Identifying the Dominant Guinea Pig: A Guide for Owners

Although a herd of guinea pigs may seem peaceful most of the time, plenty of politics goes on behind the scenes. Like their wild ancestors, domestic cavies organize themselves through a hierarchy system. Dominance behavior can be obvious or subtle, but by carefully observing interactions between piggies, it is possible to determine which guinea pig is dominant.

The dominant guinea pig has the first claim to everything in the cage, including food and hiding places. In a mixed herd, it is usually the boar. Dominance behaviors include mounting, chasing, rumblestrutting, nipping, pushing, lunging, and head raising. It is entirely normal cavy behavior.

Life in a cavy herd is not a democracy. The alpha piggy gets the position by engaging in a series of confrontational behaviors to assert dominance. Let’s reveal what rumblestrutting means and learn to identify other behaviors that will let you know who’s in charge.

Who Is The Dominant Guinea Pig?

Dominant behavior is species-specific, and while reindeer simply lock horns to see who can push harder, guinea pigs have a much more complex repertoire of behaviors. If your piggy cage occasionally feels like an episode of Game of Thrones, it is usually nothing to worry about. Dominance challenges are a normal part of guinea pig herd behavior.

Whether you call it the dominance hierarchy or pecking order, groups of mammals commonly take up positions in a group based on a specific rank. It is an important evolutionary tactic that ensures stability within a group.

Within a mixed group of guinea pigs, the dominant individual is most commonly the male, even if he is neutered. Things get more complicated when there is more than one boar in a herd or if you only have a group of sows.

In every herd, there will always be a self-appointed dominant guinea pig who gets to the top by letting everyone know they are taking over and forcing the rest into submission. While submissive animals give up without any resistance, others may try to resist the takeover.

Identifying the dominant guinea pig in a group can be done by observing the behavior and interactions within the herd. Sometimes it is pretty evident as the boss piggy often takes the lion’s share of all the best snacks. Other times may require more careful observation.

The ranking system within a herd doesn’t stop with just the top individual. The rest of the animals also fit into a neat ranking system. Once the hierarchy has been established, peace usually reigns with only the occasional show of dominance unless a new cavy is introduced or a young animal matures and becomes a challenger for the top spot.

Although it can be upsetting for owners to see one piggy chasing the others about or bugging their cage mates, it is completely normal behavior. It is only necessary to step in and play referee if they are fighting or if any animals are being prevented from eating and drinking.

What Is Dominant Guinea Pig Behavior?

Behaviors associated with dominance vary according to the amount of resistance the opposition shows. A dominant cavy in a herd of naturally submissive characters may only need minor persuasive tactics to get them to submit. The opposite extreme is when full-blown fights erupt because two animals challenge for the top spot, and neither is willing to back down.

10 Dominant Guinea Pig Behaviors To Look Out For

Although there are many tell-tale dominant piggy behaviors, each is used in response to how much resistance the top animal receives. For example, although a dominant animal may continually remind submissive herd members of its position by regularly rumblestrutting or mounting, it is unlikely to resort to fighting.

  1. Mounting – this is a non-sexual behavior that can also take place between two male or female guinea pigs. The one on top is letting the other know it is in the top spot and forcing a submissive stance.
  2. Chasing – The dominant piggy can be quite a nuisance to the others while asserting itself. It may chase other guinea pigs around the cage, forcing them to move or face the consequences. The chased pig may complain by making loud whining or squealing sounds.
  3. Rumblestrutting – This behavior is a show of dominance and may be followed by chasing or mounting.
  4. Lunging – This is often just a warning behavior, and no contact is intended or made. The dominant piggy makes a sudden aggressive move towards submissive herd members.
  5. Nipping – This is entirely different from biting. Nipping does not cause injury and is just a reminder to other piggies about who’s in charge. The nips are often aimed at the back end of another cavy.
  6. Pushing – Pushing and nipping often go hand in hand. Dominant animals often push others from behind, and it may be accompanied by a little nip.
  7. Food stealing – Although all piggies steal food when they can, the boss cavy is most likely to be the guilty party.
  8. Teeth chattering – This can have multiple meanings, but it can also be a way to intimidate those around.
  9. Head raising – The ultimate piggy face-off occurs when two animals move in close together, and one raises its head over the other. The one with the higher head is the dominant individual.
  10. Fighting – True guinea pig fighting requires quick intervention by owners. While most other shows of dominance are normal behavior, fighting can result in serious injuries to one or both individuals.

If fighting occurs, never try to grab either animal with bare hands. Throw a towel over them or use oven gloves to separate them. Place them in different cages or use a divider to keep them apart.

What Is Rumblestrutting?

As the delightful word suggests, rumblestrutting refers to how a guinea pig combines a rumbling sound and a distinctive strutting walk. The movement includes wiggling their bottoms from side to side while walking to show dominance.

Both male and female dominant cavies will rumblestrut, and it may also include puffing out their fur so they appear bigger. Male piggies may also engage in this behavior to impress females before mating.

How Do You Bond Two Dominant Guinea Pigs?

Guinea pigs thrive in herds, and keeping a solitary animal can result in serious health issues or even death. It can therefore be surprising to learn that not all piggies get along, and having two dominant personalities in a group can be difficult to manage.

When choosing guinea pigs for the first time, it is essential to consider personalities rather than simply selecting the cutest individuals. Try to pair one dominant piggy with one or more subordinate characters.

Dominance issues often have a lot to do with resources, so if you do have two dominant guinea pigs, it is advisable to have a cage with a lot of space. In addition, have double the number of everything, including food bowls, drinkers, hiding places, and toys. When offering the daily veggies, ensure that they are spread out.

Unfortunately, two dominant piggies in the same cage, especially two boars, may never become besties. If they can’t get along without fighting after all the gentle introductions have been done, it may be necessary to separate them so they can’t hurt each other.

Do Female Guinea Pigs Establish Dominance?

Herds of female guinea pigs have a hierarchy in the same way as a group with a male present. One of the females in the group will take on the dominant role and engage in the same displays of dominance as a male.

All the animals in the herd have a ranking in the structure, so introducing a new piggy into an established group needs to be done patiently. The dominant female will continuously remind the submissive animals that she is the boss and even mount other cavies to show who’s in the top position.

Conclusion

Dominance hierarchies are common in animals that live in groups as it is a means to ensure overall group stability. Displays of dominance in a herd of guinea pigs are perfectly normal behavior. Through careful observation and recognizing dominance-related behaviors, it is possible to decode the structure of a piggy hierarchy.