What is a cuy, anyway?

It's pronounced Coo-EE

In Peru, guinea pigs are called "quwi" in the native Quechua language, and "cuy" in the local Spanish.

Cuy are not found naturally in the wild; they were domesticated from wild cavies as early as 5000 BC as a source of food for local tribes. Wild cavies are still found on grassy plains of the Andes and are highly social, living in small groups which consist of several females (sows), a male (boar), and the young (pups). They move together in herds eating grass or other vegetation, and do not store food. While they do not burrow or build nests, they frequently seek shelter in the burrows of other animals, as well as in crevices and tunnels formed by vegetation.

After the Spanish conquest in 1532, traders brought cuy to Europe, where they quickly became popular as exotic pets among the upper classes and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I. The source of their common name remains a mystery – they are neither a member of the Pig family, nor from Guinea.

Cuy continue to be an important food source in Peru; many households in the Andean highlands raise the animal, which subsists off the family's vegetable scraps. Traditions involving cuy are numerous; they are exchanged as gifts, used in social and religious ceremonies, and frequently referenced in metaphors. They also play a role in traditional healing rituals by local folk doctors, who use the animals to diagnose diseases.