THE PIG AND I

I have been showing and breeding guinea pigs since 2000, after breeding and showing rabbits since 1998, which I still do. In fact it was because of a rabbit that I bought my first guinea pig, a young Dark-Eyed White sow who came from a pet shop. I had a Netherland Dwarf I had had to separate from his pen-mates because he was such a frightful tease, he gave them no peace. I thought he might be lonely and recalled a friend who had a guinea pig - I was unfamiliar with the species, recalling only my mother's horror story of the guinea pigs she had as a child where the mother ate not only the babies but the father as well. My friend's pet was an agreeable little fellow and I thought such a little creature would make a good companion for Metellus, the rabbit. So I bought him Yuki, the above-mentioned sow. Indeed, they did get on quite well, though Metellus tended to ignore Yuki, jumping over her as if she were a log.

 

Eventually I sold Metellus and put Yuki in with another Netherland Dwarf who took exception to her and bit her. Not having read the same guinea pig book I had, she did not either run away or play dead. Instead she bit him back, so there was a small white cavy with a hunk of black rabbit fur in her mouth. I quickly removed her to another rabbit's run, a Black Lop, while I set up a cage for her by herself. She had obviously had black rabbits by this and made a pre-emptive strike - she bit Scipio much to his shock, then bailed him up and would not let him in the hutch. Since he'd bullied a doe he had been put in with a few days ago, this was no more than he deserved.

Again consulting the guinea pig book (Katrin Behrend's Guinea Pigs, Barron's. 1991), I noted they are herd animals so bought Yuki a friend, a brown sow I named Kiri (Paulownia in Japanese). They were devoted to each other, so much so that when Kiri suddenly died a few years later, Yuki literally pined to death for her. She refused to eat no matter what I did and being a naturally robust pig, it took her a month. I buried her next to Kiri.

It didn't take long before I realised I missed all the different little and not so little noises guinea pigs make, from the contented burbles and chit-chat with their friends to the loud 'wheek-wheek-wheek' when food is - or should be - forthcoming. The garden felt empty without them, despite the presence of a number of rabbits in the rabbitry as well as in pens outside. In other words, it hadn't taken long for this hitherto unfamiliar little beastie to insinuate itself into my heart. Nothing for it but to go out and acquire some more. Big problem. No guinea pigs in the Canberra pet shops for some reason and none for some time. A search on the internet turned up the website of the Hunter Valley & Central Coast Branch of the NSW Cavy Club (in early 1999 there wasn't a site for the main club) which listed upcoming guinea-pig shows. The only one I could attend because of overtime and other commitments was in April at the Hawkesbury Agricultural Show.

There I acquired Sathra Monica, a Self Red, I promptly nicknamed the Brick on account of her colour and shape, complete with papers - I hadn't even realised you could show guinea pigs until earlier that year at the Royal Canberra where Gwen and co. had pictures of a guinea pig show as part of their display. Almost as important was the application form for joining the NSW Cavy Club I picked up. I watched the judging at the cavy show and looked at all the different colours and breeds inside the Apex Hall before driving back to Canberra. Later in 199, I went to the National Cavy Show in Narrandera (it was held in October in those days) and acquired a Rex sow and a Satin Crested Cream boar (Jo Livingston always blames him and me for her getting into Satin Creams and later Crested). At the time Anmor Another Cloud was the only Crested Satin on the bench in the NSW Cavy Club when I started showing him in 2000.

My original collection of squeaks was a bit motley as I had originally wanted pets so I had an Anmor Satin Crested, an Elysee Self Black, a Paylex Pink- Eyed White as well as the Self Red and Saffron. I decided to go with Self Reds and bought a boar and another sow and having fluked a litter of Creams by mating Paylex Paddy to Namen Honeygold, decided on Creams at the 2000 National Cavy Show. I fixed on the idea of breeding colours not found in rabbits. And Rex, not forgetting the Rex. I had picked up a Cream and White Dutch pattern Rexski Rex sow at the 1999 National by chance and was very taken with her and her breed. In April 2000 I was given a pair of Elysee Rex sows whom I eventually mated with a Ceildih Silver Agouti boar which is where Nobu, Haru, Yuki and Fusa came from. In mid-2001 I yielded to temptation and bought a trio of Dark-Eyed Whites from someone who was going out of cavy breeding. My first guinea pig was a Dark-Eyed White so it was a sentimental thing.

