Guinea pigs are hystricomorph rodents (related to chinchillas and porcupines) that originated from the Andes Mountains region of South America. Traditionally, guinea pigs were used for ceremonial meals by indigenous people in the Andean highlands, and it continues to be a major part of the diet in Peru.
Guinea pigs were probably first domesticated by the Indians of Peru, who used them for food and as sacrificial offerings to their gods. In the 16th century Dutch explorers introduced guinea pigs to Europe, and selective breeding and captive rearing began in earnest; they were popular among the wealthy.
Guinea pigs are very popular pets because of their availability, docile temperaments, tendency not to bite or scratch when handled, and relatively clean habits. In their natural habitat, guinea pigs live in open, grassy areas. They seek shelter in naturally protected areas or burrows deserted by other animals. Guinea pigs are sociable animals and tend to live in groups, called herds, of around 10-15.
They are strictly herbivorous (plant-eating) and do most of their foraging for grasses, roots, fruits and seeds in the late afternoon and early evening.
For many years guinea pigs have been used in biomedical research laboratories.
Are guinea pigs rodents?
Yes! Guinea pigs are a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. They are not in the pig family (Suidae):
Scientific name: Cavia porcellus.
What are a guinea pig's vital statistics?
Life span: 6-7 years.
Male: 1-1.3 kg.
Female: 0.8-1.1 kg.
Ideal environmental temperature range: 18-24°C/65-75°F.
Ideal relative humidity range: 40-70% (50% is considered ideal).
Recommended age at 1st breeding:
Male: 3-4 months.
Female: <3-7 months (not after 7 months).
Length of oestrous: (heat cycle) 16 days.
Length of oestrus (period which female is receptive to male for copulation): 8 hours.
Gestation (pregnancy period): average 63-72 days.
Average litter size: 3-4 pups (ranges 1-6).
Age at weaning: 3 weeks.
Through selective breeding efforts, guinea pigs are found in an array of colours and coat types from which to choose. The main varieties of hair type which are commonly encountered in the pet and breeding industry which all come in different colours are:
Shorthaired (smooth coated) – short, smooth coated across their bodies
Crested – shorthairs but have a single crest on the top of the head
Abyssinians – these have rosettes (or whorls) of hair across the body
Ridgeback – these have a single ridge of crested fur running along their backs
Peruvian – like longhaired Abyssinians
Sheltie (also known as Silky) – longhair smooth coated
Coronet – longhaired crested coats
Rex – rough coarse and dense coat with curly whiskers
Teddy – rough coarse and dense coat with straight whiskers
Texel – longhaired rex breed
Merino – longhaired rex with a crested head
Lunkarya – longhaired cross between a Rex and Peruvian
Skinny – completely hairless