Our Farm is home to some animals maybe less often seen but which still play a role in farm and rural life. Most of them are rescue cases or their babies; a few are veterans of school visits and open days who are well-used to being handled, petted and prodded.
Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus)
Also known as ‘Cavys’, these little guys are from the Andes and descended from Cavia tschudii or Peruvian wild guinea pigs. They roamed mountains in small herds, taking shelter in existing holes and burrows.
Guinea pigs were kept as an important food source and also used in folk medicine and religious ceremonies. They have been commonly used in labs since the 17th century: hence the term ‘guinea pig’. Mice and rats have largely replaced them.
Cats (Felis catus)
We have three cats down on the Farm, with the occasional visiting Tom. They’re here mostly to help with the rodent population but seem to spend most of their time lounging around in the office, being fed by our lovely volunteers and taking the occasional nap or two.
Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo)
Our little ferret clan is very popular with the kids, although they can be a bit nippy. Traditionally they would have been used in ferreting: a method of rabbit-hunting. Since there isn’t too much rabbit hunting going on in Stepney, ours are most often sleeping or being taken for walks. They have high-vis jackets to comply with all Health & Safety requirements (of course.)
Rabbits (Oryctolagus Cuniculus)
Our bunnies are waifs and strays. Some love having a cuddle but others are a bit wary of people: patience is a must. Look for a free volunteer and they’ll be more than happy to let you have a quick fluffy bunny hug.
Rabbits are Lagomorphs, not rodents, and most domestic rabbits are descendants from the European breed. They breed prolifically and have become a huge environmental concern in some countries.
Originally farmed from the Middle Ages for meat and fur, they more recently provided an essential source of meat during World War II. The small hutches used as commonplace accommodation were originally designed to be temporary housing before slaughter: they are completely unsuitable for permanent housing for a pet which needs to stand on its hind legs.