The squeal deal: Beauty of swine show in eye of beholder

Elizabeth Green, 13, shows her pig Tuesday at the Curry County Fair. Green finished 10th in class 15 of Yorkshires. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Upturned snouts and thin, spindly tails. Translucent pink hides. Hair that is course and sparse.

Generally, swine are not considered creatures of beauty.
Step into the arena or pig barn at the Curry County Fair and conventional beauty turns topsy-turvy.

“You may not think a pig could be pretty, but I do,” said Mike O’Connor, an Eastern New Mexico University agriculture instructor who judged pigs Tuesday at the fair.

Forty-one pigs, all bred in Curry County, pranced around on the mahogany dirt of the arena as O’Connor ranked their attributes.
In all, more than 200 pigs will be shown this week at the fair, according to fair officials. They are owned by members of the local 4-H Club, who range in age from 9 to 19, fair officials said.

“That’s a very eye-appealing individual,” said O’Connor, as a speckled pig trotted inside the arena. His pint-sized owner tapped him on the neck and front legs with a stick to guide him around the ring.

Heavy bones, long bodies and long, thin necks are coveted virtues in the swine world, O’Connor said. But muscle is the most important thing a pig must possess, according to O’Connor. “That’s what goes on the plate,” he said.

Just a few feet away from the judging ring, Bo and Daisy lounge in a cedar filled pen. Daisy, 260 pounds, is a Duroc, a darker breed of swine, almost reddish in color. Bo is a Yorkshire who weighs in at 256 pounds. The pigs, less than a year old, are owned by 13-year-old Elizabeth Green of Melrose.

“(Pigs) can be very stubborn … if they are hungry,” said Elizabeth, in her third year of showing pigs at the fair.

She hand fed Bo and Daisy and kept them lean by walking them around the yard. She also kept Bo slathered in sunscreen. His fair skin, a whitish hue, is easily burnt in the sun, she said.

“I get very attached,” said Elizabeth, who cried the first year she sold a pig, for $1,400, at the fair. She used the money to buy a horse and a horse trailer, she said.

“I just have to keep thinking, this is business,” she said inside the pig barn at the fair. “This isn’t pets.”

Swine owners, however, become adept at deciphering pig behavior.
Kolten, 13, Kyler, 11, and Kaylee Miller, 5, loitered in the pigpens, calm amid high-pitched grunts and squeals. The siblings, of Broadview, showed three pigs, Hatty, Patty and Fatty, Tuesday at the fair.

The animals make a ruckus to communicate, Kolten said.
Pigs snort, he said, “when they are hungry, thirsty, mad or want to run around.”

The children’s father, James, hung back as his sons corralled one of the pigs into a pen.

“This teaches them how to work hard,” said Miller, the son of a dairyman.

“You don’t always win (when showing),” he said. “But it’s about working hard.”