Guinea Pig Glossary

16 May

The cavy world is full of jargon, much of it specific to the fancy. This cavy talk comes readily to those with years of experience in the hobby, but it can confuse newcomers.

If you find yourself getting lost, or if you just want to adopt the lingo yourself, here are some useful terms to know.

Gender: A male guinea pig is a boar; a female guinea pig is a sow. But the babies aren’t piglets, they’re pups.

Breeds: For information about specific breeds of cavy, click here.

ACBA: The American Cavy Breeders Association. Click here for more information.

ARBA: The American Rabbit Breeders Association. This is the ACBA’s parent organization. ARBA may also refer to the ARBA convention, an annual event held each fall. The convention includes both rabbit and cavy shows, and is usually the largest cavy event in the U.S. (Note: when spoken, this acronym is generally pronounced “ARR-ba.”)

Caviary: A place where birds are kept and bred is an aviary. A place where guinea pigs are kept and bred is a caviary.

Cavy: It’s derived from the guinea pig’s scientific name, Cavia porcellus. Technically it’s the proper name for a guinea pig, but the two names are used more or less interchangeably. You’ll hear it used in most formal or official settings, but in a casual atmosphere we’ll most likely just call it a guinea pig.

Crest: A single whorl of hair on a cavy’s forehead.

DQ: It’s short for “disqualification,” not Dairy Queen. A guinea pig might be said to be a DQ if it is unshowable for any unchangeable reason, like a deformity or coat flaw. DQ can also be used as a noun that is synonymous with any specific attribute that would prevent the cavy from showing. “He had a DQ,” for example.

Fault or Coat Fault: Refers to a flaw that will have a notable, detrimental impact on a cavy’s show success, but that does not render the cavy completely unshowable.

Frontal: The portion of a Peruvian cavy’s hair that grows over its face. In humans, we might call this the bangs.

Grand Champion: A cavy that has won the requisite number of shows for special recognition.

Head-and-Taillights: Refers to a cavy with small patches of color around the eyes and over the rump. Though it will not show well, under most circumstances a cavy with head-and-taillight markings is admissible in show.

JACBA: The Journal of the American Cavy Breeders Association. This is a magazine and semi-scientific journal dedicated to cavy husbandry, produced by the ACBA. All paying ACBA members receive a copy. It is printed quarterly. (Note: when spoken, it’s generally pronounced “JACK-ba.”)

Leg: A certificate awarded after a cavy has placed first over any group of five cavies and three exhibitors in a show. A cavy may be grand championed after acquiring three legs, if the cavy is pure-bred.

Mane: The hair that grows from the head over the crown and back on a silkie or coronet cavy.

Mismark: Refers to a cavy with markings that do not meet the criteria for any showable variety.

Registerable: A cavy that is eligible for show, with an accurate pedigree demonstrating four generations of pure breeding. These animals may be registered with the ARBA and recorded in an official fancy-wide database.

Registrar: An individual who is licensed by the ARBA to evaluate the show-worthiness of any individual cavy. Registrars are responsible for submitting paperwork on newly registered or grand championed cavies.

Rosette: A whorl of hair present individually or in clusters in a cavy’s coat.

Rumble Strut: Refers to a male cavy’s mating display, during which the cavy will purr vigorously.

Specialty: Refers to an annual spring convention dedicated to cavies, put on by the ACBA.

Standard: Can refer either to the Standard of Perfection, a book defining requirements for showing cavies, or to the requirements for any individual breed.

Sweeps: Refers collectively to the locks of hair that fall from a long-haired cavies sides and back.

Sylvesters: Hair that grows from a Peruvian cavy’s cheeks. The term was officially removed from the standard a few years ago, but many Peruvian breeders will still refer to it. Early development of the sylvesters is indicative of a high-quality coat.

Van: A cavy that is mostly white, with one patch of color on the face. Under most circumstances a van is admissible in show, though it will not place well.

Wheek: The high-pitched whistling sound cavies make when calling attention to something. The word is onomatopoetic.

Wraps or hair wraps: A technique used to care for long-haired guinea pigs. The coat is divided into sections and then rolled up inside some kind of paper towel or fabric, which is secured with a rubber band or hair tie. This keeps the cavy’s hair from dragging on the ground and becoming dirty or matted.

Looking for a term you don’t see defined here? Please contact The Wheekly Reader or and let us know what definition you’re hunting so that we can remedy the situation.

2 Responses to “Guinea Pig Glossary”

  1. hutchagoodlife May 16, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Very interesting. As non show piggies whee have never heard of lots of these terms but you learn a new thing every day!

    Nibbles. Nutty, Buddy & Basil

  2. EmaPen June 3, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Yes, this blog is primarily dedicated to showing cavies. But as I would like to to be accessible to those among the pet community as well, please feel free to make me aware of any additional terms you’d like me to define.

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