On Wednesday my dad and I gave ourselves the day off and went to the Balmoral Show. I was on my way to somewhere else when I became very distracted by the tiny, adorable Dexter calves.
There are five rings for cattle, often judging five different classes simultaneously. In the ring next to the Dexters were the Irish Moiled cows.
Herefords were also under scrutiny.
In the final arena were the Limousins (note the dogged photographer in the background on his hands and knees to get the perfect shot).
A red rosette and a spruce-up for the winner before her photo call.
Lely's robotic milking machine once again made an appearance.
I reached the sheep rings at last, and it was, frankly, organized chaos. (Well, what else would you expect from sheep?)
The Hampshire Downs were in one ring.
The Texels are incredibly popular, and I could get nowhere near them.
Beltex lambs entered one of the rings. Let loose, they ran around a bit.
A traffic jam, Balmoral style.
So the ring was filled with Beltex lambs, some dyed and some not - all noisy.
The handlers wrangled them...
...by whatever means necessary - and judging began.
Inside the big tent the sheep that weren't on show were able to relax, such as these Swaledale ewes and lambs.
Beltex ewes and lambs.
A kind-faced foster mummy.
A lamb with a large chin.
And the award for best hairstyle goes to... this Oxford Down.
Lots, and lots and lots of Texels.
These Charollais sheep were snug in their blankets.
Hampshire Downs, returned from the show ring.
There were Suffolks too.
This one, I found out, is called Audrey, much to my delight.
This is her lamb called Coffee.
And sharing their pen was Bill the ram.
There were other Suffolks too.
There was a smaller number of Kerry Hills. This ewe had a little baby lamb with her.
Jacobs were there too.
These Île-de-France sheep are probably dreaming of wide-open fields.
A lovely Blue Texel ewe.
Also just returned from the ring, the Zwartbles were examining their rosettes.
(I love this one's eyes, mostly white with a hint of brown. Very unusual.)
A Cheviot ram.
...and a Lleyn ram.
In another tent nearby was a pen of Valais Blacknose sheep. I'd seen pictures of them before, but never in the flesh. For some reason I thought they'd be smaller than they were... maybe it's all of that wool. There is something very charming about them, though.
This ewe was here with her Beltex-cross lambs to demonstrate how great Beltex crosses are.
The alpacas were in their usual spot outside, between the sheep and goats.
Speaking of goats...
Who falls asleep during a four course meal?
The goats and the pigs shared a tent.
Back outside, I caught a bit of a gundog demonstration.
Then it was back inside to see the rabbits.
A guinea pig enjoying its reflection.
There were no competitions for poultry in case of bird flu, but some birds were still here as representatives.
...but not the best pigeon. That honour went to this one:
I took a gander at the goose.
A small selection of chickens.
On my way between one tent and the next I spied an in-hand horse class.
In the rare breed tent there were some sleepy cows. Some large, like this Shorthorn bull...
...and some small, like this Shetland.
Two Shetland sheep doing their best Zwartbles impression. It's very good.
Beautiful Sage, the Exmoor pony.
I circled the arena and got a better view of the in-hand class.
In the arena next door there was a ridden class. The judge was putting each horse through its paces.
I wandered on and visited the children's farm. Among other things, they had a rabbit:
...some sleepy sheep...
...and more Valais Blacknose sheep! They seem to be like buses - you never see one, and then several show up at once.
Beautifully restored vintage tractors are always great to see.
While waiting for Kangaroo Kid, I got some shots of the international showjumping competition in the main arena.
Kangaroo Kid performed some stunts, which is all well and good, but I can pull a trailer with my quad.
Four brave volunteers from the audience.
I headed for the cattle tent, as I had not seen inside it. It is often closed for judging so it's a matter of luck if it's open. This poor little Limousin calf couldn't quite reach the milk bar.
There were quite a lot of Limousins actually.
Adorable Angus twins.
Herefords in a row.
The rest of the tent was sadly closed, and I didn't have the time to wait for it to open again. Photo calls were happening outside. There was a lovely calf...
...and this rather magnificent champion British Blonde bull.
It was a great, if exhausting, day. I can't wait until next year!