NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The first thing they’ll tell you about guinea pigs at the Nashville Zoo is that they did not originate from Guinea, nor are they related to pigs. Either way, they sure are cute!
“Guinea Pigs were originally found in South America,” explained Sloane Campbell, Nashville Zoo Carnivore Keeper. “We basically domesticated them out of the wild to be livestock and pets around 5,000 B.C. So, they got brought over to Europe in about the 1500s where they became popular as pets after Queen Victoria had one as a pet in the late 1500s. And they’ve been popular pets ever since then.”
“There are about nine or ten recognized official breeds, and we have five here at the Nashville Zoo,” Campbell said. This one like Ossie is called an American.
“They’ve kind of got that smooth typical guinea pig coat. Then we have Peruvians who are always popular with their nice long hair that they have. Then we have Teddys that kind of have wiry, spikey hair, a little bit like cotton balls. Then White Crested, they look like they have a little white hat on top of their heads. They’ve got a little flat spot right there. And then Abyssinians, they kind of have little pallets or (rosettes). They kind of look like they got up on the wrong side of the bed. Those are some of the most common breeds that we have.”
Guinea pigs are not loners. They like to be around each other.
“So, guinea pigs are very, very social,” Campbell pointed out. “In most countries, it’s actually illegal to just have one as a pet. They like to hang out with their friends. They have pecking orders. They make groups. So, having one as big as this group is probably not something like you would have at your house. But if you want to get one as a pet, having at least a pair is a great addition to your family.”
Campbell offers a bit of important advice.
“We do recommend getting a girl, girl pair, though. Because guinea pigs being in the rodent family, they’re very good at keeping up their population numbers. Guinea pigs can start having their own families as early as 28 days old, and have one to six at a time every sixty days.”
“They can have up to five or six litters a year, just depending upon the individual. So, with six babies per litter, you’re looking at 36 babies a year. They’re very, very good at that.”
For that reason, all forty-five of the guinea pigs at the Nashville Zoo are females. The guinea pigs have been on display at the zoo since 2018, and they’ve been a fan favorite ever since.
News 2 has partnered with Nashville Zoo to bring you weekly segments of Zoopalooza. You can watch them on News 2 on Good Morning Nashville on Saturday and right here on WKRN.com.