THE third annual pig racing championships in Bishopstone went off without a hitch as the Royal Oak was bathed in sunlight yesterday.
The likes of Sir Bradley Piggins, Sergeant Pepper and Globetrotter all competed to become champion in a series of three heats culminating in an ambitious obstacle course in front of the pub.
Families came from all over the country to place a few friendly bets in aid of charity for the event, which launched on the Queen’s Jubliee in 2012.
Tim Finney, manager of the Royal Oak, said: “We started doing this in the Queen’s Jubilee year in 2012, so this is the third year running. We just thought we would do our own thing to celebrate it, but something a bit out of the ordinary. The village did its own thing, so we decided to set up some pig racing.
“At first we didn’t tell anyone about it because we didn’t know how it was going to go, but about 300 people turned up out of nowhere.
“Any surplus money we get always goes to charity. This year it will be going to the Swindon and North Wilts Deaf Children Association, because the village has close links with it through some of the families who live here. The rest will go to the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, because of the tie in with racing.”
The piglets are picked early for their racing prowess and go through an intensive training schedule.
“The 10 pigs have been through a three-week training regime, including feeding from a bucket which they will be chasing and generally getting used to humans,” said Tim.
“The third race will include a small hurdle, so they have been preparing for that challenge as well. It certainly isn’t dangerous, but it can be disappointing. Pigs aren’t born racers and they tend to go all over the place. They are bred for bacon sandwiches and ham, not this.
“They are supremely intelligent creatures but also very curious, so when they get to the red finish line they all tend to stop. Then one will just walk over the line “It is just an excuse for a lovely day out for the village. People have come from all over as well, and I have spoken to people from Guildford, Gloucester and Birmingham who have come specially.”
Mick Wheeler, 44, of The Wyncies, said: “It’s a great little day out. The pub is never this busy on a Sunday, and it’s something a little bit different to do. It is great fun, and the pigs will be up for auction afterwards.”
Ron Armstrong, from Shrivenham, is originally from South Africa. He said: “This is the first time here, and I’ve come along to take in a bit of British culture.”
David Henderson, 42, who runs the pig farm in Bishopstone, said: “It’s a great laugh and brings something a bit different. They are not born for this but its totally harmless. We pick them out in a straw barn for racing as soon as they are born so we can get them training nice and early.”