Showing pigs at The Royal Bath & West Show

5 Jun 5 Comments

As a lifetime ‘Towny’ I have to confess that I had never been to an agricultural show in all my life so I jumped at the opportunity to pop over to The Royal Bath & West Show.

It was a fascinating day with every aspect of country life catered for so I have to edit hard on what I can write about here. Now I could go on about the 500 different types of Tweed on sale or the variety of vintage tractors and the like. However, I have decided to dedicate this entire post to the fine art of Showing Pigs.

The pig display areas were situated in a vast shed situated behind the hog roast and hot dog stands near the entrance so in we went to spy the proceedings.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of smell. I supposed that 200 pigs in one big shed would reek enough to make your eyes bleed. I was wrong however as these were show pigs and each had been shampooed to near Disney sparkle. The second thing I noticed is that some pigs are far larger in real life than they look on packets of sausages. I couldn’t possibly imagine how you get to ‘show’ such bulk? This I needed to see.

How do you show a pig?

Prior to entering the ring each porker is given one last tidy. This could be brushing their heads with baby oil to give it a bit of a shine or at the other end receiving a vigorous session of final arse-wiping from its dutiful owner often with an assistant keenly looking on observing the vagaries of piggy bum polishing.

Once all the beasts are set and looking their best they are taken to the show ring. I say ‘taken’ though really I mean coaxed. As pigs are rather wilful creatures, putting them on a lead would just aggravate them and you don’t want to aggravate something the size of a large fridge freezer. So you have to gently encourage them to the ring.

Getting to the ring and indeed around the ring is done with the aid of a walking stick, a large white board and as I discovered a monumental amount of practice.

The board is placed on one site of the pig’s head to block the view and the stick is placed on the other side. So as the pig has only one constant forward gear a deft combination of blocking and taps means you can steer your pig about the ring for the judges to take a good look at their porky qualities.

Once in the ring this works fine although there can be up to ten handlers in the ring at any one time which would not be a problem had they each not brought an over pampered pig with them. In every class there is always a naughty child and it doesn’t take long before one swine gets one tap too many,  makes a spirited bid for freedom and runs for it.

This single act of defiance wrecks the delicate balance of all and a riot breaks out.  It’s Biblical chaos, some pigs get into fights with others, some run around grunting with glee, others just root in the sawdust and simply refuse to move. Of course the handlers are sent in all directions too blocking and tapping like mad to bring some semblance of order to their charges which I believed would never happen, this show was going to be a write off.

In truth I could not have been more wrong; the handlers gained control astonishingly quickly and even the most wayward perpetrators were promptly back in line and snouting happily along as before. It appeared too that the larger pigs were easier to handle as their cumbersome mass made them slow movers. The smaller breeds however we nippy and agile so it took a bit more work to quell their wayward ways.

In conclusion showing a pig is certainly a far more skilled and dedicated a job than I first thought. Yes, it is far easier showing paintings than pigs.

Showing cows

Showing Cows is easier than showing pigs too.

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