|Guinea pig |
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
• Species: Cavia porcellus
• Common Name: Guinea Pig or Cavy
• Geography: Andes, South America
• Order: Rodentia
• Suborder: Hystricomorpha
• Family: Caviidae
• Subfamily: Caviinae
• Genus: Cavia
• Weight: 0.7 to 1.2 kg
•Length: 20 to 25 cm
The guinea pig was domesticated as a source of food by a native from the Andean region (modern-day Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) in around 5000 BC. It is still a delicacy in the highland regions, living off family food scraps.
European history wasn’t graced by the Guinea Pig’s presence until a series of 16th century English, Spanish and Dutch expeditions brought home guinea pigs for European eyes, where they were quickly taken as exotic household pets by the rich and famous.
Strangely, however, recent excavations on Puerto Rico and other West Indian islands show that the Guinea Pig must have been bred (and presumably eaten) long before the arrival of the Spanish.
Since the 17th century, the guinea pig has been used as the subject of scientific research. Early examples of this were vivisection to establish anatomy, and bizarrely to assess the chemical combustion of respiration, where 17th-century scientists recorded that the heat from guinea pig breath melted snow, therefore proving that heat was generated from the digestion of food.
A Source of Food
Guinea pigs were originally foodstuff in the Andes and is now commonly found cooked and for sale in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia, particularly in the highland regions. High in protein and low in fat and cholesterol, it is reported to taste like a rabbit or chicken thigh.
Perhaps due to their popularity as pets in Western Europe, the guinea pig has become a star of the cuddly animal variety, often appearing as characters in books, cartoons and movies; particularly aimed at children.
• The Fairy Caravan, a novel by Beatrix Potter
• Michael Bond's Olga da Polga series
• The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis
• Pigs Is Pigs by Ellis Parker Butler
• Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", written by David Gerrold, and based on Pigs Is Pigs
• Golden Hamster Saga books
Film and television
• Shredderman Rules
• Dr. Dolittle (1998)
• Nick Jr.'s Wonder Pets
• South Park season 12 episode "Pandemic 2: The Startling"
• Egg Banking plc
• Blockbuster Video
Pigs in Space
Yes, that’s right - guinea pigs are amongst the few species to have traveled into space – and survived! In fact, they were amongst the earliest successful space travelers (before humans) and traveled on Sputnik 9 biosattelite in 1961 with a safe arrival back in the USSR, and more recently on a Chinese biosattelite in 1990.