One of the UK’s only guinea pig judges has told how he enjoys a jet-set lifestyle presiding over pet ‘beauty’ pageants – dubbed “Crufts on steroids”.
Jme Eglington has been a national judge for seven years and owns 80 guinea pigs which he lovingly keeps at his home in Coseley, West Mids.
His obsession with the cute critters started when he was a child and grew through his teenage years and into adulthood.
The 36-year-old is now one of only 69 nationally recognized guinea pig judges in the country and sits on the UK’s executive panel for the animals.
He says his unusual hobby sends him all over Europe to adjudicate guinea pig shows, which are particularly popular in Spain, Poland and Ukraine.
Shows regularly attract over 1,000 guinea pigs and Jme says each animal is judged on their physical features, fluffiness of fur and temperament.
Jme said: “I’ve now been a judge now for seven years and just love it.
“People are competitive, I’ve heard guinea pig shows being described as like Crufts on steroids but to me they’re more like Miss World beauty pageants.
“We judge each pig on their physical appearance, the face shape, nice droopy ears – you don’t want them sticking up like a mouse – and the density and texture of their coat.
“Their markings and coloring have to be right for their breed as well as their overall temperament.
“They don’t get extra marks for tricks. It’s purely on what they look like.”
When Jme isn’t judging guinea pigs, he works as a mobile hairdresser.
The animal-lover, who is married to husband Liam, 34, a chimney sweep, added: “I’ve judged all over Europe.
“The first was Poland, which was a fantastic experience. I’ve done so many countries.
“I go to Denmark two or three times a year. Ukraine, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands.
“It’s a voluntary role but I get my travel expenses and I get to visit so many places I wouldn’t normally see.
“I would say the biggest popularity for guinea pig showing is in England.
“In the national ones you can get up to 1,000 pigs. The last London one got over 1,000.
“The first thing I look for when judging is the breed standard.
“That means the markings, the color and shape.
“It’s the presentation of the pig too. You could have one pig win one week, then next week not.
“It’s good fun. I don’t know how I’ve learned it, but it’s just through experience. I’ve just naturally learned it.
“There’s no plans on stopping, I’m enjoying it. I have an absolute wonderful time doing it.
“How many people can say that their hobby takes them all over the world.
“The fact I get to travel doing something that I love, why would you stop.
“I loved judging in Ukraine, I think that stood out the most because it was a special place.”
His love for guinea pigs is so strong he spent £10,000 building a huge enclosure for his 80 furry pets.
In his collection, Jme has 18 endangered Belted pigs, and tries to breed the rarer species.
Jme said: “For every 20 you have, you may only have two show pigs. A lot will be your breeders.
“You may keep pigs that have extreme attributes. I breed mark breeds. I breed them to get a perfectly marked one.
“You do have more than you need, you have to breed your own. A breeder won’t breed you their best.
“I’ve got six different breeds, that works out as approximately 13 pigs per breed. I have known someone that has had up to 300.
Jme said his dad inspired his love of animals and helped him buy his very first guinea pig when he was just nine.
He added: “I was always brought up with animals, my dad ever since I was a baby he’s had animals around me. I’ve grown up and had doves and pigeons, pheasants, gerbils and rabbits.
“I got my first guinea pig when I was nine and I called him Ron Weasley because he had ginger fur. I was hooked after that and I’ll never be without them.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker