The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Carnival of the animals

Joël Lacey looks around the Dorset County Show and its endearing animals; pictures by Stephen and Helen Jones

 Palpable disappointment and sheer delight etched on the faces of two competitors

Palpable disappointment and sheer delight etched on the faces of two competitors

At agricultural shows across the county each year, thousands of people turn up for a day out, to see some motorcycle acrobatics, to browse, or more accurately graze, the food tents and to walk up and down rows of stalls with products of all shapes and sizes and to meet representatives of all kinds of organisations from the Air Ambulance to the Police and Crime Commissioner to humble members of this very publication.

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There is a huge amount of primping and preening preparation – from nose to tail –     involved in getting animals ready to show, ready for the presentation parade

There is a huge amount of primping and preening preparation – from nose to tail –
involved in getting animals ready to show, ready for the presentation parade

Despite all our wares, and even the attraction of the immense amounts of equestrian activity in the show rings, we are all, in the kindest possible sense of the phrase, merely the window dressing for the real business of the show, which is – and the clue is in the name – showing.

Years of breeding and preparation go into being ready for the judging in any of the categories

Years of breeding and preparation go into being ready for the judging in any of the categories

Each year, there is tremendous activity, well away from the business of buying things you don’t strictly need which goes on in show rings and tents across the showground. From balls of fluff in the rabbit tent, to huge slabs of pedigree walking beef being led by a tiny child in wellies, there are animals for all to enjoy.

This is not a tribble, or grannie's old hat, it is a rabbit

This is not a tribble, or grannie’s old hat, it is a rabbit

For those taking part, the show is but the latest part of a very long journey which began with the mixing of blood lines to a careful plan to produce the best, well, whatever, possible and then to have it judged to be so by experts both metaphorically and literally in the field. It’s an opportunity to see what other animals are around, whether one might be able to strengthen one’s own bloodlines with a champion, or merely to bask in the reflected glory of the wondrous animal which one has led round a ring.

There are few things more engaging than a large man with a relatively small animal...

There are few things more engaging than a large man with a relatively small animal…

except, of course, a small girl with a huge animal

except, of course, a small girl with a huge animal

With everything from dairy goats to pulses to fresh-laid eggs, to four stalks of kale to tiny piglets and enormous sows, there is food in its purest form on show at every corner. Perhaps now more than ever, it is vital to keep the connection between the people who tend the land and the food which graces our tables as fresh in the minds of consumers everywhere.

One of the very many aaaah moments at the County Show is when piglets are involved

One of the very many aaaah moments at the County Show is when piglets are involved

Receiving final instructions from mum as to what to do in the grand parade

Receiving final instructions from mum as to what to do in the grand parade

When people see the care and attention that is lavished upon the animals at Dorset’s three agricultural shows, they will better understand that food production in its earliest and most important stages is not an industrial push-button process, but a love affair with the land and an enduring wish to do better for both animals and arable crops.

Meeting the next generation of livestock farmers is one of the best things about the show

Meeting the next generation of livestock farmers is one of the best things about the show

The winnings for many of the classes is measured in tens of pounds, the grand prize across all three shows is only just in the hundreds, and each class entered costs money too. Like the activity of farming itself, it is more likely to be done for the love not the money.

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