I had decided to buy pure-breds because of the rich, vibrant colours they come in, and to keep them inside in cages so I could see more of them and enjoy them more. They certainly make wonderful recycle bins because any fresh vegetables you have left over when cooking - choy sum, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, snow-peas, etc. are most gratefully received by the squeakers at the far end of the room. The name of my stud is Reguli Cavy and Rabbit Stud which is a Latin pun because I was breeding Mini-Rexes at the time ('regulus' is a diminutive of 'rex'. It also means "little king".). I no longer breed Mini-Rexes (I still breed Dwarf Lops and now British Giants and Chinchilla Gigantas) but now I have Abyssinians and Sheba Mini Yaks as well as Rex cavies on the side, so it is still somewhat appropriate. Gotta love those Coarse Coats. Plus there are some Satin Buffs.

I began in March 2000, my first show being the combined rabbit/cavy show in Canberra (where my Saffron, Namen Honeygold went Best in Show I ad to wait until March 2006 before repeating that, with Reguli Kaguyahime, Satin Buff). There I got together with Jo Livingston (Canberry Cavy Stud) who was just going back into breeding guinea pigs and was looking for stock. (I had given her the address of the NSW Cavy Club and contacts for some breeders at the rabbit display in January in Commonwealth Park). She had bred them and rabbits in America over a decade ago. I lent her my Self Black boar for stud and together we have attended as exhibitors other NSW Cavy Club shows ever since, either together or separately. I tend to think of us as the Canberra Mafia. We like to get involved - helping set up and clean up afterwards - and we are very keen to find other cavy people in Canberra with a view to establishing a Canberra club. Meantime other breeders in Canberra have joined us from time to time and all are part of the NSW Cavy Club Southern Regional Branch.

In 2001 after some hard thought, I decided to opt out of Self Reds (too skittish for me), Self Cream (at the time too many breeders in such a small place as Canberra plus you are really keeping three breeds, white buff and cream) and Dark-Eyed White and just concentrate on the Rex plus the display pigs (see below). Big mistake as in 2002, I often found myself with barely a pig to show with just Rex - either they were in pig, or their coat had done the Rex thing and gone flat or developed a landing strip. So I decided to go into Abyssinians (got some nice ones from Wyndamere Stud at the National) and reduce the number of Rex - but not go out of them as I like them too much. I also went back into Selfs with some Buffs so as to have something to put on the table.

From the boar who was a Satin and one of the Self Buff sows, I got a very nice Satin Buff sow, Reguli Kaguyahime, who made up to Champion in 2006 and it is Satin Buffs I am breeding but in a small way. Self Buffs around here now have real problems with coat colour being too light under and/or they have Golden in the background which is proving very hard to eliminate, though some nice ones are starting to reappear now (2006). I. My main breed is Abyssinians, however. Reguli Moneypenny and Reguli Zula did quite well in 2006, Zula making up to Champion.

I have had Sheba Miniyaks for 10 years and have recently gone back into Rex but in a small way. I no longer breed Satins as they are too short-lived for me, pretty as they are, and I don't have the Self Buffs, either, except for a pair of retiree sows.I still have the Merinos and the Coronets, which I have had since 2005. I don 't show them but breed them as patting pigs because of their wonderful temperament.

As maybe apparent, I give my rabbits Roman names (Republican Roman names at that) and my own cavies Japanese names, usually from the feudal period, except for Abyssinians which are usually but nor always named after well known Abyssinian cats.

 

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