Mudslinger stole hearts when he auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” back in June. After raising the American flag, sinking a golf putt and dribbling a soccer ball through cones to score a goal, this 7-year-old pot-bellied pig closed out his act with a kiss from Heidi Klum.
Now he’s here in Washington with his co-star Digger, a 6-year-old pot-bellied pig, to perform these stunts and more all five days of the Washington Town and Country Fair.
The Top Hogs show will be set up in the Family Fun Center area of the fairgrounds. There will be two 30-minute shows on Wednesday (5 and 7 p.m.), Thursday (2 and 4:30 p.m.) and Friday (3:30 and 6 p.m.), and three 30-minute shows each on Saturday and Sunday (2, 4 and 6 p.m. both days).
Trainer John Vincent, who has spent the last 22 years teaching hogs to perform tricks, said his Top Hogs show is always a crowd-pleaser, in large part because people don’t expect pigs to be able to do these kinds of things.
But actually, pot-bellied pigs are quite trainable and very intelligent, he said.
“They are the Einsteins of porcine,” Vincent remarked, “the rocket scientists of animals. They are excellent problem solvers, so they’re fun to train.”
Vincent knows something about rocket scientists — he is one. He may train pot-bellied pigs to do silly tricks for entertainment, but his day job is being an aerospace engineer with Lockheed Martin. He’s currently working on the Orion project for NASA that will replace the Space Shuttle program.
Vincent uses positive reinforcement to train his pigs, the same operant conditioning used by B.F. Skinner.
Some of the tricks they can do are sitting up and shaking hands, playing dead, getting mail out of a mailbox, even doing impressions. Their repertoire includes Stevie Wonder, Elvis and Michael Jackson, said Vincent.
Vincent’s interest in training pigs goes back to the 1990s, when pot-bellied pigs were becoming popular as pets.
At first it was a curiosity to him, but after meeting one he was won over by its affection and decided to bring it home as a pet. When he noticed how clever the pig was, he thought it would be fun to teach it some tricks.
Now Vincent takes his Top Hogs show on the road year-round, mostly around Colorado, where he lives, but once or twice a year he takes them to fairs.
In addition to “America’s Got Talent,” Vincent’s Top Hogs have been featured on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, “Late Night With David Letterman,” several Animal Planet shows and “Pet Star” with Mario Lopez.
He transports them in a van that is equipped with a bed for himself behind the driver’s seat.
“They are extremely good travelers,” said Vincent, noting he has a USDA license. “They will sleep most of the time.”
And while the stereotype is that pigs are messy animals, Vincent said the pot-bellied variety are very clean.
They also don’t like mud to get cool. If the fairgrounds get too hot this week, Vincent said he will have a small pool available to keep them comfortable.
In addition to entertaining people, the Top Hogs show also wants to educate people about the animals.
“We like to show how smart these pigs are, what they can do,” said Vincent.
“But I also love watching people just enjoy seeing the pigs do their tricks. Our show is a lot of fun.
“We pride ourselves on making it truly family entertainment.”
The judges on “America’s Got Talent” were impressed by Mudslinger’s stunts. All four of them voted to send him on to the next level of competition.
“They get 10,000 people who try to get on the show each year, and 300 people get to audition before the judges,” said Vincent. “The judges pick 150 to move on and then they cut it in half again for the next round.”
Mudslinger was able to win them over doing just three tricks for his 90 seconds on camera.
Washington Town and Country Fair goers will get to see the full range of stunts over the next five days.
To get a preview of the Top Hogs in action, people can visit www.tophogs.com to see their videos.