Tag Archives: cavy shows

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.”


Three easy ways to be more organized about breeding cavies

9 Jan

I know I’m a little late to this ballgame, but I noticed the other week a post on Facebook where one breeder asked others she knew whether they had a cavy-related New Year’s resolution. As I watched the responses come in, I noticed a common theme: many people wanted to get more organized about breeding and record keeping.

We at Legacy Caviary have been pretty diligent about records keeping from the beginning. And it’s not just pedigrees, although we’re pretty particular about those as well — we have pedigrees going back to our very first cavies, probably ten generations or more at this point. But we also keep detailed records on health, lifespan, show winnings, breeding, miscarriages and deliveries. At one point I even used the records we’ve kept to conduct a small scientific study for one of my senior-level college classes.

That’s probably more record keeping than the average breeder wants or needs to undertake. But just in case you’re looking to get started with some basic record keeping and organization this year, here are a few breeding-related ideas you might try. Of course, you’re always welcome to modify these techniques so that they suit your own methods and desires.

The index card method

This is what my dad has done for years to keep track of who is bred to who, when they’re due to deliver, how many babies were born and at what weight. It works pretty well because it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and because you can clip the cards to the front of most cages to prevent yourself from losing track of your own records, though it does have a downside (in my opinion) in that the records are not easily digitized and therefore are difficult to analyze en mass.

Here’s something quick and easy to try: buy your standard index cards and fill them with any identifying information you deem pertinent. We list the cavy’s name, birthdate and ear number a the top of each card for quick identification, but you can obviously choose to use more or less information. Make one card for each of your cavies, then clip the cards to the cage containing the cavy to which each card corresponds. You can do this easily with those tiny binder clips you can buy at most office stores. When you’re finished, each cage in your caviary should have a small collection of cards attached to it identifying each cavy in the cage.

Now, pick one of the female cavy’s cards and write an X (our symbol for “crossed to” or “bred to”) on one of the blank lines on the body of the index card. Next to the X, write the name and/or ear number of the boar to which the sow in question was bred. Then write the date they were paired together and, if you like, the date of their anticipated due date (roughly 72 days in the future). That’s all there is to it! Now, when you clean pens or go to check on your cavies, you have an automatic record of when to expect your next litters. And as time goes on and you repeat this process for new crosses, you’ll have a running record of who you bred to who, and what the results looked like.

The Calendar Method

This is essentially a simplified version of the index card method. It requires a lot less maintenance, but lacks the benefits of being attached to each individual cavies’ pen, and so doesn’t put the information at your fingertips quite as effectively. It may, however, help you better track the big picture of what needs to happen when in your caviary.

Here’s the basic idea: Buy a standard 12-month calendar for the current year (you can even get one of those fun cavy-themed calendars if you like!). Hang it up in or near your caviary, so you remember to use it and mark it up. Fill in the calendar with pertinent information such as “bred Fuzzy Wuzzy to Sister Sue” or “Cutie Pie due” on the appropriate days. If you stay up on it, this should not only help you keep track of when your upcoming litters are due, but over time it will also create a year-long record of who was bred and born when.

This method is also helpful if you include the dates of important shows on your calendar. If you do this, you can count backward from the date of those shows to determine when you need to put cavies in breeding to have mature stock at the year’s biggest shows (this is especially important to breeders who raise long-haired cavies).

The MS Excel Method

This is what I personally use, because I prefer digitized records and because I need to have access to my records on multiple computers. But while it has the advantage of making it possible to easily view and analyze lots of data, it requires a little more effort that the previous two methods and it doesn’t put the information at your fingertips in quite the same way.

Here’s what I do: I have a version of Microsoft Excel that I have downloaded for free on my smartphone called “Sheets.” Sheets interfaces with GoogleDocs, so I am able to view my breeding records on my phone, on my laptop, or on any other computer where I can gain internet access.

On sheets, I have created a single spreadsheet called “breeding plan.” I created the document with the following headers across the top: sow’s name, last litter born, current status, next breeding, breed to, and litter due. I fill in the suggested information below each header in descending order. So, for example, when Cindy delivered her last litter, I create a new row at the top in which I fill in her name, the date of her last litter, her current status (“Resting,” in this case) the date on which I next plan to breed her, the boar I will breed her to, and the expected date that litter will arrive. I might also input her daughter’s record on the line above her own. Her daughter would appear as follows: Wendy, no litters, still growing, the date of her first anticipated breeding (roughly 3-5 months in the future), the name of the boar I plan to breed her to, and the expected due date for that future litter.

Obviously, this method requires a good deal of regular maintenance. But if you stick to it, you will end up with a long running list of past litters and pairings, and one that you can sort, search and analyze at your leisure with all the data tools available to you in Microsoft Excel. Not to mention instant access to all of those records anywhere in the world.

These are of course just three methods for tracking, recording and organizing your breeding efforts. There’s plenty of other methods out there. What method do you prefer?

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.

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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