Where Do Guinea Pigs Come From?

You all know how charming and affectionate our little Guinea Pig friends are. However, did you know that these cute creatures have an equally interesting and unexpected history?

In this article, we will explain the origin of the guinea pig and some interesting facts about its history. Keep reading to learn more about your little friends!

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So, What Are They From?

Guinea pigs are native to South America. They live in rocky areas, forest edges, and grassy plains. A herd of guinea pigs consists of about ten adults (a pair of pigs, one wild boar, and their young).

Guinea pigs live in burrows belonging to other creatures or in burrows formed in dense vegetation. Although they are diurnal (creatures during the day in captivity), they are nocturnal in the wild (active at night).

They forage on a variety of plant materials. Also, they keep away from various bird attacks. Guinea pigs began to be domesticated around 2000 BC in the Andes region.

The Andes were located on the western side of South America in what is now Bolivia and Peru. Initially, they were raised to provide food. Nonetheless, some people have started keeping them as pets for their children.

Usually, you can’t buy or sell guinea pigs; they are presented as gifts, especially as wedding gifts. They are also given as gifts to special visitors or children.

They can mostly be kept in the kitchen where they are free to roam around the house.

The Origin of the Name “Guinea Pigs”

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Guinea Pig name origin is still unknown. These little friends are not from Guinea nor are they pigs!

Many hypotheses explain where the name “guinea pig” came from. They all have a little bit of uniqueness. For example, it is possible that the name “guinea” refers to their foreign and expensive nature as pets.

Perhaps, they should buy one Guinea or 21 shillings. During the 16th century, 21 shillings was a large sum of money. Another hypothesis is that guinea pigs were usually imported via French Guiana.

Therefore, they may mispronounce the name “Guiana”, which is derived from this fact. The biggest part could be because these little friends have big heads, short necks and legs, and long, round bodies.

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Guinea pigs feed constantly. They are vocal and intelligent – ​​much like real pigs! In many other countries in Europe, the local name guinea pig implies “Sea Pig”. This is almost an indication of the conditions of their imports.

The Guinea Pig has the Italian name “Porcellino da India” which means “Indian Little Pig.”

Guinea Pig Family

Guinea pigs are members of the gnawer family. Their proper Latin name is Cavia Porcellus. Although they are closely related to rabbits, rats, hamsters, and mice, they are more closely related to chinchillas, porcupines, and capybaras. You can look at the faces of each of these creatures to see what we’re talking about.

Contemporary guinea pigs are native to South America, and especially the Andes region. They belong to a species called the “Restless Cavy” or Cavia Cutleri.” Guinea pigs are given this name when they sleep with their eyes wide open.

Also, guinea pigs live in family groups in rocky areas and prairie savannas. They don’t like to dig, so they mostly live on the surface. Even so, they will take advantage of holes left by other animals, as well as cracks in rocks.

Wild guinea pigs are born outdoors because they don’t nest. Therefore, they are more enhanced compared to other young gnawers. These young people were born with their eyes wide open. They are full of fur and move fast.

These are character attributes that are passed down directly to their domesticated offspring. While they look similar to our famous Guinean friend, they don’t have as many color variations and breeds as we know of. They are similar to wild rabbits and mice in that they are usually grayish-brown in color and have fine hair.

Guinea Pig_Mateusz Sienkiewicz_Shutterstock

How were Guinea Pigs Domesticated?

Around 5000 BC, there is ample evidence that the natives of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the present-day Andean region began raising these wild guinea pigs instead of chasing and killing them for food.

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Capturing and taming them makes more sense. It is also important to note that guinea pigs are not considered pets but farm animals such as chickens, pigs and cows.

In Peruvian society, the guinea pig is an important part. Many families raise them for food. Guinea pigs are usually traded. Newly married couples are given breeding partners as a gift to start a viable breeding colony as they begin their new life together.

When did Guinea Pigs Come to Europe?

South America began trading with Europe in the 16th century. Guinea pigs became a common imported item although they were used primarily for entertainment rather than food. Initially, guinea pigs were introduced to Europe by Portuguese and Spanish traders.

After that, there is a high demand for guinea pigs as exotic pets. Originally known written accounts of Guinea Pigs began at Santo Domingo in Spain in 1547.

How are Guinea Pigs Used in Religion and Medicine?

In Peru, guinea pigs play an important role in medicine and religion. Guinea pigs are considered to have the ability to determine the root cause of a disease. They are usually applied to a sick family member.

Unfortunately, the guinea pig involved had no luck as it was executed afterward and had its intestines examined by a shaman in the area. The best disease diagnoses are black guinea pigs.

Now that you know the origin of the guinea pig, let’s take a look at some facts about this amazing pet.

American Guinea Pig

What is the Average Age of a Guinea Pig?

The average life expectancy of a Guinea Pig is between five and seven years. This life expectancy is longer than that of other small pets such as mice, hamsters, rats, and gerbils, all of which have a lifespan of only a few years.

If you travel a lot, guinea pigs are a great pet because they are easier to carry around than cats or dogs. However, more than five years is still a fairly large period.

Facts About Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs, also known as cavies, are communal animals with a sturdy round body structure. They have no tail and have short legs. Some of the most common facts about this amazing pet consist of:

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They Are Social Beings

In the wild, these animals live in close family groups of between five and ten guinea pigs. However, they can form colonies if several groups live close to each other.

This Little Animal is Active

Guinea pigs can stay active for up to 20 hours each day. They slept for several hours.

Cavies eat foods that are supplemented with vitamin C and high in fiber

You should supplement the diet your guinea pig eats with lots of vitamin C. That’s because they lack the enzyme needed to synthesize vitamin C. They store vitamin C for a short time.

  • Also Read: How To Trim Guinea Pig Nails (6 The Safest & Easiest Ways)

A guinea pig running around in the park_theianov_Shutterstock

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Guinea Pigs Are Amazing Pets

As with many questions about beautiful guinea pigs, the answer is not as clear-cut as it seems! Guinea pigs do not originate from Guinea, in West Africa nor are they related to pigs.

Today, guinea pigs are well-known in households all over the world. From Tudor royal pets to Andean snacks. They are friendly and tend to bite or rub. If they bite your hand wrong, it’s because they mistook your finger for a carrot! Also, guinea pigs are hardy, and if you take good care of them, they have minimal health problems.


Featured Image: Naomi Marcin, Shutterstock