Burbank High School junior Genesis Ortiz walked Mr. Destructo, all 280 pounds of him, down the aisles of the swine barn. Surrounding her, hundreds of other students did the same with their pigs, preparing for the first round of the San Antonio Junior Livestock Show.

Just like Ortiz, the students walking or sitting alongside the swine pens spent months caring and preparing their animals for the competition on Sunday morning, when each swine will be judged on its muscle, body volume and structural soundness, among other criteria.

Fewer than 10% of animals exhibited in the Junior Livestock Show go on to qualify for the Junior Livestock Auction. There, students who sell their animal use the auction proceeds to continue their show experiences and education. 

For a student from Burbank High School, a school in the heart of San Antonio, competing against Texas 4-H and FFA students from rural schools in the competitive Junior Livestock Show could be intimidating, but not for Ortiz. 

“I think everyone from Burbank is a mix from everywhere,” said Ortiz, who grew up on her mother’s family’s ranch as much as she did in San Antonio. “Some people have a lot of land, and I know some are really the city kids.”

Located just south of downtown, Burbank High School became the first San Antonio-area school to offer an agriculture program in 1937 and today has a 75-acre student farm laboratory on campus.

Ortiz kept her reddish brown Duroc hog on campus, but many of Burbank’s competitors at the show are students who get to keep their animals at home, where they can feed them and take care of them more easily.

“If you really want to place and be good with them, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with them,” she said.

Ortiz spent about three hours every weekday taking care of Mr. Destructo and working with him to perfect his posture for exhibition. She visited her hog each morning before school and fed him. After school, she’d go right back and check on him again. 

On the weekends, Ortiz spent about five hours a day feeding and playing with him. 

Ortiz is one of eight Burbank High students showing hogs this year at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. For Ortiz and two others, the opportunity to participate came when Palo Alto College’s agricultural coordinator, Ty Chumley, offered to fund the purchase of a hog and provide other support for students interested in joining the competition. 

Genesis Ortiz’s pig Mr. Destructo at the San Antonio Rodeo and Stock Show Swine Barn at the AT&T Center Parkway.
Mr. Destructo, a Duroc pig raised by Genesis Ortiz, prepares for exhibition at the San Antonio Rodeo and Stock Show swine barn. Credit: Brenda Bazán / San Antonio Report

In October, Ortiz got Mr. Destructo — so named because he likes to “run into absolutely everything” — at just 3 months old and weighing 73 pounds.

“He has a goofy personality,” Ortiz said. “He’s super smart. He likes to run and play. Yesterday, we were playing tag with him. … It was super funny. He tries to open the gate to his pen.”

Hogs like Mr. Destructo are bred at Burbank High and cost about $100 each. Food, of course, is extra, but Palo Alto College’s contributions helped cover supplies, like feed buckets. 

Ortiz, who wants to become a veterinarian, had wanted to participate in the livestock show previously but didn’t have the time. This year, she decided to give up sports to make room in her schedule.

Her experience raising Mr. Destructo has led Ortiz to become more involved in Burbank’s FFA club, even considering a run for president.

Ortiz said the best part of the experience of raising Mr. Destructo has been simply having fun with him. At the Burbank barn, she converted an empty room into a dirt room with a mud pile for her hog to play in. 

“I did that for him and he loved it,” she said.

Mr. Destructo will either be sold in the auction if he places high enough in the judged competition or eventually be slaughtered, Ortiz said. When it’s time to say goodbye, Ortiz said she’ll give him a kiss on his forehead or snout. And shed a few tears.

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.