Guinea Pigs in Georgian England

As most of you know, I love writing pets into my books. I’ve mostly stuck to dogs, but I think my current book is going to need a cavy. I know you’ve likely all seen the Elizabethan painting of the child with the guinea pig because it really makes the rounds, but there are quite a few from the 18th and 19th century as well, proving cavies didn’t disappear. In fact, they appear to have quickly broken the class barrier and become a popular pet for the middle class as well. We know they were kept in Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and England (so they were likely widespread across most of Europe).

This painting of a door-to-door salesman from 1789 depicts a man selling guinea pigs in England.

Morland, 1789, “Selling Guinea Pigs.”

And this charming miniature shows a boy with is pet guinea pig.

English School, Boy with Guinea Pig. c. 1800

Have any of you ever had a guinea pig, or do you have one now? I find their little chirps and grunts infinitely charming and entertaining.

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