It’s the great Pumpkin!

Guinea pig wins Best of Show
Deb Hill
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
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Triston Gallagher, 13, holds his guinea pig Pumpkin at the Small Animal Barn at the fairgrounds Monday. Gallagher was showing Pumpkin as one of his 4-H projects. Photo by Deb Hill

Triston Gallagher, 13, comes by his love of guinea pigs naturally…his dad used to raise them, and about three years ago, when his parents finally agreed that Triston could get a pet, guinea pigs it was.

With help from a friend who retrieved the first of his (now) four guinea pigs from a Billings pet store, Triston was in business – sort of. 

The guinea pig now known as “Washington” was originally sold as a female. Oops. 

Shortly after discovering the gender confusion, Triston got Buggsy, who is a female. The two adults are parents of Pumpkin (1.5 years old) and S’more (1 year old). Triston is hoping for another litter of piglets (as he calls them) this fall. 

Triston said guinea pigs are easy to raise. 

“You just keep their cage clean and make sure they have food and water,” he said, adding he uses rabbit feed, which is much less expensive than guinea pig food. “We supplement with Vitamin C drops,” he explained.

Being members of the rodent family, guinea pigs prefer a vegetable diet. For treats, Triston gives his the parings from dinner – carrot peels, broccoli stems, celery and the like. He also lets them outside to graze on the lawn at least once a week.

Triston occasionally bathes the guinea pigs in the sink, where he said they sometimes relax and just float in the water.

Inside his house, Tristan’s pets live in a three-story guinea pig home, and he also has a small guinea pig barn outdoors for them. He’s tried having them outdoors on leashes, but said within 5 minutes the guinea pigs had chewed through their harnesses, so it’s better to keep them fenced in.

Native to South America, guinea pigs’ closest relative is the chinchilla, although the two species look nothing alike. But, as with all mammals, they do have fur, and it’s the fur that can help determine the guinea pig breeds.

According to Triston, Pumpkin is a mix of the Abyssinian breed of guinea pig and the American breed. In the Abyssinian breed, the coat hair is in giant swirls like cowlicks, while the American breed has a straight coat. 

Pumpkin has a little of both, which might be why he was named Best in Show in the small animal category this year.

As one of his 4-H projects, Triston said he is expected to know how to show his guinea pigs to the judges. In years past they were judged as pocket pets, but now they have their own category and are shown much like the rabbits are.

Now in his third year of raising guinea pigs, Triston said he eventually hopes to have eight or so. Unfortunately, while guinea pigs can have up to five or more pups, Triston’s pair has only produced one baby with each mating. But since they can live up to eight years, there’s still time.

While Triston isn’t contemplating selling his guinea pigs, they can go for $50 each and up. His advice to anyone who would like to raise them is to make sure they have adequate housing to keep them safe from cats, dogs, and other carnivores, give them someplace outdoors to enjoy fresh air and green grass and keep the males separate so they don’t fight.

Unfortunately for fairgoers, Pumpkin already completed his show schedule for this year and won’t be available to greet his fans. But Triston will be on hand for the sheep show, where he is showing his lamb. For a schedule of fair events, visit