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A good showman is a person that has a sense or knack for an effective presentation of an animal. Showmanship is the one area of livestock showing over which the exhibitor has the most control. In showmanship you are judged on your abilities to control and present your lamb to bring out its best characteristics. Advanced planning, practice and hard work are the key to becoming a good showperson. Lamb showmanship not only generates enthusiasm in the show ring, but also teaches many valuable lessons that can be used in day to day life. These lessons include responsibility, learning about work and determination to reach a goal, winning graciously and losing with dignity. This will take practice at home and having someone act as a judge by handling the lamb as if at a show.

Appropriate Dress

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Dress neatly. Leather boots should be worn for safety and appearance. If the lamb steps on your foot, the lamb's foot will slip off a leather boot much easier than a tennis shoe. Wear clean jeans or slacks. Faded bluejeans look less professional and should not be worn.

Wear a neat button-down or polo shirt. No camouflage shirts or T-shirts should be worn. The shirt should be tucked in. Wear a belt for neatness. Leave hats, wool cards, and other grooming equipment back at the grooming area. Hats, may distract the judge's concentration. Wool cards are very dangerous, especially in crowded areas around the show ring, so the final touches on the lamb should be done before it is time for your class. Your planning and neat appearance will help make a positive impression on the judge.


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Before the show, walk over the show ring to find the high and low spots of the show ring surface. This will help make sure the lamb is set up going uphill and not in a hole.

Be sure to enter the show ring promptly and that the lamb is led from the left hand side. Small exhibitors may use a halter. However, more advanced exhibitors should lead the lamb with their left hand under its chin in place of a halter.

Quickly yet smoothly, set the lamb up so that all four feet are at the corners and the lamb's weight is distributed evenly over its legs (Figure 1). When setting up the lamb, do not get down on your knees because you will have less control of your lamb. Small showpersons may stand and use the halter and their feet to set the lamb's legs. Use the halter to indicate the direction you want the feet to go while using your foot to move the lamb's leg. Larger exhibitors may use their hands to set up the lamb. Set the rear legs first and then set the front legs.

Once the lamb is set up, be sure the head is held up. Then locate the judge. Remain standing in front of your lamb when the judge is viewing the lambs from the rear (Figure 2A). Never place your hand on the lamb's back or the base of the neck; this will obstruct the judge's view of the lamb's top. As the judge moves around to the right side (Figure 2B) and around in front of the lamb, move to the left side of the lamb, so it is between you and the judge (Figure 2C). When the judge is in front of the lamb, remain on the lamb's left side, so the judge can see the front view. Be sure to keep the head high and in line with the lamb's body. You may hold the head up with the halter or with your left hand under the lamb's jaw. As the judge moves to the left of the lamb, move back to the front of the lamb to give the judge a full view of the entire animal. Do not move to the right side of the lamb (Figure 2D). When in front of the lamb, you have more control and this position will provide the side view that the judge seeks.

3 drawings of lamb feet positioning. 1st is correct.

Figure 1. Figure A shows the lamb's feet squarely placed beneath the lamb. Figures B and C are incorrect.

Diagram showing how to position so judge has a clear view of the lamb

Figure 2. Provide the judge with a clear view of your lamb.

Handling the Lamb

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Be ready for the judge to handle your lamb. Train the lamb to brace or push against your knee. When the lamb braces, its muscles tighten up to make it feel firmer and the muscles appear larger and more pronounced.

To brace the lamb, stand in front and hold it securely with its nose pointing upward. Gently push back on the lamb with your knee placed in the lamb's breast and shoulder area. When bracing the lamb, all four feet should remain on the ground. Never pick the lamb up so that the front feet are off the ground. This does not give you an advantage. It is an example of poor showmanship. After the judge finishes handling the lamb, set it up in line with the others.

Moving the Lamb

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After handling the lambs, the judge will indicate what is to be done next. Most likely the judge will want you to walk the lamb. Be sure that the lamb is under control and is between you and the judge. If your lamb does not lead, gently reach back and lift up on the lamb's dock. If an exhibitor ahead is having problems, help that person. Never whip the lamb with the halter rope or grab the lamb by the skin. This will result in a bruise and a soft area for sometime.

Once the judge requests that you stop for the side view, set your lamb up as discussed earlier. Small exhibitors should stand in front or on the lamb's left side to keep control. Older, larger exhibitors may squat or stand on the lamb's left side. Standing is preferred. Do not put your knees on the ground; squat so you may get up quickly and maintain control of your lamb. Stay alert; the judge may handle the lamb again or motion to move to another line. Once you are pulled to the placing line, remember the class is not over. Be sure the lamb is set up and looks its best.

The judge may decide to place the lambs differently after one last look while all lambs are lined up side by side. If you are asked to move in the line, be sure to line your lamb up in a straight line from the first lamb set up.

Once the judge starts giving reasons, the class is over, but exhibitors should continue to work hard and display good sportsmanship. Congratulate the class winners and those who stood ahead of you. Ask if you can handle the lambs that placed above you. This will allow you to learn what to look for in your next lamb project.

Finally, remember this is a learning experience. Leave the ring with your head held high, knowing that you have given this project your best effort. Learn from your mistakes, watch other showpersons, and improve your skills for the next show.

North Carolina 4-H Livestock Program Overall Objectives

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  1. To develop leadership abilities, build character, and assume citizenship responsibilities.
  2. To experience the pride of owning livestock and to be responsible for its management.
  3. To be better prepared for citizenship responsibilities through working in groups and supporting community livestock educational projects and activities
  4. To learn skills in livestock production and gain an understanding of the business of breeding, raising, and promoting livestock and their end products.
  5. To increase knowledge of safety precautions needed to prevent injury to yourself and others while working with livestock.
  6. To promote greater love for animals and a humane attitude toward them.
  7. To teach good sportsmanship through a friendly, competitive atmosphere.
  8. To increase knowledge of animal agricultural by-products and how animal by-product usage touches our lives each and every day.

The North Carolina 4-H and Junior Livestock Program provides many project areas that address the various segments of the livestock industry. Emphasis for all of the projects is on the development of the young person. The youth are the focus of the projects, while the animals and projects are utilized as the vehicle for the progress in the development of the youth. Available educational programs cover subject matter material from production practices to the meat product supplied for the consumer's plate. For further information about programs and services provided by North Carolina Cooperative Extension, contact your local county office.


Extension Livestock Specialist
Animal Science

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Publication date: March 27, 2013
Revised: Nov. 28, 2022

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