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How a large sow named Freda saved my bacon

2013 has seen a succession of events and celebrations to mark the centenary of the Gloucestershire Old Spots pig (the GOS society was formed in 1913 in Bristol), most recently at the Royal Three Counties Show in Malvern where a grand “celebrity pig handling” competition took centre stage on Saturday afternoon. You may be aware of the adage that you should never work with children or animals, what you may not be aware of is how chillingly accurate it is. The “Pig Agility” course is a daunting one the idea is that the pigs are guided around an obstacle course: up ramps; through a tunnel; over some steps (pigs hate stairs – sensible creatures) through slalom poles…
The plan was that I, Tom Parker Bowles and Adam Henson would race against the clock and we were each teamed with a Gloucester Old Spot sow – and that is where I got lucky. While the other contestants got young and flighty gilts I was introduced to Freda, a senior sow, large, imposing and imperturbable. Her owner Mrs Judith Sims is a big wheel in the world of Old Spots and Freda is a pig of great charm. First out of the blocks was Tom PB who whistled round the course, Freda and I followed him at a more leisurely pace and took roughly twice as long in addition to posting twice as many faults. Freda didn’t care for the ramp so we went round it. She wandered on through the “tunnel” with an air of disdain. Then two small jumps were knocked down and trampled underfoot. At the contraption with the stairs I asked Freda how she wanted to handle it, she put her nose under the hurdle before tossing it to one side and walking through the gap she had made. Neither she, nor I, thought much of the slalom and adopted a straight line policy. Job done. The third contender was Adam Henson from BBC's Country File and quite frankly he was a bit of a ringer, as a professional farmer with several rare breed pigs of his own you would guess that he may have handled pigs before. Let’s draw a veil over who went where on the winner’s podium, suffice to say that a Three Counties Show red, white and blue “Special” rosette now has pride of place in my office. And Freda? Profoundly unconcerned as she had done it all before. What a fabulous pig.

www.threecounties.co.uk
www.gospbc.co.uk/celebrating-the-centenary/

‎Charles Campion - Sunday 16th June 2013

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