Peruvian Guinea Pig

Cavia porcellus

Last updated: November 9, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Sofiia.P/Shutterstock.com

The Peruvian guinea pig is well known for its long, soft tresses and edgy bangs.

Peruvian Guinea Pig Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Rodentia
Family
Caviidae
Genus
Cavia
Scientific Name
Cavia porcellus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Peruvian Guinea Pig Conservation Status

Peruvian Guinea Pig Locations

Peruvian Guinea Pig Locations

Peruvian Guinea Pig Facts

Name Of Young
pup
Group Behavior
  • Social
  • Sociable
  • Family units
Fun Fact
The Peruvian guinea pig is well known for its long, soft tresses and edgy bangs.
Gestation Period
59 to 72 days
Temperament
docile and friendly
Diet
Herbivore
Average Litter Size
one to six pups
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Crepuscular
  • Social
  • Sociable
Favorite Food
hay
Origin
Peru

Peruvian Guinea Pig Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Black
  • White
  • Dark Brown
  • Cream
  • Chocolate
  • Dark Grey
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type
Fur
Lifespan
four to seven years
Age of Sexual Maturity
three to five weeks
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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The Peruvian guinea pig is well known for its long, soft tresses and edgy bangs.

Facts

  • Peruvian guinea pigs make several cute sounds, like squeaks and chirps in order to communicate with each other, out of excitement for food, and when they recognize their owners.
  • They chew teach other’s hair, sometimes for cosmetic purposes, and other ties to establish dominance. Males will chew the fur of other males to label themselves the superior. This is called barbering.
  • Their fur can reach lengths of up to 20 inches.
  • Peruvian guinea pigs commonly eat their own feces in order to obtain all the nutrients from their diet.
  • They are social animals and prefer to live with other pigs. They do not, however, house well with other species of animals.
  • Peruvian guinea pigs cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, just like people, so they have to get it from their food.

Summary

Peruvian guinea pigs have mastered the art of being cute and cuddly. It is no wonder that this breed commands so much attention and grooming. They are popular guinea pig pets because of their long, exotic hair. It is almost difficult to believe that long before these adorable rodents were cute household companions and show animals, they were mostly for meat.

Scientific Name

The scientific name of the Peruvian guinea pig is Cavia porcellus. It belongs to the genus Cavia of the family Caviidae. The genus name Cavia is from the word “cabiai” which means guinea pig in an indigenous language spoken in French Guyana. The specific name porcellus is Latin for “little pig.” Despite being called guinea pigs, these cute little creatures are not from Guinea and are not biologically closely related to pigs. They are from Peru, hence its name. Another name is Peruvian cavies.

Appearance

Guinea Pig Types-Peruvian
Peruvian guinea pigs have long and luscious hair that needs regular grooming.

iStock.com/cynoclub

Peruvian guinea pigs are known for their shiny locks. They easily stand out because of their fur which is longer than any other breed of guinea pig. Their fur can reach lengths of up to 20 inches long. This hair comes in many different colors including white, brown, black, russet, cream, and dark gray. They also come in different patterns, such as the single color, bi-color, and tri-color patterns.

The bodies of Peruvian guinea pigs are small and bilaterally symmetric and parted down their back so their fur falls down elegantly on either side. Their soft, brilliant coats are pulled forward towards the head into its characteristic bangs that frame its face without getting in the way. Hair swirls or “rosettes” occuring on their hips and head create this effect. They have small ears and tails. Because of their lustrous appearance, they are show animals.

Peruvian guinea pigs have four long, curved incisors at the front of their mouths. These teeth are sharp from constant gnawing and open-rooted, which means they never stop growing. They also possess four toes on their front legs and three on their hind legs and these toes have sharp claws.

Guinea pigs are relatively large when you compare to other rodent species. They can weigh anything from 1.5 to 2.6 pounds and reach lengths of eight to ten inches.

Behavior

Peruvian guinea pigs are very well tempered animals. They make great pets because of their vocal nature and friendly personalities. They are love being around their owners and other pets as well. Although they can be shy, they tend to be very lively and playful, requiring frequent attention from their owners.

Due to their robust personality and heavy grooming, they are not for beginner owners.

Peruvian guinea pigs are very active and need consistent exercise, just like all others. This means that they will require enough housing space to move around at will. Because of their natural inquisitiveness and playful nature, they have to be entertained regularly and exercise is a great way to do it. However, it should be noted that Peruvian guinea pigs should not use exercise wheel because they can have adverse effects on their backs.

Peruvian guinea pigs are not very good climbers, but they do swim quite well, although they are not particularly fans of being in water. They are vocal animals and often communicate their excitement or acknowledge their owners with squeaks. They have been known to whistle in recognition of their owners’ footsteps and also when they are getting fed.

