The common guinea pig was first domesticated as early as 5000 BC for food by tribes in the Andes region of South America (present-day the southern part of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia),some thousands of years after the domestication of the South American camelids.
Statue`s dating from ca. 500 BC to 500 AD that depict guinea pigs have been unearthed in archaeological digs in Peru and Ecuador.The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and often depicted the guinea pig in their art. From ca. 1200 AD to the Spanish conquest in 1532, selective breeding resulted in many varieties of domestic guinea pigs, which form the basis for some of the modern domestic breeds.They continue to be a food source in the region; many households in the Andean highlands raise the animal, which subsists off the family's vegetable scraps.Folklore traditions involving guinea pigs are numerous; they are exchanged as gifts, used in customary social and religious ceremonies, and frequently referenced in spoken metaphors. They also play a role in traditional healing rituals by folk doctors, or curanderos, who use the animals to diagnose diseases such as jaundice, rheumatism, arthritis, and typhus.They are rubbed against the bodies of the sick, and are seen as a supernatural medium.Black guinea pigs are considered especially useful for diagnoses.The animal also may be cut open and its entrails examined to determine whether the cure was effective.These methods are widely accepted in many parts of the Andes, where Western medicine is either unavailable or distrusted.
Spanish, Dutch, and English traders brought guinea pigs to Europe, where they quickly became popular as exotic pets among the upper classes and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I.
The earliest known written account of the guinea pig dates from 1547, in a description of the animal from Santo Domingo; because cavies are not native to Hispaniola, it was earlier believed that the animal was likely introduced there by Spanish travelers.However, based on more recent excavations on West Indian islands, it has become known that the animal must have been introduced by ceramic-making horticulturalists from South America to the Caribbean around 500 BC,and it was present in the Ostionoid period, for example, on Puerto Rico,long before the advent of the Spaniards. The guinea pig was first described in the West in 1554 by the Swiss naturalistConrad Gessner