It’s the biggest Cavy Show in the southern hemisphere and it was on in Narrandera over the weekend.
The 2017 Australian National Cavy Council National Show was held last Saturday and the big draw this year was its four international judges. Andrew Sparkes and Simon Neeson, both from the United Kingdom, and Jens Lindgren and Darren Fieldhouse, both from Sweden, made the pilgrimage to Narrandera to judge cavies this year.
According to one show competitor, the presence of the international judges had drawn more entrants than usual this year, with more than 600 cavies competing on the day. The judges were meticulous in their work, examining ears, shoulders, coat, colour and condition.
Entrants were expected to stay on their green mats, and any biting of the judges was an automatic disqualification. The guinea pigs were expected to be clean and dry – one entrant was having an emergency blow dry before competing – and the entrants had to be more than nine months old.
There were a huge number of varieties on display, including a very peculiar looking breed, the Abyssinian Coarse Coats. Geraldine Oxford, who owns and operates the Geraldena Cavy Stud, was showing some varieties of her own, and described their attributes.
“When we’re breeding these ones, you have to make sure the rosettes are in the right place. I’ve had one born recently and you can already tell that they’ll be a good showing animal,” Ms Oxford said.
The Abyssinians are bred with a black and tan coat and the fur on the hindquarters grows out in whorls and cowlicks, creating ‘rosettes’ that give the cavies an almost geometric look.
“I didn’t breed these ones,” Ms Oxford said, gesturing to the cage, “I got these off a woman who wanted to get out of the business and she sold them on. But they’re lovely animals.”
A favourite of non-breeders is the long-haired varieties, although these were shown later in the afternoon. According to one breeder, they are “very calm.”
Cavy breeder Kate Berwick talked about the advantages of showing cavies over other animals.
“It’s easier than showing cats or dogs. They’re quick breeders too, they give birth ten weeks after falling pregnant,” Ms Berwick said.
The guinea pigs quick fertility cycle is an advantage for stud owners to isolate and eliminate any problem characteristics, but it can be a disadvantage. Other owners commented on their short lifespan, swapping stories about unexpected deaths and long-lived cavies who made it to the age of five.
“Because they have such a short lifespan, you kind of need to always have those genetics on reserve,” Ms Berwick admitted. “So this is Lass, because she’s a good lass. I’ve already got a son of hers at home.”
Lass won the reserve prize, while her brother won best of breed in their category.