Guinea Pigs in the Wild


It is a common misconception that guinea pigs originated from Guinea, when in fact these beautiful creatures can be found roaming the Andes. However investigations have lead us to the conclusion that the guinea pigs we know as pets are the domesticated descendants of closely related species such as the Cavia Aparea. The Cavia Aparea can still be found roaming in the wild. Another interesting fact about cavies is that they are not related to pigs but are members of the rodent family, along with hamsters and mice.

Guinea pigs were first domesticated as an easy-to-farm food source in the Andes, and are still eaten by many cultures on special occasions, and even breed them for their medicinal purposes.

In the wild, these naturally very social animals will tend to live in herds of about 10, although you may get the occasional lone guinea pig. A typical herd usually consists of one boar (male), several sows (females) and their young. Usually any young male cavies will be ‘kicked out’ of the herd as soon as they are old enough to look after themselves and will try to start their own group or they may try to challenge the existing male leader. In the wild, the average sow will have two litters a year.

Such herds tend to inhabit rocky grassland areas in the Andes. Wild cavies will very rarely dig their own burrow, but usually tend to inhabit the abandoned caves other animals have made. Guinea pigs don’t like to be in the open much for a number of reasons:

1) They feel more vulnerable to predators.

2) They have fairly poor eye sight and cannot see clearly further than a metre and so feel anxious about what’s ahead of them.

3) There will be less burrows in the open that are covered up and camouflaged, resulting in the predators being more likely to find the burrows.

4) In the open there will be less shade, and so the cavies are more likely to get sunburnt (especially lighter coloured types).

Wild cavies look very similar to the Agouti guinea pig breed, being a greyish-brown colour with short hair.

In the wild, guinea pigs also stick together as they feel that safety is in numbers. If one spots a predator, it will communicate to the rest of the herd via a range of squeaks, and the herd will get under ground as quickly as possible. Due to risk of predators cavies tend to be active in semi-darkness as this is the hardest time to see them.


Source by Madeline Dyer

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