Waving a checkered flag, 9-year-old Jillian LaPrise, cheered on squealing pig Brad Barbeque Pit as he raced past two other pigs crossing the finish line and placed second.
"I didn't expect the pigs to be so smart," said LaPrise, of Shelton, Ct., who was staying with her grandparents and cousins in Smithtown for the week. “And they’re so fast.”
A larger pig, Arnold Schwartzenburger, crossed the finish line first, also leaving behind pigs Kevin Bacon and Jerry Swinefield. And that was only the first heat of the Hot Dog Pig Races on Wednesday at the Long Island Game Farm Wildlife Park in Manorville.
LaPrise was among the nearly 50 people waving flags and cheering on eight pigs and four short-legged and long-bodied dachshunds in costumes as they raced around a 38-yard track and through small tunnels.
It was the first time the wildlife park had ventured into pig races, said Melinda Novak, vice president and zoo director of the park. She said the dogs and pigs, which were trained for such entertainment, were brought in from a farm in Jackson, N.J. to stay until Sunday.
"My favorite part was watching the animals become competitive,” said Novak, 52, of North Sea. “Their personalities really shined through and I don’t think people realize how intelligent pigs actually are.”
Novak added the races are for entertainment purposes only and the running around is a safe and “natural” behavior for the animals.
“Of course it’s pretend racing,” Novak said. “There’s no pressure for animals. It’s for entertainment purposes only and they only run around the circle and get a snack.”
In the third heat, four dachshunds — Frankie, Corn, Cheewiz and Pickle — were entered into the race to the surprise of the spectators.
Paul McLaughlin, of F & F Productions based in Jackson, N.J., who emceed the races, separated the crowds into groups cheering on specific pigs and dogs in each heat.
“If you thought your dog was smart, think again because pigs are ranked one of the most intelligent animals on the planet,” said McLaughlin, to the crowd. “But think again before having them as a pet because they’ll grow up to be 200 pounds.”
The 20-minute shows, including five races each, run daily through Sunday at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., with an extra time at 5 p.m. on the weekend. The races will return Aug. 19 and last until Aug. 25 with the same time slots.
Jumping up and down, Karson Jarvis, 5, and his 4-year-old sister Olivia cheered on Frankie, a plump dachshund who won his race wearing a hot dog costume that barely fit.
It was their first time visiting Long Island and their father, Oliver Jarvis, of Ashland, Ky., said he couldn’t let them miss it.
“We just happened to stop by the park and right near the entrance we saw a huge pig balloon on top of an RV,” he said. “My kids eyes lit up when he saw those pigs.”