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Cavies and Maras: Caviidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Cavies and maras are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night and are active during the day, or crepuscular (kri-PUS-kyuh-lur), meaning they are active at twilight. They do not hibernate and live in burrows they dig or were dug by other animals. They are generally very social, living in pairs or groups. Cavies and maras have a variety of mating regimens, including hierarchical promiscuity (HI-uh-raar-kick-al prah-miss-KYOO-it-ee), which is frequent sexual intercourse based upon ranking or status in the group; polygamy (puh-LIH-guh-mee), where they have multiple mates in a single breeding season; and monogamy (muh-NAH-guh-mee), which is having sexual relations with a single partner during the breeding season. They breed year round and produce multiple litters per year. Cavids have a gestation period, pregnancy, of fifty to seventy days. The number of offspring per litter is usually one to three but can be up to seven. Maras and salt-desert cavies have seasonal breeding patterns and have litters of one or two young.


Guinea pigs are neither pigs nor from the African country of Guinea. So how did they get their common name? One theory is that when they were first introduced into Great Britain in the 1500s, they were the closest animal to a pig that could be bought for a guinea, an old British coin. Another is that the sounds they make reminded people of pigs, and since they were shipped to Europe via Guinea, people thought they originated from there.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsCavies and Maras: Caviidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Cavies, Maras And People, Rock Cavy (kerodon Rupestris): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS