Tag Archives: American Cavy Breeders

Guineas Gone Viral: The rising prevalence of cavies in internet culture

16 Mar

Perhaps some of you have seen this hilariously awkward video making the rounds in recent months.

The video — which was released in Canada last November for “Movember,” the international month-long campaign dedicated to raising awareness of men’s health issues — has snowballed around the internet for the last several months until, in February, it started showing up in Facebook feeds everywhere. BuzzFeed, the news site that could be considered something like the Entertainment Weekly of cat videos and dress controversies, picked up on the video, and pretty soon, traditional media outlets all over the world were on the story, too.

But this isn’t an isolated incident. In fact, national media carried reports last week of a woman who decided to quit her job to make videos of her guinea pigs after a clip she posted to YouTube went viral. Dominant websites like WikiHow have launched entire sections devoted to guinea pigs, and even BuzzFeed itself has created a special “tag” for web articles, especially photo essays, dedicated to guinea pigs — though, I’ll be honest, most of these articles just reappropriate the same half-dozen or so images to illustrate BuzzFeed’s usual brand of universally relatable humor.

But, with BuzzFeed calling guinea pigs “the new cats of the internet,” we may be moving away from that ever-persistent stereotype of guinea pigs as classroom pets or unusual companions for the socially impaired. This increasing online awareness of guinea pigs also appears to have translated into a real-world growing interest in showing cavies.

According to Mary Lou Eisel, the current president of the American Cavy Breeders Association, the number of guinea pigs entered in shows throughout the U.S. has increased by 14,000 in the last five years. For comparison, the number of rabbits entered in similar shows over the same time period grew by just 1,000 entries. For BuzzFeed author Matt Bellassai, the sudden popularity of guinea pigs is easy to explain.

“Their popularity rose, I suspect, because guinea pigs have a novelty (more so than cats), but also a familiarity (not so wild as, say, a chinchilla), and of course an undeniable adorableness (more than any other rodent),” Bellassai said. “Also, they’re just funny. It’s far funnier to put a tiny wig and straw hat on a guinea pig than it is to put one on a rat or a mouse or a cat. I don’t know why, it just is. It’s a combination, I think, of guinea pigs being cute and chubby and small, but also different and unexpected. Maybe one day, the internet will reach guinea pig saturation, like we have with cats. Until then, I think guinea pigs will keep rising.”

But there may be more to it than that. It’s not just that the internet has highlighted the fact that guinea pigs are cute, it’s that the internet has made information about guinea pigs, and guinea pig-related things, much more accessible than they once were. Consequently, whether cavy breeders have seen a recent spike in purchases of show- or pet-quality stock varies from one state or person to the next. But many breeders say they have found recent buyers to be more educated and more specific in their requests.

For the first time in decades, even the average first-time pet owner has access to the information they need to know there are alternatives to buying small animals at large chain pet stores. While this doesn’t always lead directly to growth within the cavy fancy — some breeders are quick to point out that the online culture growing up around guinea pigs has created a fetish for hairless guinea pigs, such as the skinny and the baldwin, which are not accepted as official breeds under the ACBA and cannot participate in official cavy shows — it may, in a roundabout way, bring more potential cavy fanciers into the world of cavy shows than did recruitment efforts in the past.

To recruit a new member into the ACBA once required that someone who was at least somewhat familiar with guinea pigs or animal husbandry, such as a pet owner with cavies or a breeder already raising dogs or rabbits, rub shoulders with a cavy breeder and take an interest in the hobby. Nowadays, all it takes is a spark of interest and enough curiosity to search “pure bred guinea pigs” on Google.

The cavy’s online presence has also allowed for added growth within the ACBA as well.

“I have purchased everything I have via either meeting the person online, or a completely online purchase — I have never met some of my cavies’ breeders in person,” said Tonya Slack, a cavy breeder from Minnesota. “If not for the internet, I would be purchasing pet store cavies and mixing breeds.”

A short report on the 2014 ARBA Convention

7 Nov

This last week marked the annual convention of the American Rabbit Breeders Association in Fort Worth, Texas. The national cavy club is a subsidiary of ARBA, so the Convention includes a massive guinea pig show in addition to the obvious rabbit-related festivities. And by massive I mean it’s probably the single largest cavy- and rabbit-related event in the nation.

