According to scientists, guinea pigs as a species appeared about 35–40 million years ago. Indians of Central and South America began to domesticate the wild guinea pigs in the 9th-3rd millennium BC. The Incas sacrificed guinea pigs to the sun god. Today, in addition to being many people’s favorite pets, guinea pigs are also of great benefit to science, being bred in the vivariums of research institutes and conducting various experiments on them.
Guinea pigs are pets that are completely unpretentious in terms of care and maintenance, very fond of people, attached to the owner and have a very funny appearance.
The guinea pig is easier to keep than a dog or a cat, and this animal brings no less aesthetic pleasure. The dog needs to be taken out for a walk regularly in all weathers; during walks, especially in the rain, it gets dirty and has to be washed in the bathtub. A cat, however, does not need walks, she is quite enough room, but she likes to sharpen her claws on the upholstered furniture and after a while makes it look untidy.
The guinea pig is another matter. It requires only a little attention and a little cage space, is unpretentious, food for it can always be bought, care is not much trouble and takes a little time every day. These animals are calmer than dogs and even cats and have many positive qualities, very valuable at home. Independent care for them may well be entrusted to children over 8–9 years, as guinea pigs belong, as a rule, to the good-natured, tame animals.
Contrary to its name, guinea pigs are usually very afraid of water, and have a very distant relationship with the usual pigs and piglets (although that’s what they call the small, newborn guinea pigs — piglets). In fact, the guinea pig is a rodent belonging to the mumps family (Caviidae), which includes animals of two different appearances: some look like guinea pigs, while others (mara) are longer-legged. There are 23 known species, all of which live in South America.
In their native land, guinea pigs are called aparea, aporea, and kui. They were first domesticated by the Inca Indians, who not only domesticated them as cute pets, but used them as food and for sacrifices. The Indians believed that the guinea pig attracts disease. To this day, large guinea pigs (weighing up to 2,500 g) are bred as meat animals in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. The closest wild relative of our guinea pig is the Cavia cutleri, from the dry valleys of the Andes. These animals live in groups of 5 to 15 in burrows, they are very social animals, loneliness for them destructive, which is why experts insist on keeping guinea pigs together (at least two of the same sex), and in some European countries forbidden the content of single pigs.
In nature, guinea pigs breed all year round. Pregnancy lasts about 65 days. The female gives birth to 1 to 4 cubs that she feeds with milk for about 3 weeks. Puberty is reached at the age of 2 months. Guinea pigs are about the same when it comes to breeding.
Guinea pigs are called “guinea pig” or “cavy” in English. “Guinea pig because ships used to carry guinea pigs from Latin America across the Atlantic to Guinea, which is in Africa. It turns out that guinea pigs were brought to Europe by Guinean ships.
As guinea pigs belong to the most numerous order of mammals — the order of rodents — they have a very distinctive structure of dental system. On the upper and lower jaws there is one pair of incisors each, they are very large, devoid of roots and grow throughout the life of the animal. Their free end is chisel-sharp, the front wall is covered with a thick layer of very hard enamel, and the sides and back sides — with a thin layer, or have no enamel coating at all, as a result of which the incisors grind unevenly and always remain sharp. Due to this feature guinea pigs need something to chew on all the time, so in addition to food they put branches of fruit trees in their cage.
Thus, guinea pigs are cute and fairly easy to keep animals, and such a pet is safe to buy even children. According to our observations and feedback from breeders, guinea pig can safely buy a child from seven years. Three times a day to feed the pig and pour fresh water into the water bowl, as well as once every 5–7 days to clean the cage (albeit with partial adult help), children of this age are already able to do it themselves. But having your own pets that you take care of by yourself is a great way to form a sense of responsibility and duty, and develops independence in children.