Little Differences Set Apart Top Showmen

Showmanship is the exhibitor’s time to shine. Yes, you might have the best barrow or gilt you’ve ever had in the barn, but perhaps your pig isn’t this weekend’s judge’s “type.” Showmanship allows the exhibitor to showcase his or her skills in getting a pig presented to accentuate its best traits.

Doug Albright, Coldwater, Michigan, partner in Albright Swine Farms, grew up showing pigs, and has judged showmanship at several national shows including the most recent National Western Stock Show in Denver. He has also evaluated young showmen at the National Junior Summer Spectacular, Georgia National Fair and Oklahoma Youth Expo. He said endurance is important to winning a showmanship contest.

“Mental endurance is key for both the pig and the showman,” Albright said. “Catch a pen early in the drive so you both can rest, but be able to drive for 30-40 minutes in the championship drive. You must be mentally engaged at all times. It is the little differences that set the champion showman apart.”

Albright said there are competitive showmen at all age levels; however, he expects the seniors to move more effectively and make fewer errors. He does give the juniors a few more opportunities to get their pigs shown correctly.

Little differences that Albright looks for when naming a champion are the showmen who make good eye contact and those who drive their pigs away from the rest of the pack. It is important to see a showman find their own space to drive his or her pig when the rest of the class is clumped together.

Know your Animal

While it is important for the judge to interact with each exhibitor, Albright wants to know what the showman knows about the pig they are showing, not just general industry knowledge. He said when he asks questions, it is about the good and bad traits of that pig, and how the exhibitor can show the animal to make it look its best.

And as trends change, it is important to know how and when to use them. Albright said when he was showing, it was more popular to bend over the hogs, but now standing upright is more the norm. It is more typical to drive your pigs with their heads up, but don’t get them too high where they look unnatural, and don’t use your whip in showmanship to keep the head up like you might in a confirmation class. Another trend Albright has noticed is keeping the brush in your hand to help move your pig. He said that is fine for confirmation classes, but he prefers not to see that brush or free hand resting on or patting the pig’s back in showmanship.

Dress the Part

“Showmanship is a lot like life. You have one time to make a great first impression, so dress professionally,” Albright said.

With so many clothing options out there, Albright said he prefers to see young people dress like they are serious about showmanship with a tucked in, ironed collared shirt and boots. He suggests wearing clothes that won’t distract the judge, and to dress up one more step than what you would to hang out with your friends on a Friday night.

Although he noted that many younger people might want to wear the latest in fashion trends, he would prefer they wear those things in their animals’ classes, and dress more professionally for showmanship.

Showmanship is your time to shine, young person! Spend lots of time working with your hogs at home to build up both your endurance and your animal’s endurance. Practice driving away from the pack. Dress professionally. Set yourself apart from the crowd, and make the little differences that will make you a big winner in your next showmanship class.


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