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Racing Swifty’s Swine with Kevin Bacon, Brad Pig, and Kim Kardashing-ham

“Anything you can train a dog to do, you can train a pig to do in half the time.”

Off to the races! Piglets race for an Oreo cookie.
Off to the races! Piglets race for an Oreo cookie.

When friends ask Zach Johnson’s daughters what their daddy does, it can be hard. How do you tell someone your daddy races pigs?

But he must be doing something right. He has four teams of racing pigs fanned out across the country.

“Swifty’s Swine Racing,” says the sign on the snazzy red trailer where his pigs hang out during the season. Last Sunday, he finished his 24th, here at this always-packed little outside arena at the Del Mar Fair.

Pig racing at County Fair, Del Mar.

It all began in his native Texas. “My wife and I had just gotten engaged. She had a corporate job, and I had a job doing tractor pulls at fairs for kids. And I saw them racing pigs there, and I thought, ‘Let’s try a pig race.’ So I tried it, and I’ve been racing pigs ever since. I emphasize the comedy. Like naming the pigs Kevin Bacon, Brad Pig, and Kim Kardashing-ham.”

The pigs themselves have a limited season. “We start training right when they’re weaned, about four weeks old. They’re super-smart. It takes a week to train them. So at five weeks, they are ready to hit the road. We race them for two or three months, and already they’re bigger, so we donate them to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4H kids, go buy new piglets, and start all over again.”

Cute? You have to see these intense little porkies race around the straw-covered circuit. Think Babe (the movie, right?) but smaller, faster, cuter.

Zach’s family member selling pig noses for enthusiasts, while awaiting actual pig races.

The question is: do they actually recognize him? Love him? “Oh yes. They all know I’m daddy. When I walk in the trailer, versus anybody else, they’ll jump up on the pen, because they know me. If they look me in the eye, give me those big pouty pig eyes, I’ll probably give them an Oreo cookie or an apple.”

Are some breeds faster than others? “Oh sure. You’ve got really athletic breeds. That’s why we don’t put Hampshires up against pot bellies, because the Hampshires would blow the doors off the pot belly pigs.”

But do pigs actually enjoy racing? Or is this the dark side of anthropomorphism? “Oh yeah. When they hear that music for ‘Showtime!’ they start squealing in there, because they’re ready to come out, show off their speed, and get an Oreo cookie if they do well.”

The final race is always the pot bellies.

“Pot bellies are our political pig race, where you have Nancy Piglosi and Donald Rump Roast and others. And we don’t mind if you boo or cheer. A howling boo is just as good as a loud cheer.”

Plus, they’re so doggone smart. “Pigs are the third smartest animal. It goes apes, dolphins, pigs. Anything you can train a dog to do, you can train a pig to do in half the time.”

During the halftime show, he’ll take Swifty and put her on the edge of the water tank. “And I’ll point at the other end, and she’ll look down there for that Oreo cookie, and only when she sees it will she jump into the water and swim across. Pigs are very good swimmers; in fact, they’re naturals. They have found pigs on islands out in the Pacific Ocean. They can swim forever.”

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Off to the races! Piglets race for an Oreo cookie.
Off to the races! Piglets race for an Oreo cookie.

When friends ask Zach Johnson’s daughters what their daddy does, it can be hard. How do you tell someone your daddy races pigs?

But he must be doing something right. He has four teams of racing pigs fanned out across the country.

“Swifty’s Swine Racing,” says the sign on the snazzy red trailer where his pigs hang out during the season. Last Sunday, he finished his 24th, here at this always-packed little outside arena at the Del Mar Fair.

Pig racing at County Fair, Del Mar.

It all began in his native Texas. “My wife and I had just gotten engaged. She had a corporate job, and I had a job doing tractor pulls at fairs for kids. And I saw them racing pigs there, and I thought, ‘Let’s try a pig race.’ So I tried it, and I’ve been racing pigs ever since. I emphasize the comedy. Like naming the pigs Kevin Bacon, Brad Pig, and Kim Kardashing-ham.”

The pigs themselves have a limited season. “We start training right when they’re weaned, about four weeks old. They’re super-smart. It takes a week to train them. So at five weeks, they are ready to hit the road. We race them for two or three months, and already they’re bigger, so we donate them to the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and 4H kids, go buy new piglets, and start all over again.”

Cute? You have to see these intense little porkies race around the straw-covered circuit. Think Babe (the movie, right?) but smaller, faster, cuter.

Zach’s family member selling pig noses for enthusiasts, while awaiting actual pig races.

The question is: do they actually recognize him? Love him? “Oh yes. They all know I’m daddy. When I walk in the trailer, versus anybody else, they’ll jump up on the pen, because they know me. If they look me in the eye, give me those big pouty pig eyes, I’ll probably give them an Oreo cookie or an apple.”

Are some breeds faster than others? “Oh sure. You’ve got really athletic breeds. That’s why we don’t put Hampshires up against pot bellies, because the Hampshires would blow the doors off the pot belly pigs.”

But do pigs actually enjoy racing? Or is this the dark side of anthropomorphism? “Oh yeah. When they hear that music for ‘Showtime!’ they start squealing in there, because they’re ready to come out, show off their speed, and get an Oreo cookie if they do well.”

The final race is always the pot bellies.

“Pot bellies are our political pig race, where you have Nancy Piglosi and Donald Rump Roast and others. And we don’t mind if you boo or cheer. A howling boo is just as good as a loud cheer.”

Plus, they’re so doggone smart. “Pigs are the third smartest animal. It goes apes, dolphins, pigs. Anything you can train a dog to do, you can train a pig to do in half the time.”

During the halftime show, he’ll take Swifty and put her on the edge of the water tank. “And I’ll point at the other end, and she’ll look down there for that Oreo cookie, and only when she sees it will she jump into the water and swim across. Pigs are very good swimmers; in fact, they’re naturals. They have found pigs on islands out in the Pacific Ocean. They can swim forever.”

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