cavy (kāˈvē) [key], name for 14 species of South American rodents of the family Caviidae, including the domestic guinea pig. The wild cavies are usually small, rounded, and tailless, with fur of a uniform shade of brown. Nocturnal animals, they occupy a variety of habitats, especially dense vegetation. An unusual, large species is the Patagonian cavy, or mara ( Dolichotis patagonum ), a long-legged, harelike animal that reaches a length of about 21/2 ft (76 cm) and lives in arid regions. The capybara belongs to a related family. Some cavies are hunted for food in South America. Cavies are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Caviidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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