Like all other breeds, Peruvians do not have a well-developed defense system. They frighten easily and tend to freeze in place when faced with a predator rather than run for shelter. When they do run, it is usually with flitting movements that serve to confuse their predator.

Peruvian guinea pigs also have a habit of “popcorning” when they are excited, a cute motion that involves doing leaps and hops in the air, usually repeatedly.

They are social animals and thrive in the presence of other guinea pigs. In countries such as Switzerland, you must own more than one guinea pig. Owning a single one is illegal.

Caring for a Peruvian Guinea Pig

Peruvian guinea pigs are a high maintenance breed. Because of their long fur, they are dependent on their owners for most of their grooming and care.

  • Grooming: Trim their fur twice a month to get rid of matted or sticky fur and keep it above floor-length. Brush and comb their fur from the area of the parting outward.
  • Bathing: Peruvian guinea pig care is different from others because of their long coats. While frequent bathing might not be necessary for other breeds, it is for Peruvians in order to keep their coat healthy, shiny, and tangle-free. For us, the best shampoo for guinea pigs is Kaytee Squeaky Clean Critter Shampoo, which is specially formulated for small animals like rodents that have sensitive skin.
  • Exercise: Not particularly agile animals, but they do need to be entertained and active. They are very playful animals and get bored easily. We recommend JanYoo Rabbit chew toys for guinea pigs as an excellent way to keep your furry companion entertained while also helping them grind down their teeth.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Peruvian Guinea Pig

There are several pros and cons to owning a Peruvian guinea pig. It all boils down to the experience and commitment level of the owner.

Pros:

  • They are a gorgeous pet to have. Their presence is rewarding as they are kind, enthusiastic, and playful companions.
  • If you would rather have a smaller household pet as opposed to the traditional dog or cat, the Peruvian guinea pig is a great choice to make. You wouldn’t have to worry about the big messes or louder noise a larger animal might make.
  • For owners interested in show animals, this is one of only four breeds of guinea pigs to appear in these shows.

Cons:

  • The Peruvian guinea pig requires heavy grooming because of their long fur. They are a high-maintenance, high-effort breed.
  • The Peruvian guinea pig needs lots of attention. They chew on each others hair to fight boresdom.
  • Inadequate grooming makes the Peruvian guinea pig more susceptible to certain health conditions than other breeds.

Habitat and Population

The Peruvian guinea pig has its origins in the Andes Mountain range of South America where it was mostly livestock. As its name suggests, it is native to Peru, and countries such as Argentina and Bolivia. During colonization, these guinea pigs were from France. They then made their way to the United Kingdom gaining notoriety as household pets because of their exquisite appearance and became popular all around the world.

Peruvian guinea pigs are one of the oldest breeds of guinea pigs.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Peruvian guinea pigs are social animals and thrive by living in groups of two or more pigs, usually two or more females or “sows,” and one male or “boar.” It can be hard telling the males and females apart for an untrained eye. Sows have vulvar flaps that are shaped like the letter Y, while boars have protruding appendages which look similar.

Boars and sows reach sexual maturity at three to five weeks of age and four weeks respectively. There is no specific mating season for Peruvian guinea pigs. Sows can give birth to litters throughout the year, as many as five times. Their gestation period lasts from 59 to 72 days and they typically give birth to about three pups per litter, but that number can range from one to six.

Their babies are pups and are born precocial. This means they are well-developed and semi-independent at birth. The pups suckle their mother, but are also able to eat solid food as soon as they are born.

Female Peruvian guinea pigs can become pregnant again 6 to 48 hours after giving birth.

Peruvian guinea pigs have a lifespan of about four to seven years. Some may live up to eight years when properly cared for.

Diet

The staple food of the Peruvian guinea pig is grass and plant matter. They are herbivorous animals and require plenty of hay as this forms their core diet. In addition to this, they eat food pellets, made from grasses as well such as timothy hay.

Believe it or not, Peruvian guinea pigs will also eat their own poop. These animals practice coprophagy, or eating their own feces, in order to supplement their diet. They don’t eat all their poop, just the special ones. These guinea pigs produce soft pellets of fecal matter called “cecotropes” which they eat directly from their anus. These pellets contain vitamins, bacteria, and fiber for better digestion.

Peruvian guinea pigs, like humans, cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, therefore, they must obtain it through their diet. They require about 10 mg of vitamin C daily and twice that amount if the pig is pregnant. Feed them fresh green, leafy vegetables, and raw fruits to meet their needs. Don’t feed your furry friend too much sugary fruit, however, in order to prevent obesity.

