The West

Cavies train for big race
Katie Forward with Herbie and brother Mitchell Forward with Hawk. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Quick as a flash Herbie the guinea pig darts across the backyard of his suburban Duncraig home.

The fleet-footed rodent is in training for the Royal Show's cavy race, where the tiny competitors always draw a big crowd.

Herbie's owner Katie Forward, 10, believes he is in with a chance after making the semifinals last year.

"He can run pretty fast but sometimes he just sits there," Katie said. "It depends what he feels like doing."

The Poynter Primary Year 4 student has had Herbie on a strict training regime, enticing him with fruit and vegetables to race on a homemade track in her backyard.

Herbie, a long-haired variety of guinea pig, will also enter the pet category to be judged on colour, temperament and appearance.

Originating from South America, guinea pigs have been worshipped, used in healing rituals, kept as pets and even eaten for thousands of years.

There were hundreds of breeds, each with different colours and markings, Cavy West president Ken Hart said.

"Some look a bit more like a broom head or a mop," he said. "Others have lots of rosettes in their coats, so they look a bit punky, if you come from that era."

Animals must be properly groomed and no trimming is allowed. "Matting can be a career-ending issue," Mr Hart, 56, said.

In his 42 years as a breeder, Mr Hart has witnessed plenty of subterfuge in the cavy competitions.

"I have even had people dye their animals to make them look brighter," he said.

The West Australian

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