The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Ferret
Story Of The Chipmunk
Story Of The Cavy
Story Of The Marten
Story Of The Lemur
Story Of The Echidna
Story Of The Mink
Story Of The Wapi
Story Of The Wolverine
Story Of The Skunk
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Story Of The Cavy
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The species of cavy with which American children are most familiar is known as the guinea pig.
One of the best known of the many species is the restless cavy of Uruguay and Brazil, which measures rather more than ten inches in length, and weighs about a pound. The color of the long and coarse fur is grayish-brown; and the teeth are white. This species is common in certain districts in the neighborhood of the Rio de la Plata, where it is known by the name of aperea. According to Darwin, it is occasionally found on the sandhills or the hedges of aloes and cactuses; but its more usual and favorite haunts are marshy spots covered with water plants. In the latter places it lives among the shelter of the vegetation, but in sandy districts it excavates burrows. It usually comes forth to feed in the evenings and mornings ; but in cloudy weather may sometimes be seen abroad at all hours. In Paraguay, it is invariably found in moist places on the borders of the forest, where it lives in colonies of from six to fifteen, among the dense masses of bromelia. Here it makes regular beaten paths, and never wanders far afield. It breeds but once a year, producing only one or two young. Cutler's cavy, from Peru, is a rather smaller species, distinguished by the general black hue of the fur, although the flanks and more especially the under-parts tend to brown.
Much discussion has arisen as to the origin of the domestic guinea-pig. It was long considered to have been derived from the restless cavy; although several writers pointed out that from its aversion to wet and cold such an origin was improbable. It appears, however, that the real ancestor of the domestic breed is the above-mentioned Cutler's cavy. It has been ascertained that the latter species was domesticated by the Incas of Peru, from whence it was carried to Colombia and Ecuador; while, on the other hand, no cavy was ever domesticated in Brazil.
The domesticated cavies of the Incas were either uniformly white or reddish brown, or a mixture of those two colors. Guinea-pigs are generally either white or white marked with yellow and black. Occasionally, however, they may be white marked with pale yellow, and in such cases they always have pink eyes. Sometimes, again, they may be marked with brownish black, mouse-color, or yellowish gray; while in certain cases the black may be replaced by ashy gray, when the eyes are pink. Of late years a breed has been formed with exceedingly long coarse hair, and of larger size than ordinary.
Guinea-pigs were introduced into Europe by the Dutch during the sixteenth century, shortly after the discovery of America ; the name being probably a corruption of Guiana-pig. From their pretty appearance and ways, as well as the ease with which they are kept and the rapidity with which they multiply, guinea-pigs have always been favorite pets with children; although it must be confessed that from their stupidity and want of affection they cannot be regarded as very interesting creatures. When, however, a number of them are kept together, they certainly form a pretty sight; and the manner in which they follow one another round and round their place of confinement in unbroken order is very remarkable. In some respects they resemble rabbits in their habits, while in other they are more like mice. Their pace is by no means swift and consists partly of a series of short springs; while the peculiar manner in which the body is elongated when creeping is familiar to all. Their food consists of roots, corn and various vegetables; and it is essential to the well-being of these animals that the place where they are kept should be dry and warm. If supplied with abundance of fresh vegetables, guinea-pigs do not require water; and when they do drink they take but little, and this with a lapping action. When pleased, guinea-pigs utter a soft murmuring cry; when alarmed, this changes to a squeak; while a series of short grunts (from which they probably derive their name) appear to be their mode of expressing their wants and desires.
A few hours after they are born, young guinea-pigs are able to run by the side of their mother, and on the second day they are able to nibble not only soft plants, but even corn.
Although guinea-pigs lack the courage to defend themselves even from a mouse they fight fiercely among themselves, usually to see which shall have the warmest corner or the best chance at the food. Their mode of fighting is peculiar. One of them seizes the neck of its antagonist with its teeth and attempts to tear off the hair. The one attacked will turn and kick up behind like a horse, scratching the other's flanks, and sometimes drawing blood.
The Bolivian cavy is smaller than the restless cavy and makes his home in the Andes mountains, twelve thousand feet above the level of the sea.
The Patagonian cavy greatly resembles a hare, and lives in a burrow. Al-though its limbs are long it is not a fast runner like the animal it resembles. Its flesh is white, when cooked, but rather dry and tasteless.