How and Why Guinea Pigs Were Domesticated
Guinea pigs are small rodents raised in the South American Andes mountains not as friendly pets, but primarily for dinner. Today guinea pig feasts are connected with religious ceremonies throughout South America, including feasts associated with Christmas, Easter, Carnival and Corpus Christi. Modern domesticated adult Andean guinea pigs range from eight to eleven inches long and weigh between one and two pounds. Guinea pigs were domesticated from the wild cavy, found today in the western or central Andes. Since both wild and domestic forms of guinea pigs can be studied in a laboratory, behavioral studies of the differences have been completed. Differences between wild and domestic guinea pigs are in some part behavioral and part physical. Domestic guinea pigs are larger and more tolerant of multi-male groups, and exhibit increased levels of social grooming of one another and increased courtship behavior. Guinea pigs were fed barley and kitchen scraps of vegetables, and the residue from making chicha beer. The first archaeological evidence of the human use of guinea pigs dates to about 9,000 years ago. Guinea pigs were introduced into Europe during the sixteenth century, but as pets, rather than food. Remains of one guinea pig were recently discovered within excavations at the town of Mons, Belgium, representing the earliest archaeological identification of guinea pigs in Europe-and similar in time to the 17th-century paintings which illustrate the creatures, such as the 1612 “Garden of Eden” by Jan Brueghel the Elder. The remains include eight bones of a guinea pig, all found within a middle-class cellar and adjacent cesspit, radiocarbon dated between AD 1550-1640, shortly after the Spanish conquest of South America. Large males dominate: ecology, social organization, and mating system of wild cavies, the ancestors of the guinea pig. Delicious guinea pigs: Seasonality studies and the use of fat in the pre-Columbian Andean diet. Ancient and modern steps during the domestication of guinea pigs.
Guinea Pig Health » Galens Garden
The main health problems guinea pigs suffer from tend to be parasitic or fungal skin problems which commonly occur during major seasonal changes such as occur in Spring and Autumn. Other things that guinea pig owners worry about, but which are quite common and not too serious, are sticky bottom in boars and a build up of waxy material around the ‘grease spot’ of guinea pigs of both sexes. Another common problem affecting guinea pigs seems to be urinary tract problems including gravel or stones in the urinary tract or cystitis. The fatter a guinea pig is, the more likely it is to sit in its own urine and the harder it will be for the guinea pig to clean itself. Respiratory infections can be very distressing for both the guinea pig and their owner. Eye infections can occur in guinea pigs just as they do in humans, but guinea pigs do have a higher incidence of eye injuries than other animals, often caused by coarse hay or seeds. Dental problems are not uncommon in guinea pigs and some guinea pigs are more susceptible than others to ‘scabby mouth’ infections. Guinea pigs, like all prey animals, are adept at hiding the symptoms of illness until they are very sick indeed. Owners are often the first to spot that there is ‘something wrong’ with the sick guinea pig but can’t quite put their finger on it. In the beginning the signs may be very subtle, a sick guinea pig may simply eat less, drink more, move less, look odd around the eyes, scratch more, but not enough to warrant a trip to the vet. Always trust your hunches as a guinea pig owner and if you feel your guinea pig is sick then observe it closely over a 24 hour period. A guinea pig which is hunched up with fur stocking out, eyes half close and barely moving is very, very sick indeed. Stuff coming out of the mouth is always a sign that the guinea pig is sick. You will find a lot of useful guinea pig health links on our cavy links page. Including links to emergency advice, the CCT, Peter Gurney’s pages and Eva Johansson’s sick guinea pig pages.
If you have done all these things, your sows should be in condition to give birth to good litter of pigs. If pigs do not appear content, are rooting at the udder and restless 8-12 hours after farrowing, you should take sow’s temperature and feel the udder. If your litters are not purebred, you may use the week of the year when the pig was born as a marker for pig age: 1st week of January would be No. 1 notch, last week of June would be No. 26 notch, etc. The sow passes very little iron to the pig through her milk. You should look at the sow and litter twice each day to see whether pigs are satisfied and plump. A good rule of thumb is to feed four pounds of complete ration to maintain the sow and one pound for each live, suckling pig. So a sow with eight pigs would be fed 12 pounds of feed per day. Partial weaning is the practice of taking the larger, more robust pigs away from the sow two to five days before the remainder. Were sows dewormed and treated for lice and mange before farrowing? The younger the pigs the more comfortable and protected the pen or stall must be where the pigs are kept. If you are going to put pigs in a hut or house outdoors in winter, you will want to put some straw or other bedding in for the pigs’ comfort. After about three weeks of sow’s milk, the pig begins to eat sow feed, or creep feed, if it is available. You probably will need no more than two rations in the nursery and early grow/finish period: 1) Pigs 12-22 pounds and 2) pigs 22-44 pounds. The Sow: Before and After Weaning While the sow is in a farrowing stall or confined in a building suckling pigs is an excellent time to take care of certain vaccination needs. Some Goals for Your Project: Pigs born alive/litter gilt 11 sows 12 Pigs weaned/litter gilt 10 sow 11 Average weaning weight 3 week 14 lb. Health Facts for Pigs Respiratory rate, 20-30 per minute younger pigs 50 Pulse 70-80 per minute Desirable Temperature in Farrowing House or Barn Baby pigs 4 days old to 11 lbs.