Welcome to IdahoShowPigs.com brought to you by HardBall Farms, Idaho's premier breeder of everything pork. Idaho Show Pigs is our fair and Jackpot show breeding program. Below you will find helpful information on selecting that winning drive hog for your show, take a look around the site and let us know if there is anything we can help you with!

The first step in selecting your show pig is to find one that has all of the qualities you consider important in a show pig. There are many traits to look for in selecting a show pig. The major traits include:

These six characteristics are important, and a good show pig will combine all six.

Soundness is very important for a pig to grow, develop and move correctly. The pig’s soundness will determine, to some extent, the amount of voluntary exercise that will affect muscle and fat development. Fair pigs that are not sound will not place as high as sound pigs in the show ring. When selecting for soundness, check to see if the front legs are straight when viewed from the front. The toes should point straight forward and each toe should be the same size. When viewed from the side, check the knees to be sure they aren’t protruding forward (buck-kneed), that the pasterns have some slope and the toes are in front of the legs. Be sure to avoid long, weak pasterns. The rear legs of the show pig should be straight when viewed from the rear of the pig. Avoid selecting show pigs that are wider at their hocks than at their toes. Pigs that are “bowed out” at their hocks will have more problems as they get heavier. From the side view, the rear legs should have a slight angle at the hock. Pigs completely straight in their hocks (post-legged) are at a very high risk of becoming lame. Show pigs with too much “set” or angle to their hocks (sickle-hocked) will have problems walking correctly. Watch the pig walk from the side, front and rear to see if the legs move in a straightforward direction and that it places its feet on the ground softly. Some have a tendency to throw their rear feet out as they walk and hit the ground hard. This is a sign of unsoundness that usually gets more severe with age and weight. Pigs should take long, smooth strides as they walk.

A level top is important for appearance and soundness. A level-topped pig will have a more correct slope to its shoulder and legs and have an advantage in ease of movement. A steep slope to the shoulder will cause the front legs to be too straight, and the pig usually cannot move its legs far enough to the front when walking to be long strided. This also is associated with pigs that are too straight on their pasterns, and it causes more problems at a heavier weight.

Another place to check for soundness on the pig is at the back of the shoulder where the shoulder joins the rib. Pigs that have a weak or “broken” top line back of their shoulder will usually have this problem at show time. This condition will be penalized in the show ring.

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Muscle is important because it is the major end product of a market pig; that’s the part we eat. Two important things to remember when evaluating muscle are the amount and type of muscle. A pig should have all of the muscle it can handle and move easily. The muscle should be long and smooth. Avoid pigs that have short, bunchy muscle. It can cause problems walking and make them short strided.

When evaluating a pig for muscle, start with a rear view. The most important indication of the total muscle in a pig is the width in the center part of the ham. The wider the better. A pig should be wider through the center and lower part of the ham than the top (rump) part. The muscling in the ham should be long and tie in to the hocks. Check to see how the inside and outside muscle is shaped and if it goes down the ham to the hock. The legs should be wide apart and straight. Watch the pig walk away from you, and be sure there is ample width between its rear legs, including ample width between its feet. Lightly muscled pigs will generally be narrow through the lower part of their hams. When they walk away from you, their feet will be close together, oftentimes almost striking each other as they walk. The rump should be long, wide and level with a high tail setting. These characteristics of a pig’s rump seldom change as the pig grows.

As you evaluate the loin of the pig, remember that it is the most expensive cut of the pig and it should have lots of muscle. A heavily muscled loin will be wide with a deep groove down the center and rounded on the edges (butterfly shape). The groove should be pronounced enough so that if a golf ball were placed in the middle of the loin, it would either roll to the pig’s head or tail and would not roll off the side. A lightly muscled pig will have the shape of an inverted “V” like the roof of a house. Move to the front of the pig to check the head for width between the eyes, width of shoulders and chest floor. Heavily muscled pigs will be wide in their shoulders and chest floor. As you move to the side view, check the length of rump and ham as well as levelness of the rump. Select a pig that is long and level in the rump with a high tail setting. You want a long ham that extends well into the side of the pig. Also check the pig’s width and length of loin.

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Free of excess fat on show day is critical. Excess fat on the finished product is not desirable; therefore, you want a pig with very little fat. You, as the feeder, can do more to control this selection criterion than any of the others, if you plan ahead. Naturally, you want to select a pig that has the genetic potential and appearance of staying lean, but feeding and management can also affect fat deposition.

The major places to look and check for fat when selecting your pig are jowl, elbow pockets, loin edges and shape and firmness between the rear legs. The jowl (lower part of neck) should be clean and tight. A long, clean, small neck is desirable. The elbow pocket (back of front leg on the shoulder) should be clean and not show any sign of fat rolling when the pig walks. The loin should have a deep groove, and the edges should be rounded and not square. Check between the rear legs of the pig, and check the firmness and fullness in the crotch. A fat-free pig will be very firm in the crotch area and have visible muscle separation in this area as the pig moves.

If all of the other selection criteria are excellent, but you see a little more indication of fat than is ideal, you can select a pig two to four weeks older than normal and feed the pig less and keep most of the excess fat from being deposited. For this to work, the pig must be heavily muscled.

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Width of body is important for many reasons. In addition to being an indicator of muscling, body width will give the pig additional room for the major organs to grow, develop and function properly. The pig must have enough internal room for the lungs, heart, liver and stomach to function fully for it to develop to its potential. Check the pig from the front to see how much width it has between its front legs where they come out of the body (chest floor). Check the spring or boldness of the rib cage to see if the center and lower parts of the rib cage are wide. These characteristics of internal body dimensions are usually good indicators of how the pig will grow.

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Frame size may be the easiest of your selection criteria to evaluate. Frame refers to the skeletal size of the pig. Select a pig that is long in its neck, tall with long legs and long body. Your pig should be long from its shoulder to its ham. You can add the appearance of larger frame size to a pig by selecting one that is two to four weeks older than normal. The pig must be extremely heavily muscled so you can feed it less and it will develop more frame size with age.

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General appearance, often referred to as “eye appeal,” is the way all of the parts blend together to make the pig look like the perfect show pig. Too much of one thing or not enough of another may cause the pig to appear unbalanced. The pig may have parts that do not attach to other parts properly, and that will take away from the attractiveness of the pig. After you have checked all of the other selection criteria, back away from the pig and get a side view. The depth of body should be moderate and the bottom line should be straight. Ask yourself if this is the way you want your pig to look when it weighs 250 pounds on show day. Most of the time, the blemishes you see now will still be there on show day, often magnified.

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