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!