There’s nothing quite like experiencing the hove-pounding action of a live, in-person piglet race, complete with brightly colored jerseys and cheering fans.
Orange County Fair attendees can now catch the small but mighty four-legged competitors in action with the event’s July 16 opening.
One of the more popular attractions at fairs across the country, the Orange County Fair pig races feature the “athletes” of the All-Alaskan pig races, a portly team of trotters who compete in the 100-dash and 50-yard high hurdles as fans of all ages cheers on their favorites.
Vying for name notoriety not unlike that of horseracing greatness, All-Alaskan’s team is made up of cleverly named competitors that garner fan popularity, not to mention belly-laugh level fun.
It’s hard to keep a straight face as crowds cheer on favorites like Sourdough Jack, Sr. Squeals-a-Lot, Dale Earnhog, Jr., or Lyndsay Loham. It is nearly impossible to cheer for a favorite without wearing a huge smile.
The All-Alaskan Racing Pig teams are unique because they feature rare, heritage breeds each year. This year, Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs, which at one time dwindled to as low as 22 pigs in the U.S., are the featured breed.
As late as the 1990s, there were fewer than 200 breeding animals, so All-Alaskan has worked with The Livestock Conservancy and U.S. breeders around the country to rebuild its numbers. The breed moved from the critically endangered list to the threatened list in 2015.
Pig races aren’t just a barrel full of laughs; fairgoers will have a chance to watch the robust heritage breed that represents the type of farm animals that existed centuries ago.
With eight athletes on the All-Alaskan Racing Pig team, each show consists of three qualifying rounds of four pigs that take their best shot at the 100-foot race track (complete with hurdles) lined with wood shavings.
The show crescendo is the championship run which pits the four fastest racers from each previous race against each other for a grand finale hoof-off.
And just like humans, sometimes one of the pigs will have an off day and decide to just leisurely meander toward the finish, or simply turn around and go back to the starting line, which only adds to the hilarity.
When they’re not on the racetrack, the celebrity snouts take their breaks in a luxurious, air conditioned “Piggy Penthouse”, with a two-legged pit crew who tend to their every bovine need.
The fair runs through Aug. 15, Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets must be purchased in advance on ocfair.com; pig races are included with each ticket.