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American guinea pig

Cavia porcellus

american guinea pig

It was around the 16th century when American guinea pigs were brought to Europe. The ‘guinea’ part of the name comes from sailors who brought the guinea pigs over from South America and sold them for a guinea (old English coin). Whereas ‘pig’ is said to be because of the noises they make reminding you of a piglet.

Guinea pigs do not have any tails but do have short ears and a sturdy body. They have around 20 teeth which continue to grow, so it is vital that they always have something to gnaw on. Guinea pigs are social creatures and are known for making a variety of vocalisations. They do not sleep a lot during the day or night and are more likely to take smaller naps.

Animal class



Andes mountains  

Diet – Herbivores

Guinea pigs consume a diet of fruit and vegetables, the main part of their diet is both leafy greens and hay. They can not produce their own Vitamin C so it must be in the food they eat.


The American guinea pig can be up to 20 - 25 cms long and can weigh just over a kilogram.  


South America is where American guinea pigs originate from.


The IUCN does not see the American guinea pig in risk of extinction in the near future


Thousands of years ago, American guinea pigs were popular as pets plus food for larger animals. This is now a commonly kept domestic pet and not currently under threat.

Current population

The American guinea pig no longer exists in the wild

Zoo population

The population count in zoos of the American guinea pig is unknown as they breed successfully all year round.

Key to acronyms

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature