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The guinea pig or domestic guinea pig (Cavia porcellus), also known as cavy or domestic cavy, is a species of rodent belonging to the family Caviidae and the genus Cavia. Despite their common name, these animals are not in the pig family Suidae, nor do they come from Guinea in Africa, and the origin of their name is still unclear; they originated in the Andes of South America and studies based on biochemistry and hybridization suggest they are domesticated descendants of a closely related species of cavy such as C. tschudii, and therefore do not exist naturally in the wild.In Western society, the domestic guinea pig has enjoyed widespread popularity as a household pet, a type of pocket pet, since its introduction by European traders in the 16th century. Their docile nature; friendly, even affectionate, responsiveness to handling and feeding; and the relative ease of caring for them have made and continue to make guinea pigs a popular choice of pet. Organizations devoted to the competitive breeding of guinea pigs have been formed worldwide, and many specialized breeds with varying coat colors and textures are selected by breeders. The domestic guinea pig plays an important role in folk culture for many indigenous Andean groups, especially as a food source, but also in folk medicine and in community religious ceremonies. The animals are used for meat and are a culinary staple in the Andes Mountains, where they are known as cuy. A modern breeding program was started in the 1960s in Peru that resulted in large breeds known as cuy mejorados and prompted efforts to increase consumption of the animal outside South America.Biological experimentation on domestic guinea pigs has been carried out since the 17th century. The animals were so frequently used as model organisms in the 19th and 20th centuries that the epithet guinea pig came into use to describe a human test subject. Since that time, they have been largely replaced by other rodents such as mice and rats. However, they are still used in research, primarily as models for human medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy (like humans, they must get vitamin C), and pregnancy complications.