What Are Guinea Pigs?

The guinea pig is not a pig, and it has nothing to do with Guinea. It is related to the hares and rabbits and its real name is “cavy”. In other words, it is really a rodent.

Long before the Spaniards came to the New World, the Incas of  to the New World, the Incas of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia had domesticated this rodent. They used it for food, and considered it a great delicacy.

As a matter of fact, soon after the the discovery of America the guinea pig was introduced into Europe for the same purpose, and was eaten by people everywhere. Nowadays, the only people who eat guinea pigs are some native of Peru, but is still kept as a pet by many people in South America.


They are about 25 centimeters long and weight about 1 kilograms. It has no tail. It has small, naked rounded ears. The fore feet have four toes, the hind feet only three, and all the toes have broad claws. They live wholly on vegetable food.

While feeding they generally sit on their hind feet. When free they live in burrows and feed at dusk and on dark days. When they get plenty of green vegetation, they can get along without water. Guinea pigs have litters of two to eight or more, twice or three times a year.

A few hours after they are born they can run about. Because they are gentle, easy to handle, and reproduce fairly quickly, they are very useful in laboratury experiments where live animals are needed. They have been very helpful to man in the development of medicines and medical treatment.

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