Guinea pigs are not native to Guinea, nor are they closely biologically related to pigs. They originated in the Andes of South America. They were originally domesticated as livestock, for a source of meat, and continue to be consumed as food. The animals are used in research, primarily as models to study such human medical conditions as juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy, and pregnancy complications.
About Guinea pig in brief
Guinea pigs are not native to Guinea, nor are they closely biologically related to pigs. They originated in the Andes of South America. They were originally domesticated as livestock, for a source of meat, and continue to be consumed as food. The domestic guinea pig plays an important role in folk culture for many indigenous Andean peoples, especially as a food source. It is also used in folk medicine and in community religious ceremonies. The animals were used so frequently as model organisms in the 19th and 20th centuries that the epithet guinea Pig came into use to describe a human test subject. They are built somewhat like pigs, with large heads relative to their bodies, stout necks, and rounded rumps with no tail of any consequence. Some of the sounds they emit are very similar to those made by pigs, and they spend a large amount of time eating. They can survive for long periods in small quarters, like a ‘pig pen’, and were easily transported by ship to Europe. The animal’s name alludes to pigs in many European languages. The German word for them is Meerschweinchen, literally \”little sea pig\”, in Polish they are called świnka morska, and in Hungarian as tengerimalac. In Russian they are known as оеграще нигая свинка. This derives from the Middle High German name merswin. This originally meant \”dolphin\” and was used because of the animals’ grunting sounds.
Many other, possibly less scientifically based, explanations of the German name exist. For example, the French term cochon d’Inde, or cobaye, means ‘biggete’ or ‘cavaye’ The word for the animal in the Netherlands is sometimes referred to as coba, from the Tupi word via its Latinization, or daquinho, or ‘porquinho’ This association with pigs is not universal among European terms; for example, in Spanish is conejias de Indias, or conejio, for ‘little mouse’ or Indian mouse. The scientific name of the common species is Cavia porcellus, with Porcellus being Latin for \”little pig\”. In scientific and laboratory contexts, it is far more commonly referred to by the more colloquial ‘guinea pig’ The animals are used in research, primarily as models to study such human medical conditions as juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy, and pregnancy complications. They have been largely replaced by other rodents, such as mice and rats, but they are still used as models for human health research in the 21st century. In the 1960s a modern breeding program was started in Peru that resulted in large breeds known as cuy mejorados. Marketers tried to increase consumption of the animal outside South America by trying to increase the number of guinea pigs.