The Guinea Pig (Cavia porcellus) is a rodent and a mammal. It is also known as the Cavy. It is not a pig. It does not come from Guinea. It is now a domesticated species – a widespread, common pet.
The Guinea Pig has a stout, hairy body, with short legs, a large head, and short ears. Its feet have short, sharp claws and hairless soles. There are four toes on its front feet and three toes on its back feet. Some Guinea Pigs have short hair, and some have long hair. Its tail is very short and covered by its hair. Its fur can be black, brown, white, chestnut, cream, or a combination of colours.
It measures about 20-40 centimetres (8-16 inches) in length.
The Guinea Pig is native to the Andes mountains in South America.
It is crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk. It is a grazer, because it eats grass.
It cannot climb very well, but it is a good swimmer. Its eyesight is poor, but it has good hearing, smell, and touch.
It is a rodent, related to mice, rats, and squirrels. Rodents gnaw on wood with their large front teeth.
The female Guinea Pig, called a sow, gives birth to 1-6 young, called pups, after a pregnancy of 59-72 days. The pups are born precocial, because they have hair, teeth, claws, and partial eyesight. Other rodents, such as mice, have altricial young that are born hairless, helpless, and blind. The pups drink milk from their mother.
Other females help the mother to look after her pups. This is called allomothering.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM