Raising a for Hog Showmanship

Boy getting ready for show his Hog

First I am going to share with you what pigs are called, what they eat and how to basically take care of them. This page will help you to better understand the act of raising Hogs for the fair. This link will also allow you to hear what a young pig sounds like. Just click on the pig icon to find out many interesting facts about raising pigs.

Why raising a pig is fun

Raising a pig is fun because you get to interact with a somewhat large but usually gentle animal. If you have the opportunity to raise a pig, it will definitely get you in shape, as you are supposed to walk your animal every day (to get it used to walking before the judge). You also have to clean out the pen on a regular basis. The next time you get on the floor to do your stomach crunches, think about taking a cute little porker on a walk instead! Also, if you are part of a 4-H project, you will get the chance to meet a lot of new and interesting people. We have met many wonderful friends through the project, and have taken some interesting field trips to learn more about pigs. Going to the fair is also fun--not only do you get to meet lots of other kids who have raised pigs, we have enjoyed the opportunity to share information about pigs with the many people who walk through the barns. Finally, as you may know, famous health spas offer hundred-dollar mud baths to clean and refresh your skin. But if you get a pig, you will be able to get a free, all natural mud bath any day of the week! This is not a project for people who like to be clean--but it you can handle a little mud, if you have the free time, and if you enjoy animals, this might just be the project for you!

A health of your pig

It is important to maintain the health of your pig. The first 2 or 3 weeks are critical, so you should check your pigs several times each day during this period. Strong appetites, body temperatures of 102.5 F, sleek haircoats, and tightly curled tails are all signs of a healthy pig. Healthy pigs are active and alert with bright looks in their eyes. A pig will give you many clues when it isn't feeling well. some of the clues are poor appetite, guantness, rough hair coat, a dull look in the eyes, excessive coughing, diarrhea, inactivity and lameness. If you think a pig is sick, take its rectal temperature. If it is 2 degrees or more above normal, call a veterinarian immediately. A common problem with pig is stress. Hauling, vaccinating, introducing it to strange surroundings and strange pigs can scare or stress a pig. When a pig is stressed, it will be more susceptible to sickness. It may eat less feed and grow slower. It is important to minimize stress, especially when you first get your pig home. Some common diseases are pneumonia, pseudo rabies (mad itch), and swine dysentery. Swine can also have external parasites, such as lice and mange mites, and internal parasites which live inside the pig's body. If your pig looks or acts sick, call a veterinarian immediately. There are many medications that are very effective in treating swine ailments, but you have to start early in the illness.

How to choose a good market Hog

What makes a good pig? When evaluating pigs, two major areas must be considered: body composition and structural soundness. Body composition refers to the degree of muscling and the "finish". When viewed from the behind, the muscles of the ham region should be long and thick, with the thickest point through the stifle (interior leg). There should be a good deal of spread or width between the hind legs, indicating ham muscling. Finish refers to the amount of fat over the muscles of a mature (125 - 250 lb.) pig. When evaluating structural soundness, the judge will look at the pigs' feet and legs, body cavity and topline. The body cavity should be relatively deep, long and wide, giving the pig plenty of body capacity.

Now I have a web page that shares some good ideas on how to select a pig out of a group and what to look for.

Click on the Star to find the tips on choosing a good hog.

Use the back arrow to return to this page.

Click on the black pig below to get a look at what a good market hog should look like.

Use the back arrow to return to this page.

Cost of raising a pig

Assuming you have a place for your pig to stay, the remaining costs associated with the project are fairly reasonable. The largest expense may be in buying the piglet. In our area, an eight week old pig, weighing around 40 - 50 pounds, is $80. Feed typically runs about $8 - $10 per 50 pound bag, and one bag will usually last two growing pigs about a week. You will also want to buy some straw or wood chips for your pig to sleep on. An estimate for growing a market pig (approximately 12 weeks) is $200.

