Northern Ireland

Samara Radcliffe, 12, becomes pig showing champion

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Media captionGetting ready for a pig show

When you walk into the Radcliffe family home just outside Banbridge, County Down, the first thing that strikes you is the colour.

The living room is awash with colour. Pink, red, blue and yellow rosettes hang precariously from every surface.

In fact, there are more than 120 rosettes crammed into the living room and they belong to 12-year-old Samara.

She has become a champion in her very unusual hobby - showing pigs.

Image caption Samara has won more than 120 rosettes for showing pigs

Samara is quite often the only child taking part in the shows and regularly goes head to head with experienced adults in pig competitions.

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Media captionGetting ready for a pig show

However, pig breeding can sometimes be a harsh learning experience.

"I told my dad I wanted a pig for my sixth birthday," she said.

"Dad got me two to keep for the summer but then they disappeared and I didn't know what happened to them but suddenly the freezer was a lot fuller."

Image caption Samara won her first pig competition when she was six years old

Samara's mum and dad do not keep pigs, she started this hobby entirely on her own, so they have been forgiven for the early freezer mishap.

Her parents got her another piglet called Winter and Samara began to show the animal and started to win awards.

She now has four saddleback pigs and they live at the family farm in Corbet, just outside Banbridge.

"I love rare breeds, I like saddlebacks because they are kind and docile," she said.

The schoolgirl also admires saddlebacks' parenting skills and said the pigs make "a good mother".

Samara acknowledges that showing pigs is a strange hobby for a young girl and admits to getting bullied in primary school because of it.

However, she says the bullies have changed their tune now they have seen how many awards she has won.

Samara spoke to BBC News NI was she was preparing for the Castlewellan Show in County Down.

It involved showing her pigs in a number of different categories, taking on the adults as well as competing in junior handler competitions.

"It can get a bit hectic in the show ring if the pigs get out of control," she said.

Image caption Samara has to wash her pigs to get them looking their best for the show

Last year, her mother Sharon ended up with a broken finger when two pigs started to fight.

Putting on her waterproofs and wellington boots, Samara, accompanied by her new puppy Chip, heads down to the farmyard to get the pigs ready.

They have to be washed, scrubbed with washing-up liquid, brushed down and oiled to get them ready for the show,

In fact, the local shop only stocks pig oil because Samara uses so much of it.

"You put oil on the black bits and talc on the white bits to get them looking their best," she said.

On the day of the show, Samara and her parents are looking smart and dressed in their white show coats.

Samara is competing against adults but heads in the ring confidently with her pig, Holly.

Image caption Samara and her pig Holly take to the ring at the Castlewellan Show

The judge asks details about when the pig was born, what type of pig it is and asks Samara to walk and back to forth around the ring to see if she can keep the animal under control.

"I'm really delighted to see a young girl here today," said judge Nigel Overend from the British Pig Association.

"Not only being able to show the pigs but to be able to compete against people who have been showing pigs for 20 to 30 years.

"It is quite a challenge and I think she has acquitted herself very well today." he said.

The hard work seems to have paid off - Samara picks up a number of awards, including best young handler and show champion.

Samara would like to see more young people get involved in pig competitions but for her the season is not over just yet.

"Next week I've the Antrim show and from then on who knows, if there is a show that does pigs - I'll be there."

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