‘If you pick a guinea pig by its tail, its eyes will pop out.’
This joke is often thrown around on guinea pig forums, and some novice guinea pig owners even tend to believe this joke. Even if you don’t believe that guinea pig eyes will fall out if it is picked up from their rear end, this joke may get you wondering: Do guinea pigs have a tail?
Guinea Pig Tail
Guinea pigs don’t have a tail, but they do have a tail bone tucked beneath their pelvis, just like humans. There are actually seven tailbones in a guinea pig’s body, but these tailbones don’t protrude out like a tail in guinea pigs—at least not in normal and healthy piglets.
Do Guinea Pigs Have a Tail?
No, guinea pigs don’t have a tail—not a visible one. Let me explain.
While guinea pigs do have tailbones—seven of them—they do not have a visible tail protruding from their rear end. This is because their tailbones are fused together and tucked beneath their pelvis. So, one can say that guinea pigs do have a tail, but their tail is different (invisible) from that of the elongated tails of rodents like rats, mice, squirrels, etc.
With the amount of time guinea pigs spends pooping, it is perhaps a good thing they don’t have a tail.
Guinea pig Skeleton
Guinea pigs have lots of bones. A guinea pig has 258 bones in its body in total. The guinea pig spinal cord contains around 32 to 36 bones, with the coccygeal vertebrae forming the tailbone. Where there are 43 bones in guinea pigs’ front legs, the hind legs contain 36 bones. Despite having this many bones in their legs, guinea pigs are not much agile as a rat, squirrels, or even a rabbit. Guinea pigs are instinctively reluctant to jump, burrow, or climb. However, they use their legs to run around and forage for their food.
Do Guinea Pigs Have a Tailbone?
Not one; guinea pigs have seven tail bones. Now you must think that the guinea pig tail must be visible to a human eye. Well, actually, guinea pig tailbones do not protrude out. Instead, the seven guinea pig tailbones are fused together, just like humans and tucked beneath the pelvis. So you can think that your guinea pig does have a tail, but it is just not up for the show.
What’s Fake Guinea Pig Tail
Does your guinea pig suddenly seem to have a tail? You must be pretty worried that how to heck your piglet grew a tail overnight. Well, worry not and hear us out.
It is common for long-haired guinea pigs, especially Silkie guinea pigs, to have a tuft of long hair flowing from their rear end, making their owners think that they have a tail—a fake tail. The fake guinea pig tail may also appear due to cowlicks in guinea pigs. Whatever the case is, know that the fake tail is not protruding from their spinal cord.
The fake guinea pig tail looks quite beautiful, and some guinea pigs’ owners often decide to keep the long tuft of the hair intact like a tail, and others like to groom their guinea pigs to get rid of it. So, if the fake tail is something that worries you, you should regularly brush your guinea pig’s coat to make locks, tufts, and tangles.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Not Have a Tail?
You must be thinking why guinea pigs don’t have a tail when other rodents like mice, rats, and squirrels have an elongated one. Well, here is why.
- Guinea pigs belong to a family of rodents known as Cavia porcellus, also called Cavies. They are known for having no tail. The cavy family of rodents consists of small guinea pigs and the world’s largest living rodent, Capybara. Both of these rodent species are known for their lack of tails.
- Guinea pigs don’t need a tail. Mice and rats use their tails to keep themselves warm (by wrapping them around their bodies), reaching high spaces, and balancing on fences and wires. Similarly, squirrels use their tails to balance when jumping from branch to branch. But as our guinea pigs are not interested in jumping and climbing, they don’t need a tail to balance. Similarly, guinea pigs also don’t require tails to keep themselves warm. They converse heat/energy to keep themselves warm in cold weather. Anyway, guinea pigs come from the Andes region of South America, which is pretty temperate.
- Guinea pigs’ ancestors might have had a tail a hundred years ago. Guinea pigs come from rat-like rodents, so guinea pigs’ ancestors might likely have had a tail. But perhaps, the long tail reduced their chances of survival in their wild. And generation after generation as they bred with mates with shorter tails and long tails kept receding. Like in humans, perhaps the tails had lost their purposes, and as they became a vestigial organ, it was reduced in size—the tailbones fused together and today are tucked under the pelvis, leaving no apparent tail in guinea pigs.
- They might have lost it due to their fragile spines. Guinea pigs are one of the few rodents that should never be put in an exercise wheel or a ball. It puts them at the risk of spinal cord damage and may even cause paralysis.
|No Exercise Ball or Wheel For Guinea Pigs!
Guinea pigs have an incredibly fragile spine, making exercise wheels and balls deadly. They put them at the risk of the spinal cord and may even lead to paralysis. So, it is strongly advised that you never put your piglet in an exercise wheel even if the product label says that it is specifically made for guinea pigs while considering their fragile pain—it is just a marketing tact.
Final Verdict: Do Guinea Pigs Have a Tail?
NO! Guinea pigs don’t have a tail—at least not a visible one. They do have tailbones—not one but seven of them—but these tailbones are fused together and tucked under their pelvis, just like in humans. Long-haired guinea pigs might appear to have a fake tail but know that it is just their hair.