Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Elizabethan Fact of the Day: Elizabeth and her Guinea Pigs

UPDATE: In further proof, National Geographic cites new evidence that may support the claim that Guinea Pigs were bred as "curiosity pets" in the Elizabethan Age. Read the article HERE.

A detail from a 1615 painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder, depicting two multicolored Guinea Pigs doing what they do best: nibbling veggies! Image courtesy of lierne via Flickr.

I am always delighted to discover anything new pertaining to Elizabeth I. Recently I came across an authority on Guinea Pigs, who wrote a chapter in her book on their history. She  has found evidence to validate something I have long suspected, based on other contemporary clues from the late 16th century: Queen Elizabeth I had Guinea Pigs! This information comes courtesy Virginia Parker Guidry's book Guinea Pigs: Practical Advice for caring for your Guinea Pig.

I myself have long been a lover of Guinea Pigs, whom are more accurately called Cavy's-I think they are the most underrated "pocket-pet" on the market today, and any time I get the opportunity to sing their praises, like they "sing" for me every morning, I will do so!

GP's are not your typical rodent-they are plucky, verbal (with a series of elaborate trills, squeaks and purrs to alert you of their various needs), cuddly, affectionate, and extremely smart! And every piggy that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing or owning has had their own distinct personality.

One of my piggles, Annabelle, whom I call "Annabelly" due to her tendency to lie on her side or back and push out her big belly so that I can rub it-she loves it, and I will sometimes do it for a half an hour, or until she falls asleep! 

I am about to begin click-training with my most recent pair of piggles, Avery and Annabelle. My heart melts for my "A-Team" on a daily basis, so I am not surprised that even the most authoritative of sovereigns succumbed to their charms! I like to think that Queen Elizabeth benefited from a nice cuddle-session with a trilling Guinea Pig after the end of a long day deliberating with her Privy Council. I doubt, however, that she ever had to clean a pig cage herself! ;)

The Ermine Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, by William Segar. Elizabeth is depicted with an ermine on her sleeve (a member of the weasel family, along with ferrets, a domesticated form of polecat used for hunting), representing her royal birth. Unfortunately, there is no Guinea Pig Portrait!


  1. Very interesting. I have to admire historians going to such lengths to prove the existence of these unique animals in a land far-away from their homeland. And kudos to you for finding the science to substantiate your suspicions!

  2. Thank you for reading this article and commenting, Mom! :)
    I, too, admire the historians who were able to prove the existence of Guinea Pigs as pets in Europe.
    The best way to prove yourself in the historical community is to to research and publish material on an obscure topic that know one else has written about; it proves your research capabilities and doesn't ruffle any feathers(or fur, in this case!)