Exhibition - Where to Obtain Good Specimens
The native home of the guinea-pig was not Guinea, and the little creature certainly bears no resemblance to a pig. It has, however, established itself so firmly as a pet that its origin repays investigation.
In 1530 the Spaniards paid their first visit to Peru, and there discovered a domestic animal that was new to them. It was sold as food in the market, and took the place of our present-day rabbit. The strangers noted that the little creature was scalded and scraped when prepared for cooking, and in this stage resembled a tiny sucking-pig. So as a pig it was described by the men from Spain - cochinillo das Indas, the little Indian pig. The species was totally unknown in Europe, and it was not till about 1580 that some were exported as zoological novelties to Great Britain.
These " Indian pigs " travelled via the coast of Guinea, so their first owners sought no further afield for their origin, but promptly dubbed them guinea-pigs. The zoological name of the breed is cavy - for though the Spaniards called them cochinillo, the native Indian name was ciiye, and cavy has, no doubt, been derived from that word.
It was not until last century that a curiosity in the shape of a rough-haired cavy was sent to the London Zoo. This specimen established the long-haired species, for it bred with the smooth variety, and eventually the rough-hair became a fixed type. When a name was sought for the new long-haired variety, it was resolved to call it after the country of its origin, Peru, and thus we acquired the name Peruvian cavy. As Guinea could not claim to be the native home of the guinea-pig, and as Peru knew nothing of long-haired cavies, the cuye seems to have been fated to be misnamed.
The Peruvian cavy is essentially a woman's pet, for its hair, owing to the keen competition of shows, has been bred longer and longer, till it has reached an abnormal or
"freak" stage. Only a woman's care could obtain such perfection of coiffure as is .shown in the illustrations. These cavies claim to possess the longest "tails" ever obtained. The length and extraordinary thickness of Dingo's "sweep," as the back hair is termed. won him the highest honours, which he shared with his sister Alice - that is to say, the National Cavy Club Ten-guinea Cup and the Welburn Memorial Fifteen-guinea Bowl.
The preparation of a Peruvian for show should begin very early in its career. When the back hair reaches a sufficient length - a few inches - and begins to draggle, it must be washed, if soiled, and tied up in paper. This lock must not be rolled up in curlpaper fashion, but merely laid on a piece of soft paper, which is folded well over, and then bent up and tied flat with a ribbon, resembling a compact little paper parcel. Unless this attention is bestowed, the hair will become matted and will nc\ grow long. It not sufficient merely to tie up the hair and leave it; constant grooming with an infant's soft brush is necessary. A Peruvian cavy's hair is very delicate, and comes out at once it combed or brushed with a stiff-bristled brush.
How to Groom a Cavy
Cavies intended for showing should be handled well when babies, and tamed a?. much as possible, so that when grooming time comes matters may be easy. The best method to adopt for the brushing operation is to accustom the cavy to sit quietly on a circular stool or a round pottle measure. Spread this with a clean cloth, so that the hanging hair can be brushed on it like a lady's toilet wrapper. Before the brushing is begun, accustom the cavy to sitting quietly on his little throne, and pet and rub him under the chin - a proceeding they all love. Avoid startling him, and keep a hand over him in case of a sudden spring. Gather his favourite tit-bit - grass or dandelion, as the case may be - and serve it on a box placed in front of his stool. He will soon learn that the stool means a good time, and eventually forgive you for including a brushing.
Photos, Mrs. H. Grogan
When once trained, cavies have no objection to the grooming and tying-up process, if the " ladies" maid " is careful not to hurt them. Most Peruvian cavy breeders tie the sweep up in one parcel behind, but it is better to part it down the middle and have a portion tied up on either side, as shown in the illustration. When the cavy is moulting, brushing must on no account be neglected, and if the hair is sticky or matted, it will be found useful to powder it with orris-root powder. This fluffs out the hair, and is very cleansing.
To be successful at shows one must understand thoroughly how to house and feed one's stock. A cavy in good condition repays one's trouble, and fine big animals are the result of food that from infancy has been correct and lavish.
A special arrangement is useful in a Peruvian cavy hutch. It takes the form of two lath gratings - one to fit the floor of the inner nest, and another that of the outer compartment. Cleanliness is so important that complete drainage is required, and this false bottom is a contrivance worth adopting. Sawdust - so useful for smooth cavies - must not be used for Peruvians. The bedding in both parts of the hutch should consist of chopped hay. This must only be a few inches long, and is best when it has been put through a chaff-cutter. If long hay were given, it would get twisted into the coat and ruin it.
The breeder's aim should be to produce big, massive Peruvians. Size is an important point, and in any case the breed is bigger than the smooth variety. Ample feeding, especially when quite young, tends to ensure big cavies, and from the very first the wee babies may receive as supplementary food a handful of fine grass-blades in their nest.
The sow, when she has young, greatly appreciates warm bread-and-milk, and the little ones very soon copy her example, and help to empty the dish. Good feeding for the sow, before and after the birth of her young, makes a very great difference to the health of the stock.
House the cavies in a cool place - an airy stable is ideal - for over-heating does not conduce to long hair. Peruvians, however, are not hardy enough to live in outdoor hutches, or in a draughty situation.
Dingo, a famous prize-winning Peruvian cavy. Note the way in which the ' sweep " is tied when not released for exhibition
All cavies love green food, grass being their prime favourite. Give abundance, but not more than will be finished at a meal.
Fanciers differ concerning the diet to adopt, but the method of feeding given herewith, and used for the prize Peruvians of the illustration, is excellent. Dingo's weight was a full pound over the average.
Give in the morning, after cleaning the hutch, a supply of fresh hay, and a warm bran mash, made by pouring boiling water on to bran in a basin, and mixing to a fair consistency, neither too dry nor too liquid. Allow a large kitchen tablespoonful of bran for each cavy. At midday give a few oats and some greenstuff. White carrots are liked, and take the place of green food in winter, though some of the latter should be given if in any way possible. At night, give more hay and a plentiful helping of greens. Cavies greatly prefer the leaves of the cabbage to the heart. Often an arrangement can be made with a greengrocer or the owner of a garden for leaves which are of no use for household purposes. If grass or dandelions can be obtained, give them, as cavies like these better than anything else; lettuce and turnip they really dislike. Beetroot is greatly appreciated, and mangold, though not so good as, and less liked than, carrot, can be supplied.
It must be borne in mind that green food serves also as drink to a cavy, and unless some can be given, a dish of clean fresh water, that cannot be easily overturned, should be in every hutch. Cavies love plenty of hay, which is necessary as a dry food in connection with greens as a corrective. Greenstuff is specially desirable for Peruvians, as, unless the blood is kept cool, the hair will suffer.
The points of a Peru vi an are: Length and fine silky texture of hair, which should be especially thick and long on the shoulders and head; a bold, bright eye, sound lop ears, a Roman nose, and good size and condition,
Readers may wish to know how to obtain the best Peruvian cavies. The safest plan is to deal direct with fanciers, and any beginner would do well to communicate with the honorary secretary of the National Cavy Club, c/o "Fur and Feather," Idle, Bradford, Yorkshire. This would ensure her being on the right track.