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What are guinea pigs used for?

If someone says you are going to be a guinea pig, what do they mean?

4861 day(s) ago

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Guinea pigs, today, are used mostly as pets. Guinea pigs are large rodents that look kind of like giant, fat gerbils. They weigh from 1 to 3 pounds and measure between 8 and 10 inches long. Their lifespan averages 5 years. Guinea pigs, like hamsters and gerbils, are one of the few rodents that are considered domesticated animals. Guinea pigs were domesticated over 7,000 years ago by South American tribes in what is now Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. These tribes first used guinea pigs for food. Guinea pigs are important to many native cultures even today. They are still used for food and many families have their own small guinea pig farms. Parts of guinea pigs are also used in traditional medicines of the region. When Europeans conquered South America in the 16th century, brought guinea pigs back with them, and they started to be used as pets. It is reported that even Queen Elizabeth I had a pet guinea pig. Every since, they have been popular pets and many different breeds based on color and coat length have been developed.

What our popular expressions tell us about guinea pigs is that they are used in scientific experiments. Guinea pig is a popular metaphor for being experimented on and tested because it was once a common practice. Guinea pigs were first used for scientific experiments by Europeans less than 100 years after they were introduced as pets. They were first used for dissecting to learn about animal anatomy, much like frogs are used today in science classes. Later, guinea pigs began to be used for medical experiments and testing. The Soviet Union also used guinea pigs as some of the first live passengers of early space flights. Guinea pigs were continually used in laboratory experiments throughout the 20th century. Their use peaked in the 1960s when about 2.5 million were used every year. Guinea pigs are still used in testing today, but their use has fallen to less than 300,000 per year. Rats and mice have replaced most guinea pig testing because they are just as easy to use but much less expensive.

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