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By Steve Davies

Steve in Action.

INTRODUCTION

A top show quality Agouti like all cavies must be as near to its Breed Standard as set by the B.C.C. (British Cavy Council) as possible.  This includes Show Preparation and below I will describe my method of preparation in achieving show success. 

STAGE ONE

Preparation begins on day one or two of the Agouti’s life.  This is the best time to establish if any of the newly born litter meets the requirements of the Breed Standard.  I judge the whole litter, assessing all points possible at that age and from this potential show pigs, breeding stock and surplus and or pet stock can be determined.  It is important to keep a record of your comments on the litter as after the first 3-7 days the babies can alter rapidly.

STAGE TWO

At weaning age of 4-6 weeks is where errors can occur.  At this age the youngsters often can look very tatty and potential show and good quality breeding stock could be sold on, this is where your records made in the first couple of days are vital.  This age, despite being very young is important in your potential show pig’s career.  When weaned your show pig should be housed in same sex pairs and in a cage that is not to large.  There are a number of reasons for this – firstly a large cage housing several cavies can result in your show pig suffering ear damage or bites from fighting.  Secondly cavies can become scatty and or timid in a larger cage.  Thirdly assessing the quantity of food each cavy is receiving is difficult.  These points can set back or even end your cavies show career before it’s begun. 

STAGE THREE

Once your show pig is weaned training begins.  Training starts by regular handling (daily if possible), with a few minutes of this spent training it to stand still and in the desired show position.  I use a carpet tile sample for the pig to sit on, which gives grip and helps the pig feel secure.  After just a week or two your pig under supervision should stand still for a short period.  Continuing this procedure will result in a show pig which will stand still happily for long periods – important in a successful show pig. 

Extra food to build substance should also begin early.  This however should be done very carefully at this young age as over feeding especially with too much rich greens can result in stomach problems.  Extra dry food is best at first. 

STAGE FOUR

At around four - five months of age, if all the above has been achieved successfully your show pig will be in top condition for its first show.  Before its outing however the final steps of preparation are required – grooming and bathing. 

‘Grooming Agoutis’ is a phrase that appears to frighten a huge number of cavy fanciers both new and old – it shouldn’t.  Although being vital in the preparation and success of a show Agouti, grooming as long as you take time and care is no more difficult than grooming any Self cavy.  (I actually believe Agouti grooming is less difficult than that of Selfs.  This is due to the Agouti guard hairs being solid coloured.  I have seen many self cavies over groomed with a very thin and occasionally bald coat however I’ve seen very few over groomed agoutis). 

Grooming should begin 1 – 2 weeks before the show.  The guard hairs should be carefully removed starting from the rump and working upwards to the head.  Grooming the head of an agouti is also very important unlike many other breeds.  This task is often over-looked leaving a good show agouti with a head darker than the rest of the body, hence being uneven.  This can be the difference between second and top spot on the show bench.  The majority of the pigs grooming should be complete before bathing as it is more difficult to groom a washed coat. 

Bathing your pig should be done about five days before the show using a mild shampoo NOT conditioner, ensuring that the coat is thoroughly rinsed and dried, especially in the colder months. 

The final grooming session should be brief and done the day before the show, remembering to remove any guard / long ticked hairs which give the pig an uneven appearance.  Such hairs often missed are in the cheeks and chest. 

Remember looking for a short coat is obviously desirable however should not take preference to the evenness of your agoutis ticking.  It is better to leave the coat a little long if the ticking appears even, than to have a short unevenly ticked coat. 

CONCLUSION

A well kept and prepared show Agouti looks striking and can have a long and successful show career.