A swine at its swankiest trots under the hovering whip hand of its owner, never too close to the show judge and always brushed clean as a dry-cleaned rug.
But putting a pig through its paces is a hard job.
Dan Frobose, a nationally recognized swine judge at yesterday's 4-H and Future Farmers of America Swine Fitting and Showing Contest, was offering advice and criticism to winners and losers alike at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium.
Don't whack the pigs too hard with the cane or riding crop, he said, as teen-agers coaxed their charges around a sawdust ring. That not only frustrates a show pig, but bruises it, leaving less pork for the packing house, Frobose said.
"That raises the price of pork and makes Col. Sanders happy," he said.
The young people were dressed in khakis and white shirts, the boys sporting green ties, the girls green ribbons. But don't look ,, too flashy, Frobose warned. "Blend in with the rump of that pig. Show off the pig, not yourself."
Frobose eventually chose Howard Meredith, 17, as the most unassuming and skillful handler in his age category.
Meredith, who went on to place second overall among senior division hog-raisers, said the secret to success lies in trading sound and scent with a pig from piglet-hood. To make the pig cooperate with the guiding whip, Meredith said, "you get in the pen and play with him, get him used to your smell."
Meredith is a burly young man with his hair cut in a bristle and his cravat anchored with a hog tie clip. He has 14 sows on a 600-acre crop farm he works with his father in Wye Mills on the Eastern Shore.
As he has competed over the last three weeks in county fairs and in the State Fair that opened last weekend, Meredith has slept each night on a cot in the straw-lined aisles dividing the pig pens. The dimly-lit shed is quiet enough after midnight when most shed-dwellers retire for the evening, Meredith said, but noisy all at once after about 6:30 in the morning when the swine awaken and squeal for food.
Meredith's pig, which has no name, has won a ribbon, a $16 cash prize and distinction in 4-H circles.
Presenting the ribbons, rosettes and trophies topped with plastic gold porkers was Kelly Holland, the 1991 Maryland Farm Queen. She plowed into the sawdust with the champion pigs wearing a white full-length dress, yellow sash and tiara.
She had come to the Timonium Fairground as queen of Worcester County, competing with queens representing each of Maryland's other 22 counties. Before her coronation Sunday as state queen, Holland underwent two long interviews before judges, talking to them about chores on her family's poultry and truck crop farm in Pocomoke City, about wetlands and agricultural markets.
When her turn came in the final competition in public speaking, Holland recited a rhyme she wrote about herself and her county that ended: "For I want to be a chemist/And travel and see the world./ Pleased to meet you, I'm Kelly Holland,/I'm just a country girl."
And that's the way it has to be throughout her one-year reign of appearances at agricultural events. Being Maryland Farm Queen no way to put on airs. Just the other day, Holland cleaned her own hog's stall while wearing a full length, flower-pattern dress.
"I just took my shoes off," she said.