Unfortunately, this year I was unable to attend, because Fort Worth is a long way from my house, and I’m broke-ish at the moment. So no Convention for me. Fortunately I have friends who Facebooked the entire event, so I can update you all on some of the Convention’s most important happenings.

Of course, the show itself trumps all other Convention-related business, in my opinion. In the open show, Best in Show went to a white American, and Reserve in Show went to a satin Abyssinian. Youth Best in Show went to the texel, and Reserve in Show went to an American.

I know everyone loves pictures, so I will try to get a slide show of the winners as soon as the official photos are released.

Additionally, the results of the annual ARBA and ACBA elections were announced during the Convention. Congratulations to Mary Lou Eisel, returning ACBA president, Michael Welsh, District 2 representative, Lisa Pordon, District 4 representative, Karen DeHaven, District 6 representative, and Laurie Norman, District 8 representative. The new standard for the Tan Abyssinian, which makes the tan an official variety of that breed, also passed with a vote of 194 to 8.

Those of you who did attend the Convention: Did I miss anything important?

The next big upcoming show is the American Cavy Breeder’s Specialty show, which is a smaller annual convention dedicated exclusively to cavies. The 2015 Specialty will take place April 10-12 in Berea, Ohio. Unfortunately, Ohio is an even longer way from home, so I doubt I will be able to attend. After Specialty, the 2015 ARBA Convention will be held next fall in Oregon.

Correction: The mail-in vote taken for the tan Aby was to ask the ACBA membership if it should be advanced towards the entire process of getting accepted into the ARBA standard.  Just one step on this journey.  It is not an officially accepted variety.

The Tan Abyssinians and also the Otter Americans were there for viewing by the cavy subcommittee the ARBA Standards Committee Chair. These were development/informational presentations only.  Later would start the official presentations.

Cavy Champions: Victors’ photos from the 2014 Specialty shows

12 Sep

This is perhaps a little behind the curve, but I figure it’s always better late than never. The following gallery includes 22 photos of some of the best show cavies in the nation — the Best of Breed animals from the 2014 ACBA Specialty shows in Monroe, Washington. You can think of Specialty as a sort of national championship for guinea pigs. Although it is smaller than the ARBA National show — the official national championship for both guinea pigs and rabbits — Specialty is the largest single event dedicated exclusively to cavies. The 2015 Specialty will take place in Berea, Ohio on April 10-12.

All photos included in the gallery below are credited to the Journal of the American Cavy Breeders Association. The gallery includes photos from both the open show and the youth show, but you might notice that there are only 22 photographs, where there should be a total of 26. Unfortunately, we’re missing a couple of photos. We did have all 13 breeds represented in the open show, and all breeds but the Peruvian satin were represented in the youth show. However, for the open show, the Best of Breed silkie and teddy satin are not pictured; for the youth show, the Best of Breed silkie satin and white crested are not pictured.


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We’re back — here’s what we missed, and why we missed it

27 Jun

I am sure by now that most everyone has noticed my year long-absence. Allow myself to explain.

I announced at the end of last summer that I was moving and changing jobs. Which is exactly what I did. It wasn’t a particularly egregious move — I remain in Northern Utah and simply moved slightly west, to the next valley over. It took some time, but obviously not the entire year. Likewise, it took time to adjust to the new job, but not an entire year. So why the long absence?

The short answer is that life happened in relatively rapid succession. After my move, I spent several months working my first full-time, permanent job while simultaneously completing the last requirements for my BA online. So that got busy. Then I graduated, got engaged, and started planning a wedding in a matter of months. Wheekly sort of fell by the wayside during all of this.

However, I had several people come to me to ask about Wheekly at the last Specialty convention in Washington state, and this caused me to realize that the blog has not only found an audience, but that it provides valuable information about cavies that is not often available elsewhere on the internet. So I resolved to get going on the project again.

Speaking of Specialty (an annual guinea pig convention/massive cavy show hosted by the ACBA) — had I been on top of my game, I would have actively covered the convention through the duration of my trip, resulting in a flood of blog content. Unfortunately I was asleep at the switch, so I didn’t. I can, however, provide a list of the top-ranked animals for those who are interested:

In the open Specialty show under judges Steve Lussier and Jason Whitehurst, Best in Show went to a broken color Peruvian exhibited by Carol Anaya; Reserve in Show went to an American black exhibited by John Gray; and a while American Satin, also exhibited by John Gray, received an honorable mention.

