Most animals are named for what they look like, where they originate or any special quality they possess. But not all animals have been given accurate names. Some common names for common animals are uncommonly wrong.
The guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) is neither from New Guinea nor is a pig. It is a rodent that originates in Peru. Some breeders and showers of guinea pigs prefer to call them cavies in order to give them a more accurate name. But after a few hundred years, the name “guinea pig” has stuck.
It is unknown just why the English began calling the imported pet “guinea pig.” One theory is that an animal used to cost one guinea – a princely sum in those days. Cavies grunt and squeal like pigs and can get very fat, which may explain the “pig” part of their name.
The thoroughbred is a specific horse breed that originated in England in the 1600s and 1700s. The name was so coined because a thoroughbred was “thoroughly bred” for speed. Thoroughbreds have, indeed, become the fastest horse breed in the world. Champions reach speeds of 42 mph, but this speed cannot be sustained for long. However, this speed can be sustained for long enough to win their owners money and acclaim.
Over the centuries, the word “thoroughbred” has been used to describe everything from a person of royal lineage and any purebred domestic animal breed. If you want to make steam come out of a horse lover’s ears, refer to any animal breed as a “thoroughbred.” However, “thoroughbred” has also become a compliment. If someone comments on your thoroughbred dog, cat or guinea pig, chances are that person is just trying to give your pet a compliment.
Red-tailed Black Shark
A common community member of freshwater tropical fish tanks, the red-tailed black shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) is not a member of the shark family. It’s a member of the carp family, which means it’s more closely related to goldfish than to great whites. Red-tailed black sharks can grow up to six inches long, so they need to be in tanks at least 40 gallons large.
These sleek natives of Thailand may have been christened sharks because of their fierce territoriality. They will also attack most other tropical carp species. They will attack and eat each other, so it’s best to have only one per aquarium. They were discovered by American ichthyologist and fish-lover Hugh M. Smith in 1931.