Sunday, April 14, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Horns blare over the speakers and sooey is called. Brad Pigs, Kevin Bacon, Sowie Mandel and Justin Bieboar are in their chutes, snouts snorting. Ready to begin.
Hundreds of people -- some wearing pig snouts -- crowd into the bleachers surrounding the oval track at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Logandale.
Welcome to the world of Swifty Swine pig racing. Announcer Zach Johnson lays out the only rule: The winner gets dibs on the Oreo cookie at the finish line.
It’s a place where pigs fly -- around a wood-chip oval track, and families cheer. Brad Pig, Justin Bieboar and the others are fighting for the coveted “Oreo Cup.”
“Pigs like sweets,” Johnson said. “The fastest way to a pig's heart is through its belly.”
Johnson has been running Swifty Swine pig races for 16 years. Nine months a year, he’s on the road with his assistant, Hendrik Snepoel, and sometimes his family, putting on the race at stock shows and corporate outings across the country.
He hams it up at every race. At one point he invited four children to name the pigs and act as cheerleaders. When one of the pigs didn’t leave his chute, he joked that it pulled a “ham-string.”
He jokes that the career began in seventh grade after his guidance counselor told him pig races were the only things he’d be good at. (In reality, he came up with idea after he got bored with his corporate job selling tractors.)
He had seen pig races before, but they took place on tiny tracks. He decided he’d hold it on a bigger scale to draw more interest.
“My wife and I wanted to do something off the cuff," Johnson said. "So I thought, why not pig racing?”
Johnson races Duroc, Hampshire, pot belly and Yorkshire pigs. He trains them through repetition and reward, similar to training a dog. He says it takes about a week for a pig to learn there’s an Oreo at the finish line and to race for it.
Once they’re done racing, the pigs are donated to 4-H clubs for children interested in racing livestock, because “you don’t eat your children,” Snepoel said.
One pig leaps into a trough filled with water and swims to the other end.
“They’re so cute,” said 10-year-old Roman Berry. “My favorite part was when the little pig jumped in the water.”
This is Johnson’s world -- where Britney Spare-Ribs and Christina Hoguilera race for an Oreo. Johnson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been coming to these fairs for 15 years. They’re like a family reunion. You see the same people once a year,” Johnson said. “I’m living the American dream racing pigs.”
The races continue Sunday at the Clark County Fair. The first race is at 10:30 a.m.; the last chance to see if Justin Bieboar brings home the bacon is at 4 p.m. Go here for more information.