The guinea pig’s name is a mystery. It is a rodent, not a pig, although they are a bit stout and will squeal and grunt. It is not from Guinea, a country in Africa, instead, they are native to the Andes Mountains in South America. They have long played an important role in indigenous South American cultures, domesticated for food as early as 5,000 BCE. Guinea pig statues and artwork have been found in archaeological digs in Peru and Ecuador.
Since their introduction by European traders in the 16th century, guinea pigs have become popular household pets. When excited, guinea pigs can hop in the air repeatedly, a movement known as “popcorning.” Larger groups of guinea pigs may “stampede” if threatened, running in different directions to confuse predators. Guinea pigs are social animals and prefer to live in groups or at least pairs. Like all rodents, guinea pigs have ever-growing teeth and need to continually chew to wear them down. Like rabbits, they eat some of their own feces to keep their digestive system healthy.
Guinea pigs are no longer found naturally in the wild, but their ancestor, the cavy, is found in South America.
These herbivorous rodents eat grass and other vegetation.
Body length is eight to 10 inches, and weight ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 pounds. Lifespan is between four and eight years.