Swift of hoof, Cook's Racing Pigs fun to watch for fair-goers

March 03, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — Anyone who thinks pigs are slow, lethargic mounds of flab should check out Cook's Racing Pigs at this year's California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta.

Nestled between the Hulsienda building to the south and the camel rides to the north, four pigs tear around a half-oval race track on the north lawn about 10 times a day.

Having seen the racing pigs advertised on a flyer, Tina Jackson of El Centro decided she had to see the race.

"They're cute little baby pigs," Jackson said. "If anything, it'll be interesting."

As though swift-hoofed pork alone isn't attraction enough, the audience can get into the spirit of the race by picking up a free betting ticket, color-coded to match the four competing pigs.


In the first race Saturday, the small, pink pigs flew out of their boxes and tore around the track. Clutching a green ticket, this reporter happily watched the green-clad pig easily complete the course ahead of its competition.

The second race did not go as well, however, as the green-wearing pig caught a whiff of something on the track just after the course's one and only turn. The pig wearing yellow won that race and the pig decked in green had to be herded across the finish by Charlie Cook, owner and operator of the touring show.

"They race because they're well-trained, not because they're hungry," Cook told the crowd.

Waiting at the finish is a mixture of soft-serve ice cream and an Oreo cookie to reward the pigs for their work.

Cook, who has been racing pigs since 1986, said it takes three days for the pigs to learn how to race.

The racing career of pigs, though glamorous and exciting, is short-lived. Racers must be between 50 and 75 pounds to fit into the starting boxes. Since pigs gain about a pound a day, their racing days don't last longer than a month and a half, Cook said.

For Cook, the pig-racing circuit is the ideal job. Having been a hog farmer most of his life, Cook enjoys the self-employment and travel the racing pigs provide him.

Cook's Racing Pigs, hired as entertainment, have performed throughout California and Arizona. They've traveled as far away as Washington state and Louisiana.

"They're cute, funny little animals. It's something you can't see every day," Cook said.

The spectators seemed to agree.

Bill Browning of Imperial has seen pig races before but continues to make them part of his fair experience.

"They're fun to watch, even if you see them every year," Browning said.

Staff writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles