Sunday, May 31, 2015

Product Review: Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Apple and Banana

We thought we had tried pretty much all the types of Oxbow's Simple Reward treats, but then back in February, Oxbow introduced five new types. Today, we're going to be trying one of the new types: Apple and Banana.

Please keep in mind that despite how much we beg and wheek, treats should only make up a small part of our diet.

We all loved these treats at first.

The humans gave us one each.
But after a few minutes, Lola and Broccoli got bored and left their half-eaten treats behind.

I see an opportunity!
This was good news for me since I never got sick of them, and got to eat their leftovers without being harassed!

What treat? There was no treat here. You must have been imagining things!
If I was the only one rating these treats, they would get a perfect score. However, I need to take into account the views of my cage-mates, who were less enthusiastic than I was. Therefore, Oxbow Simple Rewards Baked Treats with Apple and Banana get 3.5 out of 5 stars!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Product Review: Small Pet Select Orchard Hay

As you may recall from our post on what type of hay guinea pigs should eat, orchard hay is a type of grass hay. Grass hays should (such as timothy and orchard hay) be fed to us in unlimited quantities (unlike legume hays). We've tried orchard hay before a couple times: once in a mix (Kaytee Orchard Blends Hay), and once by itself (Oxbow Orchard Grass Hay). We liked both of those hays, so we have high hopes for this new one: Small Pet Select Orchard Hay.
This is Orchard Hay.
There are a few differences between orchard hay and timothy hay that we should point out:

  • Some people claim that orchard hay is less severe for people with allergies.
  • Orchard hay tends to be softer than timothy hay, and therefore might be of a risk of guinea pigs poking themselves.
  • The list price at Small Pet Select for 20 pounds of timothy hay is $44.99, while it's $49.99 for the same amount of orchard hay (although it's currently on sale for $40.00). 
  • Orchard hay has little to no seed heads, unlike timothy hay. For us, this is a big disadvantage!

Let's give Small Pet Select's orchard hay a try!
Smells fresh! Munch, munch...

Tasty! But where are the seed heads?
This is some nice, tasty hay. Our only issue with it is that it's missing the seed heads, which is our favorite part! If you're like us, what you may want to do is encourage your humans to mix different types of hay so you get the best of both worlds. We'll give Small Pet Select Orchard Hay 4.5/5 stars!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Guinea Pig History: Guinea Pig Art in Europe

We've made several posts on guinea pig history, in which we've talked about the journey of guinea pigs.

Joris Hoefnagel was a Netherlander who lived from 1542 to 1601. He was born to wealthy merchant parents, and traveled around Europe with them in his youth, drawing his experiences. While working in Munich, he was commissioned to produce a four-volume book on natural history. The book is known as the Four Elements, and each volume is named after a different element: Animalia rationalia et insecta (ignis); Animalia quadrupedia et reptilia (terra) ; Animalia aquatilia et conchiliata (aqua); and Animalia volatilia et amphibia (aier). Guinea pigs appeared in the earth (terra) volume (right next to porcupines):

Don't let those porcupines poke you, guinea pig! [Caption reads: "Plate 48 of the Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia (Terra) from 1592 by Hoefnagel (copyright National Gallery of Art Washington)" (source)]
If I was that guinea pig, I would jump down from that branch and eat that melon!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Guinea Pig Pageants: Cute, but Controversial

We read a crazy news story recently about how several guinea pigs were stolen from their owner. Yes, we're very cute animals, but we're also not difficult to find in guinea pig rescues across the country (and the world). So why would someone want to steal guinea pigs instead of just adopting them? Apparently, it was because these guinea pigs were frequent winners at guinea pig pageants.

We should point out that there are different types of guinea pig pageants. There are some that are put on by guinea pig rescues that are just for fun. There was an interesting account of a guinea pig pageant on the Useless Critic that was put on by a guinea pig rescue in Phoenix, AZ. According to their account, it sounds like it was largely a costume contest that was done for fun. The grand prize was a bag of peppers. It sounded a lot like the costume contest that we saw at the PIGSTRAVAGANZA! Pignic 2013.

On the other hand, there are guinea pig shows like the Bradford Championship Show that take pageantry a lot more seriously. At these shows, guinea pigs are judged according to some pretty strict standards. For example:
source: Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA)
Here are some videos that show what goes on at these sorts of pageants:

We found it noteworthy that the woman in the first video said: "I like perfection in flowers, and animals, and people, and all sorts of things. And it's just achieving perfection." This quote really illustrates the difference between the two types of shows: one is more about fun, while the other is about competing to achieve "perfection." If you ask us, we're perfect just the way we are, regardless of what some chart about breed ideals says!

Here are some of the problems that have been pointed out with guinea pig pageants:
  • Trying to achieve the sort of perfection expected in pageants like the Bradford Championship Show can encourage breeding to meet those characteristics. Most likely, those who breed their guinea pigs as show guinea pigs will want to take good care of them so they'll have the best shot at winning, so it's unlikely there will be the same sorts of bad conditions with regular breeders who supply pet stores. Still, there are a lot of guinea pigs in shelters who need good homes, so many would say there's an ethical problem with breeding more guinea pigs when so many need homes.
  • Shows held outdoors can be uncomfortable for guinea pigs if the temperature is too hot or cold.
  • Guinea pigs are not social animals, so participating in these pageants can be stressful for them.
We're generally fine with having casual costume contests with other piggies outdoors as long as the temperature is right, and the piggies aren't forced to participate when they are obviously not comfortable with it. We haven't completely made up our minds about things like the Bradford Championship Show yet, but we have to admit that we are suspicious of them. We would want to know more about how the guinea pigs who participate in these shows are treated. If these shows are detracting from the quality of guinea pig lives somehow, then we would be against them.

Have you had any experience with guinea pig shows, either the professional or the amateur/casual kind? What are your thoughts on them? Let us know in the comments section!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Guinea Pig History: Conrad Gessner and Historiae Animalium

It's time for another guinea pig history lesson! Today, we're going to be talking about an important human in guinea pig history named Conrad Gessner.

Conrad Gessner was a Swiss naturalist who lived from 1516 to 1565. One of his greatest accomplishments was writing his five-volume Historiae Animalium ("Histories of the Animals") in 1551–58 and 1587 (the last one published posthumously). There were over 4,500 pages between all five volumes, and it was considered the beginning of modern zoology. The purpose of this book series was to catalog everything known about animals at that time.

Interestingly, Gessner included animals from many sources, including religion and folklore such as unicorns. This led to the inclusion of many animals that aren't real, but Gessner tried to distinguish between what he thought were real and imaginary animals in his text. It was in Gessner's Historiae Animalium that guinea pigs were first described to the Western world in 1554. (As we previously mentioned, the Moche people of ancient Peru were already familiar with guinea pigs far earlier than this. However, in Europe, the earliest known portrait of a guinea pig is from 1580.)

Here is Gessner's artwork for guinea pigs in his Historiae Animalium:
Caption: "Guinea pig, from Conrad Gesner (Swiss, 1516-1565), Historia animalium (vol. 1, De Quadrupedibus viviparos), 1553, Woodcut. Los Angeles, Research Library, the Getty Research Institute."
Gessner had a pair of guinea pigs that were given to him, but he also cited the descriptions and photographs of others in his book for the sake of completeness.

Even though he lived in an era where the existence of unicorns couldn't be completely discounted yet, it sounds to us like Gessner did his best to put out the most accurate information on animals he could, including guinea pigs.

You might say that Gessner was the guinea pig blogger of his day!