Have you ever looked at a guinea pig and thought about its history? If not, then keep on reading to find out about its larger family. As you may know, the earliest guinea pigs are South American, and their wild cousins still inhabit different parts of the continent. Another name for a guinea pig is cavy, and the guinea pigs that are prevalent as pets all around the world are a domestic species. The larger classification of this rodent is in the Caviidae family. This group consists of 19 species and six genera, along with three subfamilies. Domestic guinea pigs belong from the subfamily Cavia, containing the Brazilian guinea pig hailing from Brazil.
On the other hand, Patagonian maras belong to the subfamily Dolichotinae, and capybaras belong to the subfamily Hydrochoerinae. This species is related to each other and have a similar look of plump bodies with large heads and small legs. However, among them, the mara is unique because of its hair-like look and long legs. These rodents also have a habit of munching on grass and other vegetation with their cute front teeth.
Want to find out more amazing things about this group of animals? Keep on reading to learn cavy facts. Also, check out our articles on gundi facts and shrew facts.
What do they prey on?
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
0.6-143 lb (0.3-65 kg)
How long are they?
8.6-52.7 in (22-134 cm)
How tall are they?
What do they look like?
White, black, brown, black, gray
What are their main threats?
Dogs, cats, humans, snakes
What is their conservation status?
Rock cavy: Least Concern Patagonian Mara: Near Threatened
Where you'll find them
Moist savannas, thorn forests, scrub desert
Rock cavy: Kerodon rupestris Patagonian cavy or mara: Dolichotis patagonum Domestic guinea pigs: Cavia porcellus Capybara: Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
A cavy is a group of rodent species that make up the family Caviidae. Many rodents that belong to the family are simply known as cavy, such as the domestic guinea pigs and the rock cavy.
What class of animal does a Cavy belong to?
A cavy is a group of animals that belong to the class Mammalia and the family Caviidae. Cavies are divided into three broad subfamilies Caviinae, Dolichotinae, and Hydrochoerinae. The family is divided into six genera: Cavia, Galea, Microcavia, Dolichotis, Hydrochoerus, and Kerodon.
How many Cavies are there in the world?
It will be very hard to calculate the total population of all the species that make up the Caviidae family. However, there are some species like the H. ballesterensis that have gone extinct. Most species of cavies are classified as Least Concern.
Where does a Cavy live?
Cavies are rodents that are extant to South America. These animals are present in different parts of the continent. Among the cavies, the domestic guinea pig has gone global because of its popularity as a pet. On the other hand, the rock cavies are native to eastern Brazil and have been introduced to an Atlantic island called Fernando de Noronha. Similarly, the Patagonian cavies or maras belong to Argentina.
What is a Cavy's habitat?
Even though their habitat range can change according to geographical location, the usual places are moist savannas, thorn forests, and scrub deserts of South America. The cavy mainly resides in open areas when in the wild. Through the years, species like the domestic guinea pig, the Patagonian mara, and even the capybara have grown in popularity as pets. The rock cavies derive its name from the fact that it is found close to hilly areas. As a semiaquatic species, the capybara prefers to live in flooded savannahs.
Who does a Cavy live with?
Like most rodent species, cavies also live in groups. The strength and formation of the groups do vary according to the species. Some species also follow a social hierarchy where dominant males may have power over subordinate family members. Domestic guinea pigs can be kept in groups, and it is recommended to get at least a pair if you want to keep them as pets. Capybaras are known for their strong social organizations containing up to 100 individuals during the summer season.
How long does a Cavy live?
The lifespan of a cavy will differ according to its species and its environment. For example, Guinea pigs live for 4-8 years while a rock cavy (Kerodon rupestris) can live till it turns 11 years old. On the other hand, capybaras have an average lifespan of 6-10 years.
How do they reproduce?
These South American rodents take part in sexual mating and give birth to 2-3 pups. The gestation period varies between 50-90 days, and the pups are active from birth. Some species of these rodents become sexually matured in just months, but capybara young can take 18 months before it can reproduce. Patagonian maras and chacoan maras tend to be monogamous in nature, while other species are usually polygamous.
What is their conservation status?
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, the classification of most cavies is under the status of Least Concern but some like Patagonian Mara are Near Threatened.
Cavy Fun Facts
What do Cavies look like?
Most cavies have a similar look that includes short and heavy bodies with short feet and legs along with a large head. Tails are absent in most of the species. Maras are the only exception to this look as it has a hare or rabbit-like appearance. Patagonian maras and Chacoan maras carry that appearance. Even though Patagonian maras look similar to rabbits, it isn't related to the species. Cavies also have padded feet, which allows them to navigate different terrains, and the soles of the feet are hairless, and the nails on the feet are blunt. The thoughtful doll-like eyes of cavies are able to quickly grab your attention.
How cute are they?
These animals are born cute and remain cute throughout their life. Patagonian maras look very cute because of its hare-like long legs and adorable ears.
How do they communicate?
One of the main ways of communication for cavies is with the help of scent. Some species may scatter urine on their potential mate to deter others from seeking it. Guinea pigs are also known to make high-pitched whistling sounds, especially when they become excited. Purring has also been noticed in the species. Patagonian maras of genus Dolichotis also use auditory signals to communicate with each other.
How big is a Cavy?
The size of a cavy depends on its genus and species. A usual size range would be between 8.6-52.7 in (22-134 cm). As the biggest species, capybara individuals can easily attain the size of 41.7-52.7 in (106-134 cm) in body length.
How fast can a Cavy move?
The guinea pigs have a traveling speed of 5.5 mph. Unfortunately, not much information can be found about the other South American species of this group. However, the strong feet of cavies allow it to move around quickly.
How much does a Cavy weigh?
The weight of a cavy may differ according to its species, and the usual range is between 0.6-143 lb (0.3-65 kg). Capybaras are the largest living rodents and individuals can easily weigh between 77-146 lb (35-66 kg).
What are their male and female names of the species?
Male cavies are called boars while females are called sows.
What would you call a baby Cavy?
A baby or young cavy is called a pup.
What do they eat?
All species present in the cavy family are herbivores. Grass forms a huge part of the diet of cavies, and these animals have sharp teeth to chomp down on the food. Nevertheless, the food and diet of the cavies can differ a bit depending on their habitat range. Cavies can also munch on fruits and other local vegetation present in their surroundings. When cavies are at home, it is usually fed with pellets, and the fresh grass is supplemented with hay.
Are they poisonous?
No, these aren't poisonous animals.
Would they make a good pet?
Yes, some of the cavies are known for being excellent pets. These are docile animals that do take to human love and care. Cavies are easy to care for, and these animals have become popular pets all over the world.
Did you know...
Most species of cavies cannot process vitamin C from their food.
One fun fact about guinea pigs is that their front teeth keep on growing.
The word cavy might have originated from the Old Portuguese term çavia, which means spiny rat.
Difference between a cavy and a guinea pig
Guinea pigs are cavies and are often known as cavy. However, the Caviidae family is quite large and contains different types of cavies spread over six genera, and it also contains three subfamilies. The domestic guinea pig was never a wild animal, but there are species like the Brazillian guinea pig and the montane guinea pig that reside in the wild forests of Argentina. Guinea pigs belong to the genus Cavia, and there are six different species. Altogether there are 19 species of rodents present in the Caviidae family.
How bad do guinea pigs and cavies bite?
Your guinea pig or pet cavy might try bite, but it isn't painful and isn't really bite. As it is a docile animal, cavies and guinea pigs aren't big biters. However, if the animal is irritated, then it may bite you, which may cause bleeding.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including stoat and brown hare.
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