WEST BURLINGTON — Though their owners often weighed less than they did, the preening pigs at the Des Moines County Fair were exceptionally well behaved.

But even the most polite pig can act irrationally.

“If they get too scared, they might run. And that’s what happened to me,” said 12-year-old Bayla Thomson of Morning Sun.

Dozens of 4-H and and FFA students showed off their pigs during the 4-H Swine Show at the Des Moines County Fair Thursday, driving the pigs into the show ring with stick-shaped whips.

The idea was to tap the pig on the side of the neck, making the string-like ribbons on the whip's tip slap the underside of its neck. The stick also is used to turn and propel the pig forward, giving the judge a nice view of the swine's chest, side and hindquarters.

As per their reputation, pigs tend to get distracted by the merest hope of forage at their feet. When Thomson tried to get one of her pigs to raise its head from possible spoils buried in the ground, the pig decided it had enough.

“He got spooked and ran around the ring,” Thomson said.

It was Thomson’s first year showing swine, and despite the wild pig, she managed to place third, fourth and sixth in her respective swine categories. She used to show horses at the fair, but Wednesday night’s horse show was too hot. The heat index hovered around 105 degrees.

“I didn’t want to risk anything because I have an older horse,” she said.

Logan Rosas, 11, of Mediapolis couldn’t stop winning first place prizes with his three pigs, including the distinction of overall champion for market swine. His father, Daniel Rosas, couldn’t stop grinning about his son's winning.

"I’m very proud. I know he’s put a lot of work into it, morning and evening. Just a lot of hard work that paid off," Daniel said.

Logan has been taking care of his pigs for the past year, utilizing a wealth of resources in the form of local farmers and 4-H leaders. But it was up to Logan to put in the work.

"Just work every day. You have to walk them every day, feed them everyday, clean them everyday. Walk them at night and in the morning," Logan said.

Lyndi Vantiger, 16, of Mediapolis used to show sheep at the fair, but switched to pigs last year. 

“I get along with pigs a lot better. Sheep are not my thing. I like showing sheep, but pigs are a lot easier to take care of. Especially since I play a lot of sports,” she said. “Pigs, if you take care of them and everything, they’re like dogs. They’re very friendly.”

Vantiger ended up with the reserve champion commercial gilt, while Carolyne Nelson was named the overall champion in commercial gilt. Both Rosas and Nelson will be invited to the Southeast Iowa Final Drive at 6 p.m. Sunday at the fair, where the best livestock in all the surrounding counties will compete.

Reach William Smith with story tips or suggestions at wsmith@thehawkeye.com or (319) 758-8137.