The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus made it possible for the guinea pig to come into contact with the Old World. These rodents came to Europe, being brought on ships by Spanish conquerors 4 centuries ago from Peru.
The guinea pig was first described scientifically in the writings of Aldrovandus and his contemporary Gesner, who lived in the 16th century. According to their research, it turns out that the guinea pig was brought to Europe 30 years later after the victory of Pizarro over the Indians, i.e. about 1580
Guinea pigs are called differently in different countries.
In England – Indian little pig – small Indian pig, restless cavy – restless (mobile) pig, Guinea pig – guinea pig, domestic cavy – domestic pig.
The Indians call the pig by a name which for the Europeans is heard as “cavy”. The Spaniards living in America called this animal by the Spanish name of the rabbit, while other colonists continued to stubbornly call it a little pig, this name was brought to Europe along with the animal. Before the arrival of Europeans in America, the pig served as food for the natives. All Spanish writers of that time refer to her as a little rabbit.
It may seem strange that this wild animal is called the guinea pig, even though it is not a pig breed and is not a native of Guinea. This, in all likelihood, is due to the way in which the Europeans learned about the existence of the mumps. When the Spaniards entered Peru, they saw a small animal for sale! very similar to a suckling pig.
On the other hand, the ancient writers called America India. That’s why they named this little animal porco da India, porcella da India, Indian pig.
The name Guinea Pig seems to be of English origin, and M. Cumberland says that, in all likelihood, it comes from the fact that the British had more trade relations with the coast of Guinea than with South America, and therefore were used to looking at Guinea as part of India. The similarity of the pig to the domestic pig came mainly from the way the natives cooked it for food: they doused it with boiling water to remove the hair, as was done to remove the hair from the pig.
In France, the guinea pig is called cochon d’Inde – Indian pig – or cobaye, in Spain it is Cochinillo das India – Indian pig, in Italy – porcella da India, or porchita da India – Indian pig, in Portugal – Porguinho da India – Indian pig, in Belgium – cochon des montagnes – mountain pig, in Holland – Indiaamsoh varken – Indian pig, in Germany – Meerschweinchen – guinea pig.
So, it is permissible to assume that the guinea pig spread in Europe from west to east, and the name that exists in USA – guinea pig, possibly indicates the importation of pigs “from overseas”, on ships; part of the pigs spread from Germany, which is why the German name – guinea pig – has also passed to us, while in all other countries it is known as the Indian pig. This is probably why it got the name overseas, and then sea.
The guinea pig has nothing to do with the sea or pigs. The very same name “pig” appeared, probably because of the structure of the head of the animals. Maybe that’s why they called her pig. These animals are characterized by an elongated body, a rough coat, a short neck, and relatively short legs; the front legs have four, and the hind legs have three fingers, which are armed with large hoof-like, ribbed claws. The pig is tailless. This also explains the name of the animal. In a calm state, the voice of a guinea pig resembles the gurgling of water, in a state of fright, it turns to squealing. So the sound made by this rodent is very similar to the grunt of pigs, which is probably why it was called “pig”. It is assumed that in Europe, as in its homeland, the guinea pig originally served as food. Probably,the origin of the English name for the pig is connected with these events – guinea pig – a pig for a guinea (guinea – until 1816, the main English gold coin, the name was given by the country (Guinea), where the gold necessary for its minting was mined).
The guinea pig belongs to the order of rodents, the pig family. The animal has two false-rooted teeth, six molars and two incisors in each jaw. A characteristic feature of all rodents is that their incisors grow throughout their life.
Rodent incisors are covered with enamel – the hardest substance – only on the outside, so the back of the incisor wears away much faster and thanks to this, a sharp, external cutting surface is always preserved.
The incisors are used for gnawing various roughage (plant stems, root crops, hay, etc.).
At home, South America, these animals live in small colonies on the plains overgrown with bushes. They dig holes and arrange shelters for themselves in the form of whole underground towns. The pig has no means of active protection from enemies and would be doomed alone. But it is not so easy to catch a group of these animals by surprise. Their hearing is very subtle, their instinct is simply amazing and, most importantly, they take turns resting and guarding. On alarm, the pigs instantly hide in burrows, where a much larger animal simply cannot crawl through. The rodent is additionally protected by its rare cleanliness. The pig “washes” many times a day, brushes and licks the fur of itself and its babies. The predator will hardly be able to find a pig by smell, most often its fur coat emits only a slight smell of hay.
Many types of wild cavias are known. All of them are outwardly similar to domestic ones, tailless, but the color of the fur is one-color, more often gray, brownish or brownish. Although the female has only two nipples, one litter often contains 3-4 cubs. Pregnancy lasts about 2 months. Cubs are well developed, sighted, grow quickly and after 2-3 months are already capable of producing offspring. In nature, there are usually 2 litters per year, and more in captivity.
Usually the weight of an adult pig is about 1 kg, the length is about 25 cm. However, the weight of individual specimens is close to 2 kg. Life expectancy for a rodent is relatively long – 8-10 years.
As a laboratory animal, the guinea pig is irreplaceable due to its high sensitivity to pathogens of many infectious diseases of humans and farm animals. This ability of guinea pigs determined their use for the diagnosis of many infectious diseases of humans and animals (for example, diphtheria, typhus, tuberculosis, glanders, etc.).
In the works of domestic and foreign bacteriologists and virologists I.I. Mechnikov, N.F. Gamaleya, R. Koch, P. Roux and others, the guinea pig has always occupied and occupies one of the first places among laboratory animals.
Consequently, the guinea pig was and is of great importance as a laboratory animal for medical and veterinary bacteriology, virology, pathology, physiology, etc.
In our country, the guinea pig is widely used in all areas of medicine, as well as in the study of human nutrition, and especially in the study of the effect of vitamin C.
Among her relatives are the well-known rabbit, squirrel, beaver, and the huge capybara, familiar only from the zoo.