Tag Archives: cavy clubs

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.

Your pedigreed cavy comes with a special name — here’s why you shouldn’t change it

17 Oct

If you’ve ever bought a cavy directly from a cavy breeder and had the opportunity to pick up that cavy’s pedigree, then you might have noticed that pure-bred pedigreed cavies come with special, two-part names. What’s that about?

Like many other pure-bred animals, cavy names follow a certain naming tradition that is intended to establish the cavy’s lineage, to some extent. Generally speaking, a cavy’s official name has two parts — a “prefix” name, and its given name. Some breeders have more elaborate given names than others, but most I know, including myself, stick to something simple. So it’s the prefix name that most newcomers to the cavy community may find unusual or confusing.

Essentially, the prefix name is a name that acts like a surname, except that it isn’t based on the sire’s name and it comes before the given name. The prefix name comes from the name of the caviary where the cavy was born. Each name is unique to an individual caviary. Ours, for example, is Legacy, short for Legacy Caviary. So a cavy born at my home might be named “Legacy Rodney” formally, and might be called just “Rodney” informally. Other breeders just use their own last name for a caviary prefix name.

Now, let’s say you’ve just bought a new cavy, but you don’t like the name it’s breeder gave it. Unless the cavy has been registered with ARBA, you’re probably safe to change the cavy’s given name to whatever you want. Most likely, the cavy won’t remember its old name. And of course, you’re always welcome to change the call name, even if the cavy has been registered. Nobody keeps track of what you call your guinea pig; it’s just the pedigree and registration records we’re concerned about.

But, it’s generally view as impolite to change the cavy’s prefix name. There are two reasons for this. For one, the whole purpose of the prefix name is to make it easier to trace a cavy’s lineage. It is possible at some future date that you may sell your cavy, or else that you yourself may want to track down where its parents came from. If the prefix names on the pedigree are changed, you can’t track the cavy’s origin nearly as accurately. Second, the prefix name can be seen as a sort of attribution. Even if you now own the cavy, if someone else bred it then they are due part of the credit for anything that cavy achieves. Just as you cite your sources whenever you borrow someone else’s work to write a research paper, you should also strive to accurately cite the sources behind your own cavy or caviary’s success.

So by all means, call your cavy whatever you wish. But for the sake of cavy genealogy, let’s strive to keep our pedigrees and records as accurate as possible.

The 2014 election is upon us

5 Sep

It’s that time of year again — time for filling out and mailing in ballots for the national ACBA election. This being an even-numbered year, we have some major decisions that need to be made and a club president to select.

For ACBA members, your ballots should have already arrived in the mail. You also should have seen the candidates’ personal statements in this month’s copy of the Journal of the American Cavy Breeders Association. This is just a friendly reminder to review the statements, make you selections, and send in your ballots in a timely fashion so your vote is counted. As with just about every other organization, votes and other similar activities may seem mundane, but they are essential to the functioning of the ACBA.

This year we have multiple nominees for ACBA president, and for district directors for districts two (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah, as well as Mexico) and eight (Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Manitoba and Ontario in Canada). Districts four (Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) and six (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, as well as Puerto Rico) must also select a director this year, but currently there is a single candidate for each position. Of course, write-in campaigns are always a possibility.

Officers within the ACBA are responsible for managing the club’s day-to-day functions — which mostly means they set up and attend meetings where they make decisions regarding how this or that ought to be run. But current candidates said they have discovered that the club’s officers take on a leadership role beyond the narrow scope defined by the ACBA constitution.

“Personally, as a member of ACBA and a cavy lover, I have helped to educate the general public with fairs, clinics, flyers and handouts, pet shows, the internet, and other means to further interest in and correct knowledge of cavies, whether for pets or show animals,” said Rosalie Beard, a candidate for district two director.

Beard said the ACBA also works closely with the American Rabbit Breeders Association to create a merged lobbying force that currently works “on a national level for the protection of pet owners and breeders rights. They are in the process of banding together with other animal groups to inform the government agencies on the practicalities of some of the laws that are being considered.”

And the influence of the ACBA is currently growing, on account of the increasing worldwide interest in cavies, said Mary Lou Eisel, who is running for a second term as ACBA president.

“The cavy fancy is growing in leaps and bounds, not just in North America but worldwide,” Eisel said, adding that it takes her nearly an hour every day to review correspondence related to the cavy fancy.

For those who wish to further the educational and political missions of the ACBA, running for a national office within the club allows them to become more deeply involved. Laurie Norman, a first-time national candidate who is running to represent district eight, said she felt running for office would allow her to become more involved with the ACBA while she waited for the right time to apply to become a cavy judge.

“I wanted to get involved within ACBA somehow because I attend a lot of shows within my district and I get approached by a lot of people with questions about the fancy and ACBA,” Norman said. “So when I found out that the district eight rep spot was opening up I figured that would be a great opportunity to represent my district.”

Only current ACBA members are eligible to vote in ACBA elections. If you’re not currently a member, but you want a part of the action, you are always welcome to join. There’s even an online application form now! If you’re a cavy lover, we’d love to have you.

Also, if you are a candidate or currently serving in an elected position and would like to address the national cavy community via the Wheekly Reader, please feel free to contact us at thewritingguinea@gmail.com.

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.