In addition to vitamin C, it is also important for your Peruvian guinea pig to have an adequate intake of Omega-3 fatty acids to maintain a healthy, shiny coat and great skin.

Our choice for the best food for your adult Peruvian guinea pig is Oxbow Garden Select. It contains all of the essential nutrients your pig needs to thrive without any processed sugar or GMO products. One of the best things about this food is that pregnant and lactating mothers can also eat it. It is specially made to cater to guinea pigs in all stages of life.

Predators and Threats

Peruvian guinea pigs are small rodents; therefore, they would naturally be prey to many larger animals. Living on human turf exposes them as well. They can become prey to animals like weasels, cats, dogs, and birds of prey. It is important to shield your Peruvian guinea pig by keeping it indoors most of the time and laying a watchful eye on it when it is outside. Also, if you are an owner of larger household pets, especially one that would naturally view the guinea pig as prey, it is crucial to train them to cohabit with it, or keep them away from the guinea pig entirely.

In addition to being prey to larger animals, Peruvian guinea pigs are susceptible to a variety of health-related problems. They face the same issues other guinea pigs face.

  • Flystrike: This occurs when flies or maggots burrow and lay eggs in the skin of your Peruvian guinea pig. It is extremely painful and discomforting for your pig. Because of their long hair, it might go unnoticed at first. Regular grooming and maintenance is important to prevent this or at least catch it at the early stages. If left untreated, it could lead to death for your furry friend.
  • Heatstroke: Peruvian guinea pigs are prone to getting heatstroke especially if they live in warmer regions. Their long fur would definitely make them uncomfortable especially during the summer. The pigs should not be in direct sunlight and heat.
  • Mites: Unlike breeds with shorter hair, the Peruvian guinea pig has long fur so the presence of mites is possible.
  • Ear Infection: Because the Peruvian guinea pig has long hair, you might not notice right away if it has an ear infection. This is why regular grooming is important. You can also take your guinea pig to the vet for regular checkups.
  • Poisonous plants: Peruvian guinea pigs can face severe health issues and even death if fed plants that are poisonous to it. Such plants include deadly nightshade, hellebore, hemlock, lily of the valley, ragwort, rhubarb, buttercup, ivy, as well as plants that grow from a bulb, such as onions and tulips.

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About the Author

Hi! I am a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Reading is my favorite hobby. Watching old movies and taking short naps are a close second and third. I have been writing since childhood, with a vast collection of handwritten books sealed away in a duffel bag somewhere in my room. I love fiction, especially fantasy and adventure. I recently won the James Currey Prize 2022, so now, naturally, I feel like I own words. When I was 11, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love animals, particularly dogs, cats, and owls. I also enjoy potatoes and chocolate in all their glorious forms.

Peruvian Guinea Pig FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the scientific name of Peruvian guinea pigs?

Peruvian guinea pigs are classified as Cavia porcellus.

Why do Peruvian guinea pigs eat their own poop?

All guinea pig breeds practice coprophagy, where they ingest special fecal pellets in order to obtain all the nutrients from their diet.

What do Peruvian guinea pigs eat?

Peruvian guinea pigs are herbivores. They mostly eat grasses and hay, but will also eat vegetables such as carrots and spinach, and raw fruits.

 

What colors do Peruvian guinea pigs come in?

Peruvian guinea pig fur comes in many different colors including white, brown, black, russet, cream, and dark gray. They can also have single-colored, bi-colored, and tri-colored mixtures.

Are Peruvian guinea pigs friendly?

Peruvian guinea pigs are very friendly pets. They are extremely playful, curious, and love being handled and petted by their owners. They are a delight to have as companions, even for children.

How big do Peruvian guinea pigs get?

Peruvian guinea pigs can grow up to eight to ten inches in length and weigh 1.5 to 2.6 pounds.

How long do Peruvian guinea pigs live for?

Peruvian guinea pigs have an average lifespan of four to seven years of age.

Are Peruvian guinea pigs easy to take care of?

Peruvian guinea pigs are more labor-intensive than other breeds of guinea pigs. This is due to their long fur which a beginner might find cumbersome to maintain. Only experienced pig owners are advised to keep this breed. They should be groomed regularly and trimmed twice monthly. they also require lots of attention and entertainment.

How fast do Peruvian guinea pigs run?

Peruvian guinea pigs can reach speeds of 5.5 miles per hour.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Available here: https://www.ufaw.org.uk/guinea-pigs/peruvian-long-hair
  2. A-Z Animals, Available here: https://a-z-animals.com/animals/guinea-pig/
  3. Veterinaria Digital, Available here: https://www.veterinariadigital.com/en/articulos/guinea-pigs/
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig

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