By Vern Hee
Alec Hornbuckle, left guard at 165 pounds and 5’10″ for the Trojans varsity football team, had a promising year before him. Then he tore his meniscus in his knee in a recreational sporting accident just before school started.
The injury ended his high school varsity football career prematurely and he turned away from the pigskin on the gridiron to a different type of pigskin — actual porkers.
After the injury, he turned his full attention to competitive swine showing. Hornbuckle has raised pigs since junior high, so it was natural to continue with the smart beasts after the accident.
Last December, Hornbuckle entered one pig, his beloved Swagger, in the Arizona National Livestock Fair and took second place in his division.
He has placed in the top three in showing pigs in the last five years at the Clark County Fair, with two first place showings, one second and two thirds. Last year he decided to try his luck in Arizona.
The Arizona National Livestock Fair is the place where each year nearly 1,700 of the nation’s best cattle, horses, sheep and swine come to compete. They show up for over $66,000 in prize money and awards.
“In December, I took second in the cross bred light division, and finished in the top 40 in my division. I was the second one in Nevada to ever attend the Arizona national show. There were 15 to 20 in my class. The thing with Arizona Nationals, you have to place high enough. You had to place in the top 40 species of all there. There are 450 pigs there, and only the top 40 go through the auction. The rest go home and you can not sell them,” commented Hornbuckle.
Chris LaCorti, a breeder of show pigs, said he has known Hornbuckle for the past eight years. Hornbuckle is one of LaCorti’s favorites at the Clark County Fair. He sold Hornbuckle his first show pig.
“We raise show pigs and from the very first pig eight years ago he has purchased pigs from me every year to show at the fair. Now he is part of the family. He always asks questions on how to raise a pig and how to show a pig,” said LaCorti.
Over the years LaCorti said he has seen the young showman develop into a highly skilled pig man.
“I have dealt with him. He has grown tremendously. He always has a desire to learn and to perfect what he knows. He is pretty tough. He is not afraid and he wants to learn. He wants to learn everything there is to know about pigs,” remarked LaCorti.
Hornbuckle started raising pigs and learning to show them just before he entered junior high at 10 years old.
His parents had moved him out to Pahrump from Las Vegas so that he could be more involved in 4-H in Pahrump and they could have more animals. For six years he learned about all different animals at the Pahrump 4-H. He has even been a team leader in Pahrump. He has since moved on and is teaching younger kids in Las Vegas to show pigs.
He said showing pigs is a bit different than showing dogs.
“This showmanship technique is how the animal behaves with me. So if he is really calm and really tame, I can do anything with him. I can do a 360 with him, I can teach him to sit, I can do everything with that pig,” said Hornbuckle.
The pig charmer must name his pigs to become closer and bond with it. The closer bond leads to better results. He starts with the pig when they are just sixty pounds. The first thing they do is learn to be together. That starts with just getting used to Hornbuckle’s scent.
“It is all a matter of being close to them and getting the pig to trust me. Pigs are super smart and super sensitive,” remarked Hornbuckle. “If you work them too hard they will shut down. The animal has to build a bond with you. When I first start with a pig I will sit on a five-gallon bucket with the feed between my feet and a little pan. I will just stick my hand down there and he has to come up and smell me. Eventually I will be able to touch him and rub his belly and stuff,” he said.
The young pig trainer said the naming of the swine gets you a closer bond, so it is a must, but it hurts with each pig. After each show, the shows are terminal for the pig. The pigs are sold to the market right after the show in an auction.
Kerry, Alec’s mom, said it was hard to let the first couple of pigs go.
The kindness and patience had led the young 4-Her to great success over the years. LaCorti said the young man is successful because he wants to always soak up knowledge and he never stops learning.
“He is flexible and willing to learn new things. He does not know it all and he knows that. He loves to help other kids and younger kids,” LaCorti said.
After junior high, Hornbuckle learned he had other obstacles in his life to overcome besides training new pigs. At a show at the county fair in Logandale, Hornbuckle collapsed while showing. It was then he learned he had Type I Diabetes. In high school, he was taught to overcome his diabetes. He has never felt sorry for himself. He just kept on with life. He even played football with his disability.
“He is never selfish. On top of that he has diabetes. He now has an injection pump that pumps insulin. He even played football with that pump. He even now gives time to counsel kids at camp for kids who have diabetes,” said LaCorti.
Hornbuckle has a strong desire to be in the industry. A show judge at the fair saw this and found him out and told him he wanted him to attend college at Iowa State. The judge is livestock professor at Iowa State.
Whether or not the young man goes to Iowa State, is up to him. The sky is the limit. He also wants to attend the University of California at Davis and Texas A&M to name a few.
“I have always wanted to go into some field that deals with animals after I graduate,” Hornbuckle said. “There is nothing like a pig.”