two adorable guinea pigs posing together on grass.

15 Fun and Furry Facts About Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are a common childhood pet with hairstyles that bring back thoughts of 1980s hair bands or sleekly coiffed styles of a runway model. Guinea pigs have unique looks and charming personalities. 

But did you know they aren’t pigs at all? And they’re not from Guinea. Weird, right? But that’s not all. Let’s scurry through a collection of 15 Fun Facts about Guinea Pigs.

Why Are They Called Guinea Pigs?

Guyana on map
Photo Credit: Below the Sky Shutterstock

No one is entirely sure, but one theory suggests that it’s merely a mispronunciation of Guyana, Africa, their native region.

Why Are They Called Pigs?

Funny fat guinea pig with a carrot in summer
Photo Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova Shutterstock

Well, they’re not pigs at all, but their scientific name is Cavia porcellus. Porcellus is Latin for little pig. They also make a squeaking sound that is reminiscent of the cute pig sounds which may have contributed to the name.

They Are Also Called…

animal Capybara Argentina Ibera Wetlands
Photo Credit: Adrian Murphy Shutterstock

Guinea pigs are not pigs but part of the Caviidae family, which consists of South American rodents. They have the nickname Cavy. One member of the guinea pig’s family tree is the lovable Capybara. Who doesn’t love the Capy and the Cavy?

A Little More Confusion

A mother guinea pig and her new baby.
Photo Credit: Ruth Bouwer Shutterstock

Now you know guinea pigs aren’t pigs, or from Guinea, and they are related to capybaras. But even though they aren’t pigs, the male is called a ‘boar’, and the female is called a ‘sow’. Guinea pig babies are called ‘pups’.

They Come in All Shapes and Colors

A group of Guinea Pigs live and snuggle
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Guinea pigs come in the standard long hair and short hair, but within those two categories are at least 21 varieties, in addition to the furless “skinny pig.” Each variety comes in an assortment of color choices, giving everyone a guinea pig suited just for them.

They Can Be Much Bigger Than You Expect

Brazilian guinea pig (Cavia sp.) family on the rural road
Photo Credit: Rafael Martos Martins Shutterstock

While we are usually familiar with the pet-store-sized family pet, the largest grow up to 20 inches and weigh up to nearly 9 lbs. These aren’t pets, though. They are raised in South America as a common food source.

Guinea Pigs Can See You

close up of a guinea pig
Photo Credit: Kelsie Roble Shutterstock

Guinea pigs have a huge field of vision. With an impressive range, guinea pigs' vision spans 340 degrees, allowing them to monitor their environment and help keep them safe from threats or harm.

They Hear You, as Well

Guinea pig with a dandelion flower in summer
Photo Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova Shutterstock

Guinea pigs can hear better than you. We typically hear 16,000 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but guinea pigs seem to hear everything! Hearing up to 46,000 Hz, they are better suited to a quieter environment.

Guinea Pigs Talk to Each Other. A Lot.

Two lovely guinea pigs in summer
Photo Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova Shutterstock

Guinea pigs are social creatures who enjoy the company of people, but especially their furry counterparts. They communicate using various sounds and noises, from a squealing “wheek-wheek” to a subtle purr.

They Also Dance

two cute guinea pigs adorable american tricolored with swirl on head in park eating grasses
Photo Credit: iStominaP Shutterstock

They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they make the cutest sounds. But when excited, guinea pigs jump in the air and often make a little twist. This dance is commonly called “popcorn.”

They Aren’t the Best Climbers

Selective focus on guinea pig nails on front paw.
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Guinea pigs have three toes on their hind feet, but four on the front. This helps them burrow but limits their agility, so be sure to keep their homes hazard-free for their safety.

Guinea Pigs Leave Their Mark

A pet Guinea pig. Guinea pig in a cage with clean sawdust and food
Photo Credit: Mr.Alex M Shutterstock

Not only on our hearts, but also on their possessions. Guinea pigs rub their chins or cheeks across belongings to keep them smelling familiar and comforting. As guinea pig owners, it's important to always transfer a small amount of old bedding back into the cleaned cages to provide that reassurance that they are safe at home.

Long Live the Guinea Pig

Little African-American boy feeding cute guinea pig at home
Photo Credit: Pixel-Shot Shutterstock

With the right conditions, including food, home, care, and kindness, our furry friends can live in our families for seven years. However, the Guinness Book of World Records notes a special guinea pig named Snowball, who lived to the age of 14 years and 10 months.

The Oval Office Guinea Pigs

Theodore Roosevelt with family and pets
Photo Credit: Walter Scott Shinn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We often hear about the President’s dog, like Joe Biden’s two German Shepherds, Champ and Major, but one present bucked the trend. President Theodore Roosevelt had five guinea pigs: Admiral Dewey, Dr Johnson, Bob Evans, Bishop Doan, and Father O’Grady.

A Day to Celebrate

Holiday Pets Christmas
Photo Credit: Svetlana Glazkova Shutterstock

We love to celebrate the holidays, from Christmas to Independence Day and everything in between. Keep the festivities alive this year by celebrating Guinea Pig Appreciation Day on July 16. Piggles Rescue first celebrated this day of celebration in 2016. We have to ask, what took so long?

Sources: Burgess Pet CareHay PigsFour Paws

Author: Todd Rowley

Title: Copywriter

Expertise: social services, transportation, mental health

Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.