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The Wonderful World of Guinea Pigs

May 16, 2008
When was the last time you visited with a friend only to have their children frog march you out to the back yard to view their latest acquisition which you knew little about, their pet guinea pig?

They are adorable creatures that make excellent pets, but they have not always been a family pet, so what is their history and where were they first discovered?

Well let me shock you by firstly saying that they are actually rodents, and are technically known as Cavies, but don't let all this put you off, please read on.

They have sprung into popularity within the past few decades and this might well make you think that they are a new pet, but think again. Archaeologists have uncovered fossilised remains dating back millions of years, making them a very old pet indeed!

Now for something else to surprise you, they used to be much larger than they are today, averaging around 9 feet long. That's a sizeable pet.

South America is the original homeland for the guinea pig, and in particular the Incas are the first recorded people to have them in their homes. They were treated as a religious icon but also I am afraid they were used for meals and that is still true today in some parts of South America.

In many parts of Peru they are thought very highly of because of their apparent ability to heal the sick and bring comfort and solace to the dying as they move into the next life.

The guinea pig first arrived in Europe and America as a result of sailors bringing them there to sell for one guinea, and this is how they got their name.

The second part of their name, pig, comes from their likeness, at the rear end, to pigs, and also to the fact that they tend to squeal a bit like pigs.

They have also been used quite a bit over the years in the field of research, and you have probably heard and used the expression "we are using him as a guinea pig"

Medical science has benefited greatly from the use of guinea pigs in their laboratories but of course although they have saved many a human life, the cost in the lives of the guinea pigs has been high.

We are still using guinea pigs for research even today, distasteful as this might sound to you, but I am assured that they are not hurt or mistreated in any way.

Have you ever thought of giving a guinea pig as a present to somebody? Well that's what they do in many parts of South America and it is considered to be a present that impresses the receiver.

Isn't it amazing that what is in effect a rodent could become such a popular pet? During a recent survey it was found that guinea pigs came just fourth in popularity behind dogs, cats and rabbits.

So, next time your friends children drag you out to look at their pet guinea pig you will understand a little more about the attraction of these animals.
About the Author
Next thing check out John Savages excellent website on guinea pigs where you can pick up some free articles and detailed descriptions on these fantastic animals
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