Wild Guinea Pigs: Where They Are and How They Differ from Pets

When you look at your guinea pigs, you probably see them as cuddly, social, and probably defenseless. Few people can picture wild guinea pigs if they live outside South America, especially since pet piggles are actually genetically distinguishable from their undomesticated cousins.

Guinea pig eating grass

Where are There Wild Guinea Pigs?

Wild guinea pigs are found in South America, specifically near the mountains on the continent’s western side. Guinea pigs are an essential part of traditional culture in the region, and people have kept them for centuries.

Guinea pigs in their natural habitat typically live in small groups, with one male and several females. Undomesticated piggles typically have a home burrow they return to. However, since guinea pigs are grazers, they have to leave them frequently for food.

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Guinea pig eating grass

Are Wild Guinea Pigs and Pets the Same?

Undomesticated guinea pigs and pet guinea pigs look similar. However, scientists can tell them apart by looking at their genetic code. Within the wild population, there are actually a couple of different species broken up geographically.

The reason for this difference is domestication. Domestication inherently limits the gene pool of the species, and the geography separating those returning with explorers from Europe did the rest. Over time, guinea pigs were also selectively bred for desirable traits, which further altered the gene pool.

Can a Pet Guinea Pig “Go Wild?”

Pet guinea pigs are no longer suited to life outside of domestication and, therefore, should never be turned loose. If you can no longer care for your guinea pig, consider taking it to an animal shelter.

Domesticated guinea pigs lack the same socialization as their wild cousins. Consequently, they are not equipped to handle life outside of a domestic environment. A pet guinea pig simply cannot “go wild.”

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