Wild Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs in the Wild

Although cavies are commonly known as ‘guinea pigs’ they do not come from Guinea, and are not related to pigs at all, being a member of the rodent family. In fact guinea pigs originated and can be found roaming wild in the Andes, although investigations have shown that guinea pigs are actually domesticated descendants of closely related species, such as Cavia Aparea, which can still be found naturally in the wild.

It appears that guinea pigs were first domesticated from their wild relatives as a food source in the Andes, although now it is a tradition in many cultures to eat guinea pigs on special occasions. Some cultures even have medicinal uses for cavies that they breed specially for this purpose.

However, undoubtedly some of these guinea pigs escaped in to the wild where they have bred for many years and are now accepted as a wild animal in many places.

In the wild, guinea pigs will live in herds of around 10, consisting of several sows (females) a boar (male) and the young. It is possible for a male to defend 5-10 females of his colony from another male. The gestation period for a wild guinea pig is around 9 weeks, and litters can consist of 1-4 pups, although the average in the wild would be 2 babies. Most female guinea pigs in the wild will have 2 litters a year.

Wild guinea pigs tend to inhabit rocky areas, swamps and grassland places which have plenty of shelter. Guinea pigs in the wild tend not to dig their own burrows but use those dug by other animals which have been abandoned. Occasionly a wild cavy will dig their own burrow or shelter, if they feel that there aren’t any suitable for them. Wherever they choose to inhabit a burrow there must be plenty of food around, but the habitat must also provide protection for them from predators such as wild dogs or eagles.

Wild guinea pigs are most active at dawn, dusk and in semi-darkness as this is the time that they will be harder to be seen by other animals. Guinea pigs in the wild will tend to be of a grayish, brown colour with fairly short hair, similar to the Agouti breed of guinea pig.

It is believed that in the wild guinea pigs can jump as high as 29 inches to escape a predator. If a predator is spotted, the guinea pigs will immediately try to get below the ground. Guinea pigs will communicate with each other by sounds, ranging from squeaks to gruff snorts.

So, to sum up, guinea pigs can still be found in the wild, although they were domestically bred and introduced to the wild, and so would not naturally be found there.

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