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How the animals came to be called "pigs" is not clear.
They are built somewhat like pigs, with large heads relative to their bodies, stout necks, and rounded rumps with no tail of any consequence; some of the sounds they emit are very similar to those made by pigs, and they also spend a large amount of time eating.
Their docile nature; friendly, even affectionate responsiveness to handling and feeding; and the relative ease of caring for them continue to make guinea pigs a popular pet.
Organizations devoted to competitive breeding of guinea pigs have been formed worldwide, and many specialized breeds with varying coat colors and textures are cultivated by breeders.
Cages with solid or wire mesh floors are used, although wire mesh floors can cause injury and may be associated with an infection commonly known as bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis).
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, the animal was earlier believed to have been introduced there by Spanish travelers.
Biological experimentation on guinea pigs has been carried out since the 17th century.