Scientific Name: Cavia porcellus
Status: Least Concern
Habitat: Guinea pigs are no longer found naturally in the wild, but their ancestor, the cavy, is found in South America.
Diet: These herbivorous rodents eat grass and other vegetation.
Length: 8–10 feet
Weight: 1.5–2.5 pounds
The guinea pig, commonly called the cavy after its scientific name, Cavia porcellus, is not a pig and it is not exclusive to Guinea. These rodents have long played an important role in indigenous South American cultures, and have become popular household pets in the U.S. since their introduction by European traders in the 16th century.
The guinea pig was domesticated for food by tribes in the Andes as early as 5,000 BCE. Guinea pig statues and artwork have been found in archaeological digs in Peru and Ecuador. The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and guinea pigs are depicted in their art. In addition to being a food source, guinea pigs are exchanged as gifts and they play a role in folk medicine. Folk doctors, or curanderos, rub the guinea pigs against the bodies of the sick for diagnosis because they are considered supernatural mediums.