Housing, equipment, and supplies

You will need to consider three things when designing housing for your pigs. First, pigs need a clean, dry, draft-free area under a roof to sleep. Second, pigs have specific space requirements that vary according to their weight. If pigs are crowded, they will be stressed, resulting in decreased growth rates. Finally, pigs--like people--have an ideal temperature at which they are most comfortable. This is called the thermoneutral zone. The ideal temperature for a growing pig is around 70 F; the ideal temperature for a finishing swine is slightly cooler, about 60 F. If the temperature falls below this ideal zone some types of bedding, such as wood shavings, should be used to keep the sleeping area warm. When the temperature rises well above 70 F, misters of water will help to cool your pigs. Essential equipment includes:

small, covered sleeping area

a hog feeder

water barrel

Equipment you will need for showing:

garden hose (to wash off pig)

rubber boots

scrub brush

small brush that fits in the pocket of your pants

mild soap, such as Orvus



rags (to wash out ears and wipe off feet)

water bucket and feed pan


In addition to raising your pig for market, you may also want to show your pig at the fair. Usually you begin training your pig several weeks before the show. You must train your pig to move easily at a walk. Working with your pig ahead of time will help you and the pig to know what to expect when the actual judging takes place. Before the show you will want to groom your pig. Grooming consists of washing your pig and clipping the hair from the tail and ears (especially the inside of the ears). You would also make sure that the feet are clean, and that there is no sawdust on its back or legs.

Here are some tips for the show ring:

enter the show ring promptly when your class is called

know where the judge is at all times

when moving your pig, have a cane in one hand; guide your pig with the curved end of the cane

keep a small brush in your pocket to use to remove any sawdust or dirt than may get on your pig

drive your pig gently behind the front flank or on the side to move it forward

never hit the pig on the back, rump, or snout

keep the pig between you and the judge; the pig should be kept 10 to 15 feet away from the judge

when showing your pig, stay out of large groups--try to keeping your pig walking and in open spaces where the judge can see it smile!

Before the Show

This is what pigs do at home!!!

You must thoroughly wash your animal and be sure that it is clean. All soiled, dirty areas must be cleaned. You need to take special care not to get water in the ears of the animal as it may affect its equilibrium. Prior to returning your pig to its pen, check for and remove any soiled bedding from the pen. If you need additional bedding to replace what you remove, add it before you return your clean hog to the pen. This will help to keep additional dust, chaff, or small wood chips off your clean animal. Just before entering the ring, you should sprinkle a little water on your hog with the sprinkle can. Then brush your hog's hair the way it naturally lays. This means that the hair on the hog's top should NOT be pulled straight back. This will make the top appear flat and a flat top is a fat top. You should brush the hair with the natural part down the spine. This is the way the hog's hair naturally lays and it gives the appearance of a meatier top. You must not use oils and powders on your hog. These items will make your animal hot and packers will not accept hogs with oils and powders on them. Lastly, you should NOT clip the underline, jowl, or ears. Clipping is not needed and does not help the appearance of your hog. Judges want to see your animals in their "working clothes" and not clipped.

