It seemed like another day at the track. The “track stars” suited up, warmed up, hydrated and ate. Then four of them toed the start line in numbered jerseys, waiting for the starting gun. Then off they went around the 75-foot-long track, cheered by adoring fans.
Meet the adorable track stars – 30 to 35-pound racing pigs originally from Fairbanks, Alaska. Quick and muscular, they jumped hurdles, cut across their “competitors” and sprinted to the finish, much to the delight of the opening day crowd at the Ventura County Fair.
According to the web site (pigrace.com) the 16 to 18-week old piglets are Yorkshires and Hampshires mostly. Size is not considered an advantage in pig racing, but athleticism is. The smallest piglet can win a race. It’s all about strategy apparently, as these smart and quick-learning creatures block, pass and cut corners even, just like people. And they stop in the middle of the track if they’re tired or just done for the day.
For the final round, the ringmaster took a poll and asked sections of the audience which racer they’re betting on. One section of mostly school-age kids put their money on Strawberry, pink and pinch-worthy like her name. Another section used the power of the force and bet on Luke Skyporker. Then there’s Yukon Bob, an underdog (or underpig) who hasn’t won any of the previous rounds. A section of mostly teens erupted in cheers when orange jersey-clad Soapy Smith crossed the finish a few precious seconds before everyone else.
Treats were not limited to the winners. A buffet-style, secret recipe of high-protein food was waiting for the piggies after every lap, before they headed back to their custom trailer that they travel and live in as they tour the West Coast mostly during the spring, summer and early fall months. During the “off-season,” home is Eugene, Oregon, with the Noll family, who started this road show 28 years ago.