Supposedly fresh out of rehab, Hog Ford was a crowd pleaser.
Not to be too cruel, but the fleet-footed porker did bear a passing resemblance to Toronto’s colourful mayor Rob Ford as was pointed out good naturedly by Celebrity Racing Pigs master of ceremonies Boss Hog, a.k.a Ken Lasalle.
Hog Ford and Hogzilla were just a couple of the celebrity pigs to trot smartly out of the starting gates in the four-way races that drew laughter from the crowds on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon at Westerner Park Fair and Exposition.
Lasalle says the pigs raised on his Oshawa, Ont., farm love to race.
“They know what they’re doing. When (the crowd) see them going it’s like watching Jeff Gordon in a car race,” he says, referring to the NASCAR racing star.
“As the summer gets on, they really get ’er done.”
It wasn’t all about the pigs though. Goats and ducks also got a chance to show off their competitive chops.
Lacey Bullee, 10, was a big fan of the goats “because they’re cute.
“I liked all of the races,” said the Red Deer youngster.
Other youngsters too shyly gave the show their votes of confidence, one marvelling that she got to feed one of the goats milk.
Lasalle has been crisscrossing Canada with his wife, Jen, a.k.a. Mother Hen Jen, and their menagerie of animals for 40 years as part of a travelling petting zoo. They added the pig racing about a dozen years ago.
After Red Deer, it’s off to the Big Valley Jamboree, then Saskatoon and North Battleford before heading back to Ontario for more pig racing shows.
Lasalle, whose brother is also here with a petting zoo, clearly loves his life on the road with his oinking retinue.
His half-hour show is filled with pig-related jokes that drew groans and laughs in equal amounts. The crowd was encouraged to get in on the fun by backing one of the pigs based on its coloured collar.
His travelling season begins in May and runs until the snow flies.
In the off season he’s busy at his family farm training animals for the movies through Ken Jen Animal Stars.
“I’ve done so many pig movies. In Ontario, I’m one of the animal fixers for movies,” he says. He recently worked on a movie coming out this Christmas, in which he had to train pigs to drive a car.
He also trained a yak for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, starring Brendan Fraser, among many other jobs.
Animals have been in his blood since he was young. He grew up on his parents’ The Little Buckaroo Ranch, in Oshawa. He was a saddle bronc rider in the 1960s, and made more than a few trips out West.
Beginning in the 1970s, he and his wife travelled with their KenJen Petting Zoo and then came the pig racing.
The couple’s daughter inherited the family’s love of animals and is now working with the penguins at the Calgary Zoo.
Celebrity Pig Races run at the Midway at 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
Thursday at the Westerner:
Diamond Rio takes the ATB Financial Main Stage. Doors Open at 7:30pm and the show begins at 8:30pm