Daryl’s Pigs race to notoriety at County Fair
They fired out the gate with little grunts and snorts, kicking up sand as they made their way around the track. The audience cheered as the leading contender climbed up the finish ramp by more than a snout.
These were Daryl’s Racing Pigs. Their owner, Daryl Lies, brought them to the Lancaster County Super Fair from Douglas, N.D.
Lies said this year marks 22 straight years of bringing his oinking competitors to the fair. He said he began racing pigs for a Future Farmers of America project when he was 14 years old. He joked that when he was young, he wanted to open his own restaurant, but this was the best he could do — taking his fast food on the road.
Each pig is donned in a colored cloth designating which pig audience members would like to bet on. Noticing only a few people were betting on the pig cloaked in red, Lies saw another opportunity for a joke.
“Tell me this,” Lies told his audience at the fair. “We’re in Husker Land, and I got six people cheering for the red one. Oh, obviously people want to cheer for a winner.”
The humor was not lost on the crowd.
Lies said his pigs are comprised of Hampshires and Yorkshires, but most are crossbred between several breeds. He said those whose ears are upright are easier to train than those with floppy ears that cover their eyes.
Regardless, he said all can be trained to race and he’s only had one out of a thousand that couldn’t be trained. Training
consists of rewarding the pigs with cherry flavored Kool-Aid at the end of each race. The stimulus response from this training leaves the pigs squealing with anticipation at the sound of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” that plays before every race.
Outside of the Kool-Aid, Lies said his pigs get a high protein diet with vitamins and nutrients to keep them healthy while traveling. He said after the races every year, he takes the pigs back home where he continues to raise them and they eventually become bacon and sausage. He said he and his family rarely name the pigs.”But every once in a while, we’ll throw a name on one…like Kevin Bacon,” he said.
The 43-year-old Lies said he’s taken his racing pigs to fairs and festivals for 29 years. He said he used to partake in 12 to 14 events every year. Because of more responsibilities back home, he’s now more selective about which fairs he goes to, and now does only 6 to 8 each year.
He said his wife is now a registered nurse and no longer travels with him, and his oldest daughter cares for the livestock when he travels. That’s not to say he’s flying solo though. His youngest daughter, Amber, travels with him and helps host the small, hoofed athletes.
Lies said he plans to return to Lancaster County Fair next year.