Ready, set, oink! County fair pig races a captivating spectacle

The crowd goes wild during the pig races at the LA County Fair. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

by Peter Weinberger |

There’s no question Glen Gregston and his racing porkers are living high on the hog. Imagine traveling the country coast-to-coast towing a big trailer filled with your highly trained farm animal team, the main attraction at more than 25 events a year.

Gregston resides in Winnsboro, Texas, and has managed and trained animals for more than 25 years. He loves working with racing pigs because both he and the animals enjoy it so much. Gregston has a great attitude and approach, and his playful sense of humor is a perfect fit as emcee for Barnyard Racing Pig Races at the Los Angeles County Fair, which is open through this coming Monday, May 27.

(L-R) Squeaky Nelson, Taylor Swine, Alan Jackswine, and Mary Ham vie for position after jumping out the gates during the pig races at the LA County Fair. Nelson was the winner by a snout. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

Gregston’s mobile farm includes eight young piglets, four ducks, four geese, two family dogs and some goats (it’s hard to tell how many.) This group entertains 200-400 people per performance, more than 1,000 pig racing fans a day. They all stay at the small pig race stadium at the fair, on the grass near the grandstands. Four days a week, five shows a day, these family focused shows have one goal: to have an oinkin’ good time. Judging from the look on so many kids’ faces, his crew is a smashing success.

One might think training pigs would be difficult, but in truth it’s a simple case of a time tested reward system. It takes around three days to complete the training. “Pigs have a sweet tooth,” Gregston said. “They are trained to know when those gates open, it’s time to get a treat.” The key to the treat is giving food they normally don’t eat. “Then the gates open and it’s time to go get your treat. For pigs it’s usually milk and cookies.”

And they’re off!

The LA County Fair’s barnyard races feature four younger piggy competitors, all weighing about 25 pounds. Each piggy lasts only one season because they grow so fast.

The goose race at the LA County Fair was tight from start to finish May 17, as all four competitors were running neck and neck before the red bandana adorned “Cinco” pulled ahead, the winner by a beak. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

Pig racing is most popular in the Southern U.S., Gregston said, and is common at many state and county fairs. Though some pig racing teams take it quite seriously, Gregston said his crew is here to entertain and make people laugh.

At race time the elite swine athletes are placed in their gates with different color bandanas. Once the gates are open, they bunch together then jockey for position, just like their equine counterparts! After the first turn, they start to separate. Less than a minute later it’s all over, a blinding flash of pink flesh with spectators cheering on their favorites.

The racers are then herded to a pen, where a nice helping of milk and cookies awaits. The next race, with four new competitors, is only minutes away. Each animal runs just one race per performance, which lasts less than an hour. Two hours later it all starts again.

Duck and goose races are also part of the fun. The shy geese waddle their way around the track, moving quickly, seemingly oblivious to the pandemonium unfolding around them. At the race I saw, gander “Dewey” looked at yours truly at the finish line, made a 180 degree turn, and headed back to the starting line. He was quickly rounded up.

Why does he do it?

“This is the most fun thing I’ve ever done,” Gregston said. “Doesn’t even seem like work and the shows actually get in your blood. It’s just so fun for the kids. Now I’m seeing kids grow up and then bring their kids!”

The Porkfessor finishes a well-deserved treat of milk and cookies after holding off a crowded field to take first place during the second race at the LA County Fair. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

Pig racing trainer and emcee Glen Gregston gives spectators at the LA County Fair some insight into the upcoming race shortly before the starting gun. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger


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