How to Train a Pig for Showmanship

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If you're working on a swine project for 4-H or FFA, the results of your hard work are judged in the show ring. Although the appearance and condition of your pig carries the most weight for the judge, you must learn to show your hog to best advantage. Start working with your pig a few weeks before the show so you both do your best.

Getting Started

Start training your pig for showmanship by taking him for a walk every day. Not only will the pig become accustomed to walking with you, but also you can teach him simple verbal commands, such as "stop," "turn" and "walk." While you're walking your pig, the exercise also help firms up his muscles, so he looks fit by the date of the show.

Driving Tool

You'll need a driving tool to guide your hog. While a genuine livestock cane is preferable, acceptable alternatives include:

  • a riding crop
  • plastic piping
  • or fiberglass piping.

A small brush serves two purposes. It's good for last minute touch-ups before you enter the ring, and you can gently direct the hog with it. Choose a brush small enough to unobtrusively fit in your rear pocket.

Warning

  • The driving tool is used for just that -- driving and guiding your pig to a specific place. It is never used to hit or otherwise punish the animal.

Learning to Drive

When teaching your pig to drive forward, start out by sending him somewhere he actually wants to go. Begin in a small pen and drive him toward a feed pan. He'll get the idea soon enough, and once he starts responding to your vocal commands, you can drive him without the obvious food reward. As his driving and your ability improve, move him to a larger pen. You can start working on driving him through simple figure 8 patterns.

Tip

  • Teach your pig to turn right by touching him on the left between his shoulder and jowl, and vice versa for a left turn. A light tap beneath his hind hocks moves him forward. Don't continue tapping him once he's moving.

Show Rehearsal

While nothing prepares your pig -- or you -- for the hustle and bustle of fair and show day, try to replicate the show ring atmosphere as much as possible while practicing. Once your pig is driving consistently, leave the radio on or have music playing when practicing.

Pick out an object -- a tree, a cone, a box -- and pretend it is the judge. Work your pig around the item as if you were being judged in your class. Drive your pig to within 10 feet of the "judge," as is done in the ring. Your hog always stays between you and the judge. No matter what, stay calm -- your pig could pick up on your nervousness and may become fearful.

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