In the Specialty youth show under judge Robert Spitzer, awards were as follows: Best in Show went to an American black exhibited by Chloe Geroux; Reserve in Show went to a broken color texel exhibited by Alyssa Welter, and a broken color teddy exhibited by Connor and Kyler Wolfe received an honorable mention.

Two additional, non-Specialty shows were held the following day. Best in Show in the first went to the broken color Peruvian exhibited by Carol Anaya, and best in show in the second went to the black American exhibited by John Gray.

As per long-standing ACBA tradition, the location and host club for the upcoming west coast specialty was also selected during the convention. The San Gabriel Cavy club put in the winning bid, and announced that the 2016 Specialty show will be held in Ventura, California. More details to come on that. In the meantime, the 2015 Specialty show, to be held in Berea, Ohio, is well into the planning stages.

I promise I will post more details on both shows in the weeks to come. However, readers should be aware that I plan to change Wheekly‘s publishing schedule to make the workload a little more manageable as I continue working full-time and planning a wedding. In the past, Wheekly posts went live every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Going forward, Wheekly will publish once a week, on Friday mornings. Of course, all readers are welcome to come and browse new and past posts any time they like. That’s the glory of the internet age.

I run the Wheekly Reader on my own, in my spare time, on an entirely volunteer basis. I am not paid, nor do I obtain any kind of revenue from running the site. The occasional random ad that shows up on this blog is a wonderful new feature WordPress has introduced to make money off blogs like the Wheekly Reader that cannot pay hosting fees. I may have to find a way to remedy that in the future, because my intention was to keep Wheekly ad-free. So please be aware that these ads are not my doing and are not supported or endorsed by the Wheekly Reader.

Also, I would like to put out a call for for crowd-sourced material, particularly photographs. If you have cute guinea pig pictures you would like to share with the world, please feel free to email them to me at thewritingguinea@gmail.com. I can’t promise that I will use every single photograph, but some, if not most, may be selected to be featured on the blog. Of course, I will always strive to give credit where credit is due. I’d also love to see photographs from cavy shows, and other cavy-related events. I’m also open to any questions, suggestions, or article ideas you’d like to send my way. These kinds of contributions need only take up a few minutes of your time, and they go a long way toward keeping the Wheekly Reader updated, relevant, and interesting to all members of the cavy community.

U.S. cavy sweepstakes — what’s all the fuss about?

30 Jul

Next month marks the official end of recording for the 2012-2013 national cavy sweepstakes — which to the vast majority of you probably means absolutely nothing. I figure I owe everyone an explanation of the sweepstakes system before I jump into any serious coverage.

The entire end goal of the cavy fancy is the improvement and progression of the cavy species. While shows offer fanciers opportunities to survey and evaluate the breeding stock available in a given locale, they don’t always offer a complete picture of where the best stock is available on a national scale. The sweepstakes program can be viewed as an attempt to compare caviaries across the U.S. by tabulating each exhibitor’s show success over a given year.

Essentially, the sweepstakes committee awards a certain number of points to an exhibitor for each win reported at a sanctioned cavy show. The value of a given award is determined by the significance of the award. For example, winning best of variety might be worth one point, but best of breed might be worth two points. Wins at national shows are worth more than victories at the local level. These points are tracked throughout the year, and at the end of a sweepstakes year — which runs August 31 to August 31 — all the points are tallied, and the final results announced.

Participating exhibitors are ranked within the breeds they choose to compete in, so at the end of the contest an exhibitor might claim to be the top competitor within the Peruvian breed, or within the American breed, but there isn’t an overall prize. Many exhibitors compete in more than one breed.

It’s worth noting that some factors can skew an exhibitors sweepstakes score. The way points are tabulated, the highest-ranked exhibitors are usually those who not only claim frequent victories within their breed of choice, but also those who frequently attend shows and who enter a large number of cavies in diverse groups and varieties. To try to give fanciers a better idea of who is winning, and who is gaming the system, the sweepstakes ranks are listed within the JACBA, the American Cavy Breeders’ magazine, alongside a count of the total shows that exhibitor attended. A little math will give you a pretty good idea of who is awarded the most points per show — probably the best objective measure of which exhibitors might be considered leaders in the development of any given breed.