Guinea pig/rabbit hybrids

Cavia porcellus × Oryctolagus cuniculus

Mammalian Hybrids

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EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS

     
Reverend James Conway Walter
Reverend James Conway Walter
(1831-1913)

This cross is poorly documented, but it is also one that would be easy for home researchers to investigate further. The animals in question are small, readily available, and inexpensive. They can also easily be kept together in the same cage. Any well-documented offspring from this cross would be of especial scientific interest because the two parents belong to separate orders (Rodentia and Lagomorpha). If you choose to research this cross, please report your findings to the contact page of this website.

Mating occurs in captivity, both between buck rabbit and female guinea pig, and vice versa. There are also old claims that hybrids of this type have actually been born. In the June 30, 1906 issue of the English magazine The Country-Side, the editor, E. Kay Robinson, gives the following brief response, entitled “Guineapig-Rabbits,” to a letter from a subscriber who, apparently, claimed to have hybrids of this sort:

The rabbits described may be curious and defective; but the idea that they are the result of a cross between the guineapig and the rabbit is, I think, absurd.—(to J. Bowey, Gateshead-on-Tyne).

This brief response prompted another reader, Rev. James Conway Walter, to take the side of Bowey against the editor. Walter was the rector of the village of Langton near Horncastle, vice-president of the Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union, and the author of numerous books, including Letters from the Highlands (1859), Forays among Salmon and Deer (1861), Literæ Laureatæ (1890) and Records of Woodhall Spa and Neighbourhood (1899). Walter sent in the following comments, which appeared in the Aug. 11, 1906 issue of The Country-Side (p. 189):

The Question of Hybrids.—Sir,—In your issue of June 30th (page 117, first column), Mr. J. Bowey, of Gateshead-on-Tyne, gave a case of a cross between rabbit and guinea pig, and doubts were implied of the fact. I am able to testify to such a cross having occurred within my own knowledge. Some three years ago, Mrs Stodthart of the White Hart Inn, Horncastle, Lincolnshire, had a rabbit and guinea pig which lived together, and the result was the birth of a young one, in the form, generally, of a very large guinea pig, but with the longer ears and fur of a rabbit. I have myself seen this specimen [in a separate letter published in the Aug. 25, 1906 issue of The Country-Side, Walter says that other members of the Lincolnshire Naturalists’ Union also saw the animal] and, having had some experience in hybrids, I thoroughly believe it to be a genuine case.”

One also encounters more recent allegations of the same sort. For example, the following anonymous comment was left online in response to a YouTube video showing a supposed guinea-pig/rabbit hybrid born in a local pet shop. The video itself was crude and the newborn it pictured could have been the young of almost any animal, but the comment (accessed Apr. 24, 2013), though it does have numerous spelling errors, is of interest:

I had a long haired guinea pig sharing with a lavendar dutch rabit when I was a kid. I found the guinea pig dead one morning having partially given birth to a very elongated baby with lavendar Dutch markings. I didn’t realise the significance at the time and was more upset by the death of the female, so I extracated the enourmous (single) baby and buried them both. Often wondered about it since, but no evidence now. I know biologically it should be imposible.

It is a general phenomenon in mammalian hybridization, in crosses where the mother is smaller than the father (in general, guinea pigs are smaller than rabbits), for the hybrid to overgrow the capacity of the womb, which in many cases will kill the mother if the offspring is not delivered by Caesarean. Other examples are the crosses Peromyscus maniculatus × Peromyscus polionotus and Bison bison × Bos taurus.

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Biology Dictionary >>

By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).


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