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Guinea pig, or home coffee. Short story

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Guinea pig, or home coffee. Short story

Guinea pigs are eagerly bred in Poland and around the world. These small furry rodents are hosted in many homes in Poland and around the world. Where did their name come from? How did they get to Europe?

A few years ago, newspapers and news portals were announced that the guinea pig no longer bears the name “guinea pig” in Polish, but “home coffee”. The name change has surprised many guinea pig lovers. It does not seem to be accepted in everyday language, but it was necessary for scientific reasons. It is worth adding that the Latin systematic name of the guinea pig is cavia porcellus. The word “cavia” comes from Indian languages, the word “porcellus” means “little pig” in Latin. It is not entirely clear why these animals are called “pigs” in many languages. Perhaps it is related to the characteristic sounds made by guinea pigs or to their rounded shape.

The Polish term for the guinea pig comes from the German word “Meerschweinchen”. It means “marine piglet”; dolphins were also called the same in Germany. After all, it was recognized that the sounds made by dolphins and guinea pigs could be very similar.

The history of the English name for the guinea pig, “guinea pig”, is also complex and disputed. Guinea pigs are not native to Guinea, so the English name sounds a little less absurd than the Polish “guinea pig”. The most likely explanation is that African Guinea is confused with American Guyana. Another theory is that ships from America transported guinea pigs across the American coast, and this is what led to the confusion. The third view is that in ancient English, Guinea was associated with all exotic, hitherto unknown goods. Many other views exist, but none have strong factual support.

The guinea pig is one of the earliest domesticated animals. Indians of the Andes, America’s highest mountains, bred guinea pigs as early as 7,000 years ago. This is evidenced by many archaeological finds, mainly prehistoric Indian buildings in Ecuador and Peru. Guinea pigs in America were bred, not as companionship animals, but for meat. However, their beauty was noticed: they often appear in the ancient art (painting, ceramics and sculpture) of the Andean Indians.

Guinea pigs came to Europe early. Already at the turn of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, they were brought here by the conquistadors, the Spanish conquerors of America. Like many animals and plants of the new world, they quickly became fashionable. They were liked by aristocrats and even monarchs (e.g. Queen Elizabeth I of England). In the American homeland of guinea pigs, however, the situation did not change, the Indians continued to breed them mainly for meat. The guinea pig, like the domestic pig, is a cheap animal to keep meat, after all, it can eat plant residues from the house and farm. So all the hosts were able to afford them. Their popularity was increased by the fact that they were popular gifts as well as their large role in the ceremonies of the tribal Native American religions.

With the passage of time, guinea pigs have become a non-slaughter animal, they are now kept as companion animals or ornamental animals. Due to the change in utility, dozens of new breeds were bred. A similar process has also taken place in other domestic animals: most dogs and cats, like most guinea pigs, are bred for personal enjoyment and companionship.