigs are employed in the celebrations surrounding the feast of Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi (feast)
Corpus Christi is a Latin Rite solemnity, now designated the solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ . It is also celebrated in some Anglican, Lutheran and Old Catholic Churches. Like Trinity Sunday and the Solemnity of Christ the King, it does not commemorate a particular event in...

 as part of the Ensayo, which is a community meal, and the Octava, where castillos (greased poles) are erected with prizes tied to the crossbars, from which several guinea pigs may be hung. The Peruvian town of Churin
Churin
Churin is a town in Peru, located in the Huaura Province.The city holds two annual festivals. The Annual Maca Festival celebrates maca, an aphrodisiac food. The town also has an annual festival revolving around the food and cultural icon of the cuy, or guinea pig. The festivities involve dressing...

 has an annual festival which involves dressing guinea pigs in elaborate costumes for a competition.

Andean immigrants in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 raise and sell guinea pigs for meat, and some ethnic restaurants in major United States cities serve cuy as a delicacy. Peruvian research universities, especially La Molina National Agrarian University, began experimental programs in the 1960s with the intention of breeding larger-sized guinea pigs. Subsequent university efforts have sought to change breeding and husbandry procedures in South America, in order to make the raising of guinea pigs as livestock more economically sustainable. In the 1990s and 2000s, the university began exporting the larger breed guinea pigs to Europe, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, and the United States in the hope of increasing human consumption outside of these countries in northern South America.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Some efforts have also been made to promote guinea pig husbandry
Animal husbandry
Animal husbandry is the agricultural practice of breeding and raising livestock.- History :Animal husbandry has been practiced for thousands of years, since the first domestication of animals....

 in developing countries of West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

, where they occur more widely than generally known because they are usually not covered by livestock statistics. However, it has not been known when and where the animals have been introduced to Africa. In Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon , is a country in west Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the...

, they are widely distributed. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

, they can be found both in peri-urban environments as well as in rural regions, for example, in South Kivu. They are also frequently held in rural households in Iringa Region
Iringa Region
Iringa is one of Tanzania's 26 administrative regions. The regional capital is Iringa. The total area is , of which land area is 56,864 km sq and water area is 2,070 km² ....

 of southwestern Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

.

Other western regions

Nevertheless, as a food source guinea pigs are generally considered taboo
Taboo food and drink
Taboo food and drink are food and beverages which people abstain from consuming for religious, cultural or hygienic reasons. Many food taboos forbid the meat of a particular animal, including mammals, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, bony fish, and crustaceans...

 in other countries in America and Europe; in reality television
Reality television
Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded...

, guinea pig meat has been consumed as an exotic dish by such Western celebrity chef
Celebrity chef
A celebrity chef is a kitchen chef who has become famous and well known. Today celebrity chefs often become celebrities by presenting cookery advice and demonstrations via mass media, especially television. Historically, celebrity chefs have included Antoine Carême and Martino da Como.-External...

s as Andrew Zimmern
Andrew Zimmern
Andrew Zimmern is a James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer, and teacher. As the co-creator, host, and consulting producer of Travel Channel's series Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World, he travels the world exploring food in its own native...

 (for his show Bizarre Foods
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern is a documentary-styled travel and cuisine television show hosted by Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel. The first season debuted on Monday, February 26, 2007 at 9pm ET/PT....

), Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Michael "Tony" Bourdain is an American chef, author and television personality. He is well known for his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and is the host of Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure program Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.A...

 in No Reservations and Jeff Corwin
Jeff Corwin
Jeffrey Scott Corwin is an American animal and nature conservationist, best known as host and executive producer of Animal Planet cable channel television programs, The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin's Quest.-Early years:...

 in his show Extreme Cuisine.

See also

  • British Cavy Council
    British Cavy Council
    The British Cavy Council is the governing body in the United Kingdom for national, regional, and local cavy clubs, and also for the wide range of 'breed clubs' which exist on a national basis to further the interests of particular cavy breeds, and to provide a forum for those with an interest in...

  • Peter Gurney
    Peter Gurney
    Peter Gurney was an author and campaigner for the rights and welfare of guinea pigs. He was associated with the Cambridge Cavy Trust, founded by Vedra Stanley-Spatcher....

  • Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs
    Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs
    Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs was a six-year campaign by British animal rights activists to close a farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire that bred guinea pigs for animal research...


External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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