Guinea Pig Sandy
7 min readOct 4, 2021


Wandering the endless expanses of the Internet one fine sunny September day, I could not believe my eyes when I stumbled upon a book about guinea pigs published in 1886, which was put up for auction. Then I thought: “This cannot be, for sure a mistake has crept in here, and in fact it meant 1986”. There was no mistake! It was an ingenious book written by S. Cumberland, published in 1886 and bearing the title: “Guinea pigs — pets for food, fur and entertainment.”

The roots of today's pig breeding

After five long days, I received a congratulatory notice that I was the highest bidder, and soon after that the book came into my hands, neatly wrapped and tied with a ribbon …

Turning the pages, I found that the author covers all the nuances of feeding, keeping and breeding a domesticated pig from the point of view of today’s pig breeding! The whole book is an amazing story of pigs that has survived to this day. It is impossible to cover all the chapters in this book without resorting to publishing a second book, so I decided instead to focus on only 1886 “pig breeding”.

The author writes that mumps can be grouped into three groups:

  • “Old-type smooth-haired pigs described by Gesner
  • “Wire-haired English, or the so-called Abyssinian”
  • “Wire-haired French, so called Peruvian”

Among the smooth-haired pigs, Cumberland distinguished six different colors that existed at that time in the country, but all colors were spotted. The only selfies (single color) are white with red eyes. The explanation given by the author for this phenomenon is that the ancient Peruvians (people, not pigs !!!) must have bred pure white pigs for a long time. The author also believes that if the breeders of the gilts were more competent and careful selection, it would be possible to get other colors of the Self. Of course, it would take some time, but Cumberland is confident that Selfov could be obtained in all possible colors and shades:

“I believe that this is a matter of time and breeding work, long and painstaking, but we have no doubt that Selfies can be obtained in any color that appears in tricolor pigs.”

The author goes on to predict that selfies may be the first breed of pigs in hobbyists, although they will need resilience and patience to do so, as selfies are rare “(with the exception of gilts). that in his five years of research in the field of pig breeding, he has never met a truly black Self, although he has come across similar pigs.
Also the author suggests breeding pigs based on their marks, for example, combining black, red, deer (beige) and white colors that will create a tortoiseshell Another option is to breed gilts with black, red or white masks.

The roots of today's pig breeding

I believe that the first description of the Himalayas was made by Cumberland. He mentions a white smooth-haired pig with red eyes and black or brown ears:

“A few years later, a breed of pigs with white hair, red eyes and black or brown ears appeared in the zoological garden. These pigs then disappeared, but, as it turned out, black and brown marks on the ears, unfortunately, tend to appear sometimes in the droppings of whites. pigs. “

Of course, I could be wrong, but perhaps this description was a description of the Himalayans?

It turned out that Abyssinian pigs were the first popular breed in England. The author writes that Abyssinian pigs are usually larger and heavier than smooth-haired ones. They have broad shoulders and large heads. The ears are set high enough. They are compared to smooth-haired pigs, which tend to have very large eyes with a soft expression, which gives a more adorable look. Cumberland notes that Abyssinians are strong fighters and bully, and have a more independent character. He met ten different colors and shades in this wonderful breed. Below is a table drawn by Cumberland himself showing the colors that can be worked with:

Smooth-haired pigs Abyssinian pigs Peruvian pigs

Black shiny Black

Fawn Smoky Black or

Blue Smoky Black

White Deer color (Fawn) Smoky Deer (pale Fawn)

Red-brown White White

Light gray light red-brown light red-brown

Dark red-brown

Dark brown or

Agouti Dark brown or


Dark brown speckled

Charcoal Charcoal

Light gray

six colors ten colors five colors

The coat in Abyssinian gilts should not exceed 1.5 inches in length. A coat longer than 1.5 inches may give reason to think that this pig is a result of crossing with the Peruvian.

Peruvian guinea pigs are described as elongated pigs, heavy in weight, with long, soft hair, about 5.5 inches in length.

Cumberland writes that he himself bred Peruvian pigs, which had coats of up to 8 inches in length, but such cases are rare. Hair length, according to the author, needs further work.

Peruvian pigs originated in France, where they were known as the Cochon d’Angora. Cumberland also describes them as pigs with a small skull compared to the body, and that they are much more susceptible to disease than other pig breeds.

In addition, the author believes that pigs are very well suited for housekeeping and breeding, that is, for the status of “hobby animals”. The results of the work can be obtained rather quickly, compared to other animals, such as horses, where many years must pass for the emergence and consolidation of various breeds:

“There is no creature more destined for a hobby than pigs. The speed with which new generations are emerging provides exciting opportunities for breeding.”

The problem for gilts in 1886 was that they didn’t know what to do with gilts that were not suitable for breeding (“weeds,” as Cumberland calls them). He writes about the difficulty of selling non-compliant gilts:

The roots of today's pig breeding

“The kind of difficulty that has hitherto made it difficult to give hobby status to pig breeding is the inability to sell ‘weeds’, or otherwise animals that do not satisfy the breeder’s requests.”

The author concludes that the solution to this problem is to use these pigs for cooking! “This problem can be solved if we use these pigs for cooking various dishes, since they were originally domesticated for this very purpose.”

One of the following chapters is really completely devoted to recipes for cooking pigs, very similar to cooking regular pork.

Cumberland places great emphasis on the fact that pig breeding is really in great demand and, in the future, breeders should work together to achieve the goals of breeding new breeds. They need to constantly keep in touch and exchange ideas to help each other, perhaps even organize clubs in each city:

“When the clubs are organized (and I suppose they will be in every city in the kingdom), it is not even possible to predict what amazing results will follow.”

Cumberland ends this chapter with how each gilded breed should be judged and describes the main parameters to be considered:

Smooth-haired pigs class

  • Best Selfies of Each Color
  • Best Whites with Red Eyes
  • Best Tortoiseshell
  • Best Whites with Black Ears

Points are awarded for:

  • Correct short coat
  • Square nose profile
  • Large, soft-looking eyes
  • Spot color
  • Clarity of markings on non-Self
  • The size

Abyssinian gilts class

  • The best pigs of color Self
  • Best Tortoise Pigs

Points are awarded for:

  • Wool length not exceeding 1.5 inches
  • Brightness of color
  • The width of the shoulders, which should be strong
  • Mustache
  • Rosettes on wool without bald patches in the center
  • The size
  • The weight
  • Mobility

Peruvian pig class

  • The best pigs of color Self
  • Best White
  • The best variegated
  • Lushie white with white ears
  • Best Whites with black ears and nose
  • The best pigs of any color with dangling hair, with the longest hair

Points are awarded for:

  • The size
  • The length of the coat, especially on the head
  • The cleanliness of the coat, no tangles
  • General health and mobility
The roots of today's pig breeding

Oh, if only Cumberland had the opportunity to attend at least one of our modern Shows! Wouldn’t he be amazed at what changes the breeds of pigs have undergone since those distant times, how many new breeds have appeared! Some of his predictions about the development of pig farming have come true as soon as we look back and look at our pig farms today.

Also in the book there are several drawings by which I can judge how much such breeds as Dutch or Tortoises have changed. You can probably guess how fragile this book is, and I have to be extremely careful with its pages as I read it, but despite its dilapidation, it is truly a valuable piece of swine history!