ROBINSON'S RACING PIGS

"Ta, ta, ta, Ta, ta-ta-ta, Ta, ta-ta, Ta, ta, ta," goes the call to the post that is usually reserved for thoroughbred racetracks. The pigs look up and around, and start pawing in anticipation. Young though they are they know it's show time.

An assistant places what they call "racing silks" - orange cloth with blue numbers - on each pig's back. Carpet tape sticks gently to the pig's back so the numbers stay in place.

The animals are fired up and ready to run. The starting gate lifts with the ring of a bell and off they race, furiously with abandon, wildly, around a 6-foot wide, 100-foot long oval track. Chunky legs churning and floppy ears flapping, they jostle through the final turn and take snout-hearted aim on the finish line prize.Robinson's Racing Pigs

They know that if they run hard and strong and fast they will get to indulge themselves in what surely must be the Free World's ultimate reward: an Oreo Cookie. That is the secret to training pigs to race against each other", explained Carlota Robinson. "They won't respond to anything but love and affection and Oreo Cookies."

Do pigs smile? Animal experts say no. Well, take a look at that pig over there, the one by the starting gate, the one that just sucked up two Oreos and seems to be waiting for a snoot full of Purina High Octane Pig Chow - the main course. Of course they smile!

Pigs are no different from any other animals. They're performing animals. They respond to the sounds of applause. They respond to people and where they are and what they're doing. And they're smart, too. From what we've seen, pigs rank fourth in intelligence, just behind dolphins, apes and elephants.

The pigs have made a believer, or better put, a disbeliever out of one of Robinson's assistants. Linda Ross used to love pork, bacon, anything off a pig's back. Not now, not after a year of working with the pigs.  How, she wants to know, can you eat something that adorable?

The porcine speeders teach themselves to race at their home in Picnic, Florida, Southeast of Tampa. Yes, folks they are Picnic Hams on the hoof, competing on a 150-foot oval track for that Oreo. The audience gets involved in each race, with cheerleaders selected to "root" the participants on victory. In "Victory Lane" it's just like real life the winner gets the whole cookie and the losers get the crumbs, and of course a regular ration of high energy protein pig chow everyday.

The competitors travel comfortably in the 14 to 17 mile per hour range. A pig race doesn't last long so look fast. Two races comprise each show and there are up to six racing events daily. Each winning cheerleader gets a ribbon proudly proclaiming, "I picked the winner at the pig race," which doubtlessly causes friends for years to come to say,

 "What the heck is a pig race?"