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History of the Guinea Pig

Guinea pigs are a member of the rodent family which were first discovered by the Spanish explorers when they arrived in the Andean region of Peru, South America back in the 1500's. The guinea pig was domesticated by local Indians beginning in circa 2000 BC.

The picture above is of Machu Picchu, Peru. In the wild guinea pigs lived in grasslands and took shelter in ground tunnels or caves. They lived in herds and ate mainly grasses. The Spanish explorers brought them back to Europe where they became a popular pet. There are many websites which attempt to further explain their origins and history so I will not do that here.

The name guinea pig doesn't make much sense. Many websites have theories on the origin of the name so take a guess as to what is right, if anything out there! I do think it is an apt name though. In the American English culture we say things like "pig out", "I ate like a pig" all describing a voracious appetite. From having guinea pigs most of my life, I can honestly say they have voracious appetites!! Guinea pigs do not always eat everything you give them but they always come back later and finish it! It is amazing for such a small animal that they can eat so much! No wonder they poop a lot!

Today in South America, and particularly in Peru, guinea pigs are raised strictly for food as they have been for centuries. They are called "Cuy". The guinea pig in Peru is considered part of the culture. While this seems horrible to those of us who raise them as pets, for many poor people in South America who live in rugged terrain and harsh conditions, the guinea pig is about their sole source of protein. They are fed scraps of vegetation and raised in some cases in boxes underneath a bed! unfortunately most people eat animals even if they are self described "animal lovers" so I believe it is rather hypocritical to slam poor people for eating guinea pigs when most people have little concept of how many animals suffer to make it to their plate of "food." I've always felt that it is far better to raise your own food or hunt for it than to tune it out and let factory farms to the dirty work which is far and above more cruel.

I hope that my information on guinea pig history was helpful to you.