When we first started looking into getting guinea pigs for our son, a question my wife had was “do guinea pigs have tails?“
An odd question I know, but it’s simply because she’s not a fan of rodents with tails. And I can understand why to be honest!
So, no guinea pigs do not have tails. But it got me thinking..
why don’t guinea pigs have tails?
and, have they ever had tails?
You’ve probably wondered the same thing. Which is why you’re looking for the answer here.
Since i’m pretty curious and I don’t think id have slept without finding out. I spent hours and hours researching all I could about Guinea Pigs tails. (I know my wife thinks i’m pretty sad as well!)
So, do guinea pigs have tails? let’s find out more below.
Where is the guinea pig’s tail?
Many people get guinea pigs and hamsters mixed up, you know what the big difference between the two is?
Only one of them has a tail….and its not the guinea pig.
You see guinea pigs don’t have a tail, although they do have a tail bone.
The fact that they have a tail bone, does potentially mean that they used to have one.
Did guinea pigs ever have a tail?
Guinea Pigs were once a wild rodent from the cavy family, they’re said to originated from South America. if we look at guinea pig breeds that are still wild, none of them have tails.
It is however believe that guinea pigs ancestors did in fact have tails and they were more rat like animals.
The fact that they have a tail bone, does indicate that at some point they would have had a visible tail.
But why do they no longer have one?
All living creatures adapt with their environment and through generations their body changes depending on survival needs.
It is very possible that guinea pigs would have survived better, if they had a smaller tail. Since they’re prey animals, you can imagine them running away from a predator and getting caught because of their tail.
So over the generations of guinea pig, these small mammals went from having a long tail to not having one.
This wouldn’t have happened in a short time period. Gradually the tail would simply have gotten smaller and smaller.
Until now, all cavies including wild breeds such as the shiny guinea pig and montane guinea pig dont have a tail.
Why guinea pigs don’t have a tail?
Guinea Pigs don’t have a tail, because they simply don’t need it anymore.
A tail has a number of functions;
Tails on animals are used to help give them balance when standing on two legs. Guinea Pigs don’t usually go on to two legs, unless performing a trick or begging for food. They’ll usually use their whiskers to help with any balance.
Guinea Pigs use a number of sense to help them navigate, this includes their whiskers, smell and hearing. They therefore don’t require a tail for navigation.
Some animals use their tails to help with communication, this is not the case with Guinea Pigs. They use their funny sounds and vibrations to communicate with other guinea pigs and humans.
Tails are often used when it comes to mating and finding a mate. Having a big tail can be appealing to many animals. This is not the case with guinea pigs.
Many animals use their tails to help with marking their territory. Since guinea pigs are prey animals, they’re not territorial.
So as you can see a guinea pig just wouldn’t need a tail, it would offer no advantages.
You might think there is a visible tail, since they do still have a tail bone. This is not the case. A Guinea pig’s body is very much like a humans. In fact there are 8 small tail bones, near the pubic bones. So you might be seeing this and not an actual tail.
The Guinea Pig Skeleton
Not that you would think it but compared to other animals, the guinea pigs skeleton is fairly complicated.
When we look at the skeleton of a guinea pig, its split into 3 parts, each containing a selection of bones.
- Hyoid Apparatus
- Pelvic Girdle
- Pelvic Limbs
- Sesamoid Bones
Want to learn something really interesting when it comes to the guinea pigs skeleton? of course you do!
Did you know guinea pig bodies have 258 bones…I know right!
To compare this, the human body has 206 bones.
So a small animal like the guinea pig has more bones than we do.
They need this many bones to help keep their organs safe, such as their lungs, heart and of course brain.
Other bones include;
- 36 bones on their spinal cord
- Front lets have 43 bones
- 36 bones in their back legs
Even though they are classed as rodents, they are part of the cavy family. This makes them very different to rodents such as rats and squirrels.
Unlike them, Guinea pigs don’t like to jump or climb. Even though they’re very active animals.
Guinea Pigs are the largest of the rodents and have short, heavy bodies. Along with long bodies, they have large heads but they don’t have any tails.
They’re very much like Capybara who also don’t have a tail.
The Fake Tail
When we say guinea pigs don’t have a tail, this isn’t strictly true.
They do have what’s known as a caudal peduncle. This is the area where their spine connects to their hindquarters.
This gives them a short, thick base which some people might mistake for a tail.
You might even see your guinea pig wagging this area when they’re excited or happy. Although its not an actual tail, it does help with communication and balance.
The Caudal Peduncle in more detail;
The base of the caudal peduncle is very muscular, this helps Guinea Pigs with movement and changing direction quickly.
So now you know, Guinea Pigs do have a tail bone but no actual tail!
This is why, it gets the name fake tail.
How many bones are in a guinea pig’s tail?
When it comes to their tail bone, they don’t just have the one. It’s made up of 7 small bones.
Do any guinea pigs breeds have tails?
No, Guinea Pigs do not have any tails regardless of their breed.
Hopefully this article has answered the question “do guinea pigs have tails?”
As you can see, they don’t have any tails and there’s a good reason for this. It would offer no advantage to them whatsoever.
They do however have something called a caudal peduncle, this is often mistaken for a tail but its not. Its simply the base of their spine which helps with movement and balance.
So now you know, when it comes to tails, Guinea Pigs just don’t need them!