Guinea pigs were first domesticated in South America 7000 years ago – around the year 5000 B.C. This is the time when the wheel was developed in ancient Mesopotamia!
Guinea pigs are used as food in South America, especially in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They are cooked whole, grilled, or deep-fried. In Peru alone, an estimated 65,000 guinea pigs are eaten annually. The meat is high in protein but low in fat and cholesterol.
Queen Elizabeth I owned a guinea pig as a pet in England.
Guinea pigs did not come from Guinea, New Guinea, or Guyana, and they are not pigs. They are rodents, and they are believed to originated in the Andean region of South America.
Guinea Pigs have 14 toes – 3 in the back and 4 in the front.
Guinea pig teeth are open-rooted, meaning they grow continually throughout the guinea pig’s entire life. Because they never quit growing, they can overgrow and cause major problems if they don’t chew and keep them worn down.
Guinea Pigs secrete a white milky fluid from their eyes that they use to clean themselves with.
Guinea pigs don’t sleep very much. An average guinea pig is awake 20 hours of the day.
It is legal to eat guinea pig in New York state, but it is illegal to eat it in New York City. It is also illegal to kill them for food in California.
The scientific name for the modern-day domesticated guinea pig is Cavia porcellus. Cavia is old Latin for Cabiai which is what the Galibi Indians of French Guiana called them. Porcellus means “little pig”, possibly referring the little grunting noises they make, which resemble those that pigs make.
Guinea pigs are often referred to as “Cavies”, based on their scientific name, Cavia porcellus.
In South America, guinea pigs are known as cuy (plural cuyes).
Guinea pigs make two kinds of poop – normal and cecotropes. Cecotropes are formed when food passes through their digestive system a second time using a special process. Cecotropes are high in Vitamin B and various amino acids. They are necessary for a guinea pig’s health, so guinea pigs eat them.
There are 258 bones in a guinea pig. Humans have 206 bones (in adults).
A guinea pig’s body temperature ranges from 99-103 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they have a high internal temperature, they do not handle really hot environments well and can get overheated easily.
Guinea pigs have poor vision, but they can see all colors except red.
In Switzerland, it is illegal to own just one guinea pig. There is even a rent-guinea-pig service where you can rent a guinea pig to keep your guinea pig company.
Penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs because their gut is normally lined with gram-positive bacteria. Penicillin destroys this vital bacteria, and as a result, the guinea pig gets very sick or dies.
Guinea pigs have 20 teeth.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest guinea pig was a guinea pig who lived for 14 years, 10.5 months.
Guinea pigs have eccrine sweat glands on the soles of their feet only – meaning they can only sweat on the soles of their feet.
The average lifespan of a guinea pig is 5-7 years, and a normal guinea pig weighs roughly 1 kg, or about 2 pounds.
The largest guinea pig festival is held in Huacho, Peru. The festival features contests to find the fastest, fattest, and best-dressed guinea pig. They even have a contest for the tastiest guinea pig.
Guinea pigs are born well-developed. They can run at 3 hours old, and can live on their own at 3-5 days old.
Guinea pigs need Vitamin C but can’t produce it, so they must get it as a supplement in their diet.
Tumor development in guinea pigs is rare. This is because guinea pigs have “Kurloff cells” in their immune system which are known for their cancer-resistant properties.
Scientific studies on guinea pigs have determined that guinea pigs are poor at solving abstract problems, but they are good at navigational or location skills. They also have great memories and can remember a path through a complicated maze to reach food for several months.
The grass hay that guinea pigs need to eat in large amounts daily has several uses. It has abrasive properties which helps keep the teeth worn down, and it contains lots of fiber which keeps their intestinal system working properly.
A female guinea pig is called a sow and a male is called a boar. A baby is called a pup.
A male guinea pig can impregnate a female guinea pig as early as 3 weeks old, and a female can get pregnant as early as 4 weeks old. Some people say a female can get pregnant at 3 weeks of age.
The oldest painting depicting a guinea pig in Europe was painted by an anonymous Flemish- or Dutch-trained artist and was believed to have been painted in 1580. It depicts three Elizabethan children. One holds a guinea pig and one holds a finch.The Guardian
In South America, guinea pigs used to be used as sacrifices to the Gods. A 17th century native chronicler, Guaman Poma de Ayala, wrote that the Incas sacrificed 1,000 white guinea pigs along with 100 llamas in Cuzco’s main plaza each July “so that neither the sun nor the waters would harm the food and the fields.”
Guinea pigs are dusk and night animals. They try to avoid strong light and total darkness.
South American Indians still use guinea pigs as tools in divination to this day. A healer, or sobador, takes a live guinea pig and rubs it all over the body of the sick person until the guinea pig dies. Then the guinea pig is cut in half, and his organs are studied to give information on the sick person’s illness.
Guinea pigs were used widely as test subjects in medical research, especially in the late 1800’s. However, the medical community today does not use the guinea pig as much. According to the National Library of Medicine, each year researchers publish 50,000 studies using mice, 36,000 using mice, but only 1,300 using guinea pigs.
A pregnant guinea pig carries her baby for about 2 months before giving birth (59-72 days).
A typical litter size is about 2-4 babies, but it can be larger or smaller.
Guinea pigs can sleep with their eyes open.
Guinea pigs have a special dance move that people call “popcorning”. They run, jump in the air, land, jump in the air again, and turn the other way. They do this when they’re happy.
Guinea pigs can stand up on their two hind legs when they want to investigate something.