Valley County 4-H Showmanship Guide – Small Animal

Acknowledgement: The information for this guide is based on the Montana 4-H publication 5269 4-H Showmanship Guidelines and Erin Westover, Fallon-Carter County MSU Extension Agent.

Show day at the county and state fair is your project’s “moment of truth.” What you have learned, how you have managed your animal and how well you control your animal are all tested.

Showmanship contests are evaluated based on preparation of animals for show, the apparent training, and the appearance and behavior of the exhibitor.   Animal’s conformation should not be considered except as it may affect the way an animal should have been fitted or shown. Basic skills and both grooming and showing should not be confused with current fads and trends.

This is an outline of desirable showmanship practices and their relative importance.  The showmanship judges should make placing according to the degree of excellence displayed in carrying out these practices. Youth should use this guide in preparing for a showmanship contest in Valley County.

This Guide Outlines Showmanship Guidelines for:

Cat Showmanship Guidelines

Dog Showmanship Guidelines

Poultry Showmanship Guidelines

RabbitShowmanship Guidelines


Judging Criteria

  1. Judging should be based on preparation of animals for show, their apparent training, and the appearance and behavior of the participating show person.
  2. Type of animal should not be considered unless it will affect the way the animal should be fitted and shown.
  3. Fine or technical points should not be overemphasized to the extent that they are given more weight than an effective job of presenting a clean animal, nor should minor infractions result in the disqualification of a showperson.

The Purpose of Showmanship is to:

  • Provide a means for youth to learn, practice, demonstrate, and improve their knowledge of their animal species.
  • Provide a mean for youth to learn, practice, demonstrate, and improve the correct way to handle your animals.
  • Provide a means for youth to demonstrate how to present their animals to a judge, emphasizing their animals’ best traits.
  • Teach youth good sportsmanship, experiencing winning and losing amongst their peers.
  • Provide a reason for youth to interact with their animals, forming a closer human-animal bond.
  • Improve young people’s communication skills and increase young people’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

General Showmanship Guidelines:

  • When you arrive at the show, check the show ring or show area for low spots or dark area This will help you avoid these areas when setting up your animal, both improving the appearance of your animal and impressing the judge.
  • Know the show schedule and be ready when your class is called. A late arrival in the show ring may cause some confusion or distract the judg  It is wise to confirm that your animal is entered in the correct class.  Observe the judging of a few classes prior to when you show to familiarize yourself with the show procedures and the judge’s preferred show style.
  • A big percentage of showmanship is how well an animal handles, cleanliness and cooperation between the animal and the handler. Make sure the animal is clean, well-groomed and well-trained. Trimming and clipping the animal should be done according to preference of the owner. A member should not be penalized for being unable to afford clippers or not having anyone to hel Members should seek help and attend training sessions in the use of clippers and other grooming clinics.
  • Make sure the animal looks its best from the time it enters the ring until it leaves.
  • If you have the chance to be first, go for it! Remember the first impression that a judge has of you and your animal is very important.
  • Proper show equipment is a necessity and make sure it is clean and fits properly.
  • Seven to ten days before the fair, treat your animal as if you were at the show, use the same water and feed buckets, for example.
  • The more you work with your animal the more it will get used to setting up and you will have to do little work during the show.
  • Keep showing until the entire class has been placed, the judge has given their reasons and you have been dismissed from the show.
  • Alertness during the show is extremely importan Keep an eye on the judge and on your animal.
  • Be prepared to handle any animal the judge designates (poultry and rabbit only).
  • Attitude is worth a lot in the show ring
    • Be courteous and polite to the judge and fellow show persons in the show ring.
    • Always remember to control your emotions and appear keen but relaxed, regardless of placing, accepting the decisions of the judge in a sportsmanlike manner.
    • Be a modest winner and a gracious loser.
    • Be quiet and patient around your animal. You will accomplish more by walking slow, than by being mean to your animal.
    • Your behavior, attitude and ability are importan Sportsmanship and temperament are good indicators of a good show person. Remember the judge may be watching you whether you are in the show ring or not.
    • There is nothing wrong with saying “Yes, Sir” or “Yes, Ma’am” to recognize the judge as an official. If you have questions, ask the ring steward.

Be neat and clean. Wear neat, practical, clean, serviceable clothing for the particular animal type. Nothing should be worn that focuses the attention on the handler rather than the animals and that will distract the animals.

  • Dress codes may vary from show to show. Find out what is required before show day.
  • Wearing a tie, if show dress code allows, is a nice addition to your appearance.
  • Hair should be neat, clean and out of your face. Tie long hair back.
  • Nail polish is fine provided it is not chipped.
  • Do not chew gum. 


  • SETTING YOUR ANIMAL: A showmanship term referring to the proper placement of an animal’s legs while being exhibited to a judge for evaluation.
  • POSING WITH YOUR ANIMAL: This term refers to where you should stand in relation to your animal and the judge.
  • RINGMAN/RING STEWARD: Is the person who directs the animal when they are in the judging area.  The Ringman/Ring Steward assists the judge in moving animals into various position in and out of the line-up.
  • CLERK: Is the person who records the placing of the various classes
  • EXHIBITOR: Is the person showing the exhibit
  • EXHIBIT: Is an animal which has been prepared by the exhibitor for show purposes.


Members are responsible for the care, preparation and exhibition of project animals.  Leaders and/or parents should be on hand to assist members should they encounter difficulties; however, SHOULD NOT perform duties which members can do themselves.