Guinea Pig , a South American rodent, of the subfamily caviina, and genus caria (Klein). It will be seen that the common name conveys two erroneous impressions, as the animal is not found in Guinea, nor is it a pig; the term Guinea is doubtless a corruption of Guiana, and the name pig derived from the grunting noise made by it when hungry. The wild Guinea pig, or restless cavy (C. aperea, Linn.), is about 10 in. long, with a thick heavy body; short, wide, erect, and transparent ears; large, prominent eyes; head and snout like those of a rabbit, with white incisors; short neck and legs; four toes before, and three behind, unconnected by any membrane; and a long, rather coarse fur. The colors are black and dirty yellow above and on the sides in distinct pencils, the former prevailing on the back and upper surface of the head, the general tint being a dark grayish brown; the throat and abdomen a dirty yellow. The characters in the subfamily have been given in the article Cavy. The distinguishing characters from the subgenus ecrodon are the larger size of the hind lobes of the molars, these lobes in the upper teeth having an indenting fold of enamel on the outer side, and the corresponding half of the lower with its deep fold on the inner side.
It is found from about lat. 35° S. through Paraguay. Bolivia, Brazil, and perhaps as far X. as Guiana. Its food is entirely vegetable, and its time of feeding toward evening; it prefers marshy places covered with aquatic plants; it generally lives in societies of from 6 to 15 individuals, and its presence may often be detected by the beaten paths among the plants; it breeds only once a \ ear, and has one or two young at a birth. The restless cavy is generally believed to be the animal from which the domestic Guinea pig (C. cobaya) originated; but Mr. Waterhouse thinks it more probable that a pretty variety, such as may occur in all wild animals, attracted the attention of Europeans, who captured and domesticated it for its harmless disposition as well as its beauty, and by care perpetuated the race of the common Guinea pig. The animal is known by its black, white, and fulvous patches, irregularly distributed, and its short, close, and shining hair. It is exceedingly gentle in disposition, never attempting to defend itself by teeth or nails, simply making very slight efforts to escape, and uttering a sharp cry.
Its remarkable fecundity alone preserves it from extinction; it is capable of fecundation at the age of six or eight weeks, and brings forth after three weeks1 gestation from four to twelve at a birth, according to the age of the mother, who reaches her full development in nine months; lactation lasts about 15 days, and the female is ready for another fecundation; the young are born covered with fur, and with the eyes open. They are very sensitive to cold and damp; the flesh is not eaten, and the skin is useless, the only reasons for keeping them being their gentleness and beauty; there is a popular belief that their odor drives away rats. Their food is entirely vegetable, and they drink but seldom and by lapping; they will eat the usual green food of rabbits, but prefer parsley and carrot tops to the bread, milk, and meal upon which they are generally fed; they are fond of apples and other fruits, and remarkably so of tea leaves. Though cleanly in their habits, they have a disagreeable odor; like hares, they sleep with their eyes half open.
Scarcely any two animals can be found with the same markings; the dark tortoise-shell ones are the most highly prized.
Guinea Pig (Cavia cobaya). a. Tooth, b. Skull.