The Guinea Pigs
The peruvian guinea pigs, also called cavy, scientifically corresponds to Cavia porcellus, of the Caviidae family originating in Andean regions of South America such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.dor and Colombia.
The guinea pigs, also called cavy, scientifically corresponds to Cavia porcellus, of the Caviidae family originating in Andean regions of South America such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.
Its body is wide and covered with hairs that can be straight, bristled or glued to the body, forming swirls, of various colors, its head is also wide and large compared to the body, its ears are small and rounded, it has short legs finished in fine fingers, whose number is variable.
Currently, it can reach a weight of up to 2.9 kg and is bred for consumption in countries such as Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. In other countries in South America, such as Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil, it is very popular as a pet among children.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Sub kingdom: Metazoans
- Phylum: Vertebrates
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Rodentia
- Family: Caviidae
- Gender: Cavia
- Species: Cavia porcellus
The importance of guinea pig in Latin America
In Peru, its domestic breeding is very common and its consumption is the highest in South America. Currently, the Andean country has a population of more than 28 million guinea pigs, which produce more than 18,000 tons of meat annually. In other countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador it is also a traditional dish and it is frequently consumed.
The breeding of the guinea pig is very important, especially in Peru, for its great development potential for the poorest and most humble families and for those families who have little space to raise other larger species such as cattle, sheep and goats, which require, in addition, a higher training for animal production. There are many breeding projects developed by the Peruvian state and non-governmental organizations (NGO) that have encouraged the rearing of guinea pigs, both to generate an economic return and to fight against anemia. Among them we cite the projects of Foncodes, Agroideas, Haku Wiñay, from the NGO Caritas and Care Peru.
With Spanish colonization, the guinea pig was exported to Europe in the 16th century, being quickly adopted as one of the children’s favorite pets. Today it is very famous as a pet in Spain and also in Asian countries.
The guinea pig protagonist in the celebrations to Mother Earth
The origin of the guinea pig is very old as it was domesticated in the Andes more than 3000 years ago. From its origin, it was consumed by the Incas, in addition to being used for rituals and party dishes.
The Incas used to prepare a guinea pig-based dish for each month of the year, to serve in their celebrations to Mother Earth. For example, in the month of August, called in Quechuan “Chacra Yapuy Quilla” (meaning month of cleaning the earth), the Incas returned to their homes to sweep and then burn what was not serving. In this way, they eliminated what was not useful so that they could begin to sow and obtain better fruits of the earth.
The “Chacra Yapuy Quilla” was symbolized by the red color and, therefore, the food prepared in that month was the Picante de Cuy: typical Peruvian dish based on reddish ground aji panca.
In the month of the cleansing, the Incas performed acts of forgiveness in the face of any aggression and offense. Everyone had to go to the Central Square while the priests prepared the “Kuy Kusay Soksipi”: a typical guinea pig roasted on hot stones.
Every Inca family had to bring a guinea pig to the party. The priest inspected and discarded all the guinea pigs with red eyes. There was a belief that a red-eyed guinea pig was synonymous with the family not yet finishing apologizing for his actions. As a result, the guinea pigs with red eyes began to be removed and, even today, many breeders prefer to discard all specimens that have red eyes.
Some of these traditions are maintained in Peru to date, where it is very common to see signs such as “you pass the guinea pig”, “you heal the scare with guinea pig, “heals with guinea pig” in places where modern Shamans practice that claim to be able to heal thanks to these animals. In addition, in special events, it is very common to see traditional parties in various areas of Peru, where the small rodent is a protagonist with animals served in different dishes.
Types of guinea pigs
In South America there are 26 different types of guinea pigs and, specifically in Peru, six species can be found: Peru, Andina, Inti, Merino, Inka and interracial or synthetic guinea pig, which is a product of the crossing of the breeds mentioned above.
The guinea pigs of the Peru race are native to the northern mountains of Peru, to be exact of the city of Cajamarca. They are characterized by having a fertility of 95%, a litter size of 2.6 pups per delivery, an adult weight of 1.7 kg and reaching the weight of 1 kg in 60 days. Considering that mortality between kittens and rebreeding is estimated at 15%, the Peruvian breed has an average of 2.2 offspring per birth at the net of mortality. This is a fairly low number that makes its upbringing unprofitable. This is one of the reasons why, over the years, its litter size has been improved with crosses with other more prolific breeds such as the Andean and the Inka, generating a new improved line.
The Andean race
The Andean race, developed by the Inia, Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture since 1972, it is characterized by its prolificity and high incidence of postpartum gestation, being the breed that produces most offspring of all. This breed adapts to any climate (coast, mountains and jungle), from sea level to 3,500 m., very important detail at the Peruvian level, where many farms are located in areas of high altitudes.
The Andean breed guinea pigs are of type I bone, with hair attached to the body, can have swirls in the head, although the guinea pigs with those characteristics are considered less than 7% and are white.
Since its origin, it has been the most prolific and productive breed, with births of 1 to 6 offspring, being the births of 3 and 4 offspring the most common and presenting a considerable rate of births of 5 offspring (12.2%). Births of one brood are rare (3.7%), quite common in the guinea pigs of the Peru Race (28.6%). The average litter size of the Andean breed was and is 3.3 offspring per birth to the net of mortality, being able to reach 3.8 offspring per delivery without considering mortality.
The Inti Line
The Inti Line is characterized by being an intermediate between these two races (Andean and Inka), being more prolific than Peru, but less than Andean. Its growth is faster than Andean, but less than Peru.
The Inka Race
The Inka Race is characterized by being very prolific like Andean, to have a low mortality rate (10%) and for being the most resistant breed of the 4.
Therefore, today, thanks to the crossing of the different races of origin we can enjoy new improved lines obtained with the crossing of the 4 races or at least 3 of them. The new line, Inka, is considered the only profitable because it presents: higher production of offspring per birth (average of 3.5 offspring), rapid growth (1 kg in maximum 70 days), docile temperament and easy acclimatization, being able to be raised in coast, jungle and mountains. In this way, it is consolidated as a good investment option and in the fight against poverty.
Author: Ing. Alessio Cresci
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