WHERE DO GUINEA PIGS COME FROM?
As with many of the questions about our gorgeous guinea pig friends, the answer is not always as obvious as it might seem! So, no, guinea pigs do not originate from Guinea, in west Africa. And, while we’re at it, they aren’t related to pigs either (but that’s another story!).
If not Guinea, then where?!
Well, the wild relations to our domesticated guinea pigs originate from the Andean region of South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia). Wild guinea pigs are often found living in the rocky areas and grassy plains that this part of the world provides. Although they do not burrow themselves (like a rabbit would), they have no problem using and sheltering in any unused tunnels made by other animals, or naturally occurring crevices and hidey holes. Those natural instincts to hide from prey are still to be found in the guinea pigs we know and love as pets today, so that’s why it’s important to provide them with tunnels and hideaways to avoid any undue stress.
Wild vs. Domestic
It would seem that guinea pigs were first domesticated in order to be eaten, and indeed they are still on the menu in some South American countries today……not something that, as owners of our pet piggies, we can even begin to contemplate! But the guinea pigs we care for and love as pets around the world today are a bit like ‘second cousins three times removed’ from their wild origins. For a start, wild guinea pigs certainly don’t have the range and variety of colours and hairstyles that our pet guineas do!
So, in summary, not-from-Guinea guinea pigs (that aren’t pigs) originally come from South America, but thanks to lots of interesting things happening throughout history (see the ‘All About Piggies’ section on our website for more on this!), we are fortunate to have ended up with our furry guinea pig companions to share our homes.