How can 4-H’ers shine in showmanship?

dairy showmanship
For dairy showmanship, the Holstein Foundation recommends wearing white, like these showmen. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

SALEM, Ohio — With fair season approaching, 4-H’ers are preparing to show off their hard work in raising and training their animals. Showmanship is a time for exhibitors to show off their knowledge and skill in handling their animals.

All exhibitors should check in with their livestock committees at their fairs for specific showmanship rules or guidelines on animal fitting and handling. However, some tips, especially those related to demeanor and dress code, apply in all cases.


Good sportsmanship is a must. This includes respecting the judge, other exhibitors and the animals. Exhibitors should be polite, focused and confident as they show their animals and answer judges’ questions.

In the ring, showmen are always on display. During the show, exhibitors should be aware of their animals and the judge, without staring at the judge.

Working with animals daily on leading or handling and setting up helps exhibitors ensure that their animals will be cooperative on the day of the show.

Proper clothes

Exhibitors should wear close-toed shoes, avoid dangling jewelry and keep long hair tied back. Boots are preferred, especially for heavier animals like cattle and horses.

Jeans or slacks are standard, and dark pants are usually preferred for market competitions.


Judges will often ask exhibitors questions as part of the showmanship class. Exhibitors should know the breed, class, breed standards, sex and age of their animals. They should also be able to identify conformational strengths and weaknesses in their animals, and anatomy and terminology for their species.

Some guidelines for clothes and showing are specific to different species. Dress codes may vary by fair, but these are some general guidelines:

Dairy cows

According to the Holstein Foundation, dairy cow exhibitors should wear white pants and a collared white shirt tucked in with a belt. Exhibitors should know their animals’ pedigree and registered name.


For poultry, Ohio State University Extension says exhibitors should wear tucked-in, long-sleeved, collared shirts. Some fairs and judges prefer show coats.


OSU Extension says exhibitors should know their animals’ variety, fur type and good rabbit management and care. Exhibitors should wear long-sleeved shirts and a show coat during showmanship.


4-H’s swine curriculum says swine showmen should know where they want their animal to go when they enter the ring. They should control their hogs with gentle taps from the cane and walk slowly and evenly.


Showing lambs can be complex, but exhibitors should remain composed. Kansas State University Extension’s guidelines recommend exhibitors wear long-sleeved, button-up shirts.

Meat goats

The U.S. Boer Goat Association’s showmanship scorecard says exhibitors should wear dark pants and a sleeved, red, white or blue blouse or shirt.

Dairy goats

The American Dairy Goat Association says dairy goat exhibitors typically wear all white.


Ohio and Pennsylvania 4-H require youth to wear protective head gear with the chin harness fastened while riding or driving a horse. Exhibitors should look professional and have good posture.


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