What is a Guinea Pig?


The guinea pig, which has the scientific name of Cavia porcellus, is small, almost tailless rodent. Its closest relatives, other than wild guinea pigs, are porcupines, agoutis, chincillas, and animals such as the coypu. There are 14 species of wild guinea pigs, and they all native to South America. Which one is the ancestor of the domesticated form is not known because the domistication process was never recorded. However it is generally thought that this honor goes to C. aperea, C. fulgida, or C. tschudii.

The main feature of a rodent is the possession of teeth designed to gnaw. This is possible because of the elongated incisor teeth, of which the guinea pig has two pairs. The lower jaw is very maneuverable, being able to move forward when gnawing and backward when grinding. Rodents have no canine teeth instead, there is a gap (called a diastema) between the incisos and the premolars. This allows the rodent to push his cheek skin into the gap and separate the front part of the mouth from the rear. He can then gnaw and select what food items he wishes to allow into the rear of the mouth, thus passing it into the digestive system.

Another feature of guinea pigs is that unlike most other rodents and mammals, their young are born fully furred and able to move around within hours after their birth. This survival strategy means that guinea pigs need only have small litters when compared with rabbits or mice. Their young are not as vulnerable as those of species whose babies are born blind, naked, and helpless. This is actuall one of the guinea pig’s merits, because it means you will not be overrun with unwanted offspring as can often be the case with many other rodent species.