George Orwell was right when he put pigs at the top of the social scale in his classic novel Animal Farm. Scientists have found pigs are smarter than dogs and can solve problems just as well chimpanzees. A recent survey at a US University showed pigs shared a number of cognitive capacities with elephants, dolphins, and even humans.
So 10 years ago, when Joe and Rebecca Fossett started going to shows like Ramsbury Country Fair to demonstrate pig-racing… what had started as a joke soon became popular public entertainment. The animals seemed to understand the competitive edge of the occasion as you will see when they perform at Ramsbury Country Fair on Bank Holiday Monday 29 May!
Mind you Joe Fossett is used to bigger challenges that wee piglets. He’s one of the foremost animal trainers in Europe being a scion of the world’s leading family of showmen. He was brought up in his father’s circus and has worked in them internationally training lions, tigers, other big cats, bears, elephants and horses.
These days he and his wife Rebecca own Joseph’s Amazing Camels who live with the family on a farm in Warwickshire on the edge of the Cotswolds. In the summer their eight camels tour country fairs, race and point-to-point meetings staging races for the crowds who find it spectacular entertainment. The camels are also used by TV and film companies as extras, Three Kings’ pageants, and Camel Trekking in the Cotswolds.
A lot of the training – both camels and pigs – is done by Joe and Rebecca’s 18-year-old daughter Daisy who is in her last term at school. Joe says: “I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of hours training Daisy and she’ll be better than me. She’ll take over this business and find new directions. Nowadays it’s all about camel and pig racing, camel trekking, TV and film work, pageants and spectacular parties on big occasions.”
Daisy says: “Pigs are incredibly intelligent. Kindness and patience are the keys along with reward and repetition. It’s similar to teaching children. You’ve got to be firm but you’ve got to love them and they’ve got to love and trust you …otherwise it doesn’t work. You have to understand how to read animals and communicate accordingly. They need to know what you want.
“We build a 50-metre race track for them in the field by our farm and get them used to the idea of racing. It’s important to have a bucket of food on the finishing line – but even humans need an incentive. Look at bankers and bonuses!”
The Fossetts buy Tamworths and Gloucester Old Spots plus one Berkshire at two to six months old three weeks before the event. They dress them for the races in coloured number cloths to distinguish them and their names are usually Red Ham, Desert Porchid, Francis Bacon, Franky Deporky, and Le Jambon. Daisy added: We’d like to keep them but it’s kinder to swap them for a new lot when they get too fat and lazy to run.”
To find out more about Joe and Rebecca’s pigs and camels please contact call 01608 661367 or send them a message