Showmanship 101 for all species

A basic understanding of showmanship, no matter what species of animal you are showing.

Always keep an eye on the judge during showmanship class. Photo by MSU.
Always keep an eye on the judge during showmanship class. Photo by MSU.

The definition of showman in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a person having a special skill for presenting something in a dramatic way. Showmanship is the skill or ability of a showman, so when we think about understanding the basics of showmanship when showing animals, we must think about the person doing the showing.

Showmanship is about the person handling the animal; presenting and showing the animal to the best of a person’s ability. It is about making sure the showman is looking at the judge at all times. Showmanship is really about how hard a person has worked, prepared and presents their animal to the judge.

Judges may be looking at your animals to evaluation them, but in showmanship they are evaluating the showman and how he or she is working with their animal and handling themselves. Showmanship is about teamwork, an important life skill, where the youth and animal learn to work together and demonstrate their hard work for a judge.

Here are some important things to know about showmanship.

  • Parts of the animal. During showmanship, many judges will ask participants different body parts. A showman should know their animal and where the different body parts are. Younger youth should learn the basics, but older youth should know all of the parts. Before a show, practice identifying all the body parts.
  • Position of the animal. The judge wants to see the animal, so during showmanship the judge should see you and the animal at all times. Each species has different ways of being presented for the judge, so know how to position your species for the show. Most of the time, you want to keep the animal between you and the judge.
  • Keep an eye on the judge. One of the most important things in showmanship is knowing where the judge is and always keeping an eye on them. If the judge signals you to do something or tells you to stop, it is important to be paying attention.

Michigan State University Extension has lots of resources on showmanship depending on your species. Search on the MSU Extension website for showmanship information for your species and resources should pop up.

Showmanship clinics and trainings are also planned throughout the summer in preparation for summer fairs. Now is a good time to study up on all the specific requirements for your species when it comes to showmanship.

Contact your local MSU Extension office to purchase resources or get information that will help you prepare for showmanship.

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