Show Ring

A superior job done in showing your hog starts long before the class is called. Practice driving and training your animal at home. The extra practice will help you control the hog and polish your showing skills. You may want to pretend that a tree is the judge. Work on maneuvering your pig around the tree as you would a judge in the show ring. As you gain more control of the animal, a figure eight pattern works well as practice for any situation that you might encounter. You should be prompt and on time for your class. This shows that you are organized, ready to work, and are courteous to the other exhibitors. When you enter the ring, the hog will probably take off running and kick up its heels. Calmly walk over to your pig and take control by driving it 10 to 15 feet area from the judge. Your cane should be used with the crook part down to tap the hog. Your animal should be tapped from the fore rib forward (shoulder and jowl area). Never beat your hog and never hit the animal on the top, loin, or ham area. Always drive your hog tapping the front one-third of the body. If you want your hog to move to the right, then tap the left side of the hog. If your hog needs to move to the left, then tap the right side of the hog. If your animal is to go straight, a light tap on the top of the neck or shoulder blade should do the trick. Just because you have a cane or whip in your hand does not mean that you have to constantly tap your animal. When your pig is moving fine, let it walk. You should only use the driving tool when it is needed and to keep the hog moving from one point to another in front of the judge. This should be done to show the best attributes of your pig. You should always keep the hog between you and the judge. This provides the judge with a full view of your hog. When you move or change directions, switch the driving tool to the other hand to help keep you in position. Do not use your hands or knees to drive your hog. The only acceptable time to use your hands or knees on the hog is during the penning of the animals. When walking with your hog, calmly move with the animal staying on the side opposite the judge. A slight bend at the waist may help you to keep control of your animal. Be relaxed. If you are calm your hog will be calm and respond appropriately to your commands. You should be courteous at all times and aware of the "danger zones" to be avoided. One danger zone is groups of other hogs. If your hog gets in a bunch, then let it work its way out, but do NOT block the view of another hog or exhibitor. In a group of hogs, your pig may engage in a fight with another exhibitor's animal. You should not jump between the fighting hogs because you might get hurt. However, you may use the cane to assist in reconciling the situation. You can simply snare or hook your hog's nose and pull it away from the other hog. This will help separate the hogs so that a ringman can get a board between the fighting animals. Another "danger zone" includes the corners of the show ring. If your hog gets in a corner, do NOT beat the hog to move it out. You should simply place your brush on the hog's snout. The hog will not like the bristles in its nostrils and it will move from the corner easily. When you are selected to be penned, work your hog toward the pen area and get it into the designated pen. You should close the gate and fasten it shut. After the judge acknowledges you to pen your hog, do NOT just stop showing and raise your hand to wait for the ringman. Move your own hog to the pen as discussed above so that the show will continue to run both smoothly and quickly.

While in the pen your market hog should be positioned with its ham toward the show ring. By having the ham facing the show ring, you provide the judge with a view to easily evaluate the muscle and leanness of your hog. You should have someone bring the sprinkler can to you and sprinkle the hog. Then brush your hog again and allow it to relax, but do not let it lie down. If the judge sprinkles shavings or some other material on your hog, brush it off as inconspicuously as possible. This shows that you are aware of what is going on and take pride in exhibiting the animal so that it looks its best at all times. When you leave the pen and re-enter the show ring, close and latch the gate behind you. This is show ring courtesy and prevents other hogs from entering the pen and taking time away from the judge's view. Your eye contact with the judge is very important. By making eye contact, a judge will almost automatically look at your market hog. Your good eye contact also insures that you will not miss a cue to be penned or to follow some other request by the judge. You should be ready to answer questions about your project. The judge may ask you any number of questions about the swine industry to get an idea of what you may have learned from your 4-H swine project. The questions may be easy like the weight, gender, breed, age, or parts of the animal. Questions may also be about carcass composition, swine management practices, feeding and nutrition, or marketing systems. You should learn all that you can and be prepared for any type of question. When the class is over or you are dismissed, continue to show your hog while leaving the ring. You should listen to the judge's comments and learn from the experience.

After the Show

You should return your hog to its pen. Be sure that the gate is locked and that fresh water is provided. Then go back to the show so you can learn more from observing the other showpersons. Lastly, you should be a gracious participant. Congratulate those exhibitors that had a good day. Learn from your experience and strive to do better at the next show. Remember, just by participating, working hard, and doing your very best, you are a winner!!


For more information.

Most of the material above this point has come from Your 4-H Market Hog Project, Iowa State University, University Extension, January, 1992.


CS255 Computers in El Ed Home Page

Ellerbruch Web Site

Link to Northern Michigan University

Latest update to this document: 18 February 2002

J Lapp: jlapp@nmu.edu.