The origins of guinea pigs have been much written about in various publications with much more detail than this one.
So I’ve put together a brief summary of what we know about their origins, in 19 facts.
- The first evidence of guinea pigs from an archaeological point of view, dates back to 9000 years ago.
- Guinea pigs originally came from South America and were kept by the Inca’s.
- They were initially not thought of as pets but as food for the Inca’s.
- They have been an important food source in South American countries for centuries
- Humans at that time realised that if the animals which they normally hunted were corralled in some way it would save them a lot of time, so guinea pigs along with sheep, cows and rabbits were gathered in this way.
- The Inca’s bred their guinea pigs in different colours other than the original agouti colouring that was found to be on guinea pigs out in the wild
- Today only black and white coloured guinea pigs are found on the markets for sale in South America
- Bernabe Cobo and Garcilaso de la Vega, who were Spanish Chroniclers, wrote about the role of the guinea pig in Incan diets and ritual.
- Guinea Pigs are still eaten to this day in areas of South America and are served as a delicacy to be eaten on special occasions in festivals, Christmas, Easter, Carnivals and Corpus Christi.
- The domestic guinea pig was first described by Linnaeus in 1758 as Mus Porcellus
- The guinea pig found its way to the European continent once the Spanish had invaded the new world.
- When they first arrived in Europe they were very popular as pets, even Queen Elizabeth I owned a pet guinea pig.
- The Guinea also refers to the coin known as a guinea which is said to be the price paid for a guinea pig.
- In the Andes Region, people often refer to cavies as a ‘cuy’. Although, it also has many other names of local origin. They are often now cross-bred with local animals.
- The South American Cuy adapt to their environments a great deal and can deal a variety of different climates. However they do not like extremes of weather, just like their domestic cavy cousins.
- It is thought that guinea pigs became domesticated as early as 5000bc in southern Peru and Bolivia.
- Archaeologists say that the Moche Valley of Peru was the first area to see the exploitation and breeding of guinea pigs.
- The effect of domestication are said to be an increased body and litter size, a marked change in behaviour and a change in the hair colouration.
- Archaeologists have recovered bones from the remains of guinea pigs in South America and Europe. An example of this is in the town of Mons in Belgium, which is the earliest known find in Europe dating back to the 17th century.
For my sources and some fine articles that go into a lot more detail about the history of guinea pigs, check out;