The Guinea Pig or Cavy belongs to the rabbit family and is a native of
South America. Why they are called Guinea Pigs, no one seems to know,
unless their shape suggests a small pig and the name Guinea is a
corruption of Guiana, a country in South America. In size, shape and
texture of fur they resemble a squirrel or rabbit. They have large
bodies, short legs, small feet, no tails and a wide range of colors. A
Cavy weighs between two and three pounds, which weight it
attains at about 18 months of age. The males are usually larger than the
When white people first visited the Andean region of South America they
found the Cavy domesticated and living in the houses of the Indians, by
whom they were used for food. They were introduced into Europe in the
16th Century and since that time have spread all over the world. In
South America there are still several species of wild Cavies. These are
hunted as game and are considered a great delicacy.
Cavies are wholly vegetarian in diet, eating about the same things as a
rabbit. They are very easily tamed, are very healthy and hardy, are not
noisy, are clean in their habits, and have no offensive odor. There is
probably no animal in the world that is easier to handle. They easily
adapt themselves to conditions and seem to do equally as well in city or
country, in large or small quarters and a few of them together do as
well as a large number of them.
They are practically free from the diseases and epidemics that make the
raising of poultry and rabbits so uncertain. Some of them get sick and
die, of course, but it is usually due to some local cause or to the fact
that they have been neglected or improperly fed or housed, but
contagious diseases such as will often wipe out whole flocks of poultry
or a pen of rabbits are unknown among Cavies.
All of these things make the raising of Guinea Pigs a very pleasant as
well as a very profitable occupation.