A GUINEA pig found abandoned in a cardboard box and her 11-year-old owner have triumphed on the international stage.
Ben Cook’s pet Cheekygirl has come second in a category at the Real London Show, said to be the guinea pig equivalent of world-famous dog show Crufts by guinea pig lovers.
The show is for guinea pigs, mice and hamsters and attracts entrants from countries including Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
Ben won the Best Juvenile Exhibitors’ Pet category, then from this went on to be placed second in the Supreme Pets category, which saw him competing against adults too.
He has been competing in shows for more than three years, attending contests around the country roughly once or twice a month, but this is the most prestigious event in the calendar.
Though Ben has competed at the event before, this is the best result he has had.
Guinea pigs are judged on how they look and their temperament and it can take an hour to prepare each guinea pig for a show.
Ben, of Dutton Lane, Eastleigh, said it is Cheekygirl’s personality that makes her special. She got her name because when she was found she looked at people with a cheeky face.
“I was just so happy because she tried her best and she won,” he said. “She puts her head up and thinks she’s the best – she likes to always be picked up and have cuddles.”
The tan and white pet was found dumped with her brother and sister in a cardboard box at an area off Dutton Lane locally called ‘the dump’ by a neighbour two years ago.
Knowing the family had some guinea pigs, she handed them over to the Cook family’s care.
Ben comes from a guinea pig-loving family and has had guinea pigs since he was a toddler, but now owns around 20 guinea pigs himself – though the family have 35 in total.
Mum Claire Cook, 33, a cleaner, said the family, which includes Ben’s brother Luke, started shows after they went with Ben’s grandmother Sue, of Bishopstoke, to see what it was like and became “absolutely hooked”.
Ben and his grandmother are one of only five breeders in the UK of the rare self beige breed.
The Crestwood College pupil spends 30 minutes each day after school caring for his guinea pigs, which includes cleaning out hutches, replacing their food and water and grooming.
“It’s just a hobby for me to have so I’m not sat inside bored and when it’s raining I can just get a guinea pig out and cuddle it,” he said.