Yorkshire guinea pig breeder has a herd of 120 after inheriting a 'muddle' aged just 11

There is a sense of purpose to Adam Collier's stride as he heads for his herd, as he has done every day he can remember.

He had been but a small child when he first mucked in with a neighbour's chores, later inheriting a guinea pig 'muddle' at the age of 11.

Now, with 120 of his own 'cavies', the well-known agricultural show exhibitor says it means more than a row of rosettes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

These animals are among the last examples of a lapsed lifestyle, he laments, when every village had enough livestock to host its own fair.

Adam Collier at his home in Helmsley

What folk are missing, he intones in a broad Yorkshire drawl, is the quiet calm of routine, and the low rumble of welcoming chatter.

The guinea pigs sometimes sing for their supper, he laughed, and start 'whistling' by 5pm.

"They are clever little animals really," said Mr Collier, who is well known at fur and feather competitions for Yorkshire shows and a judge on the cavy circuit nationwide.

"I spend hours just watching as they call to each other, chatter and talk. The range of whistles they have is unbelievable."

Mr Collier has around 120 guinea pigs

Mr Collier, 41, is a member of the Northern Cavy Club and a judge and exhibitor at agricultural shows across the country, with a row of rosettes on the wall as testament to his care.

While he likes winning, the breeder admits, there is nothing better than a family at the gate, looking hopeful at the prospect of a new pet.

"I sometimes send them home with a pig in their pocket," he said.

Mr Collier had first been introduced to guinea pigs by a neighbour, well-known cavy fancier Barney Kent, who had left him his herd when he died.

He has won numerous award for showing his herd

His parents gave the then 11-year-old a fortnight to tire of his new hobby. Three decades on, and it's only grown.

"I've always had a guinea pig somewhere, now I have about 120," he said. "It's something that relies on you, it gives you a sense of purpose to get up on a morning.

"Too many times you're at a show and people accuse you of breeding for the money, but I'd be a very poor man. You do it for the love of the breed. You've got to take care of them."

Tending to the pigs is time intensive, and it takes Mr Collier, who works as a funeral director, at least an hour-and-a-half just to feed and water them every evening.

They need good hay, he insists, vegetable drops, and fields for their grass. Then there is getting them show ready - bathing and brushing and trimming shiny coats.

In the summer there might usually be a show every week, with 30 to 40 a year. The Bradford Championships, at Doncaster Racecourse, can see 900 guinea pigs every year.

"It's about showing, it's about friendship, it's about seeing people," said Mr Collier. "Only the last 18 months there's been no shows. "There's one or two now coming up perhaps, but not like it used to be.

"There will be a lot of fanciers that have given up their animals, a lot we won't see again. It will be a change, when we get back to it. I've got to keep breeding, to keep it going."

There is a fair menagerie of animals at Adam Collier’s home, that he shares with wife Stephanie at Nawton, near Helmsley, at the foot of the North York Moors.

There are five dogs, a cat, five horses, three goats, three sheep, 12 rabbits, 10 chickens, and nine ducks, in addition to the 120 guinea pigs.

"We used to have local shows in village halls on a Saturday night, there were so many people that kept livestock," he said. "It's all gone. Everybody in this world now is in a rush.

"This is how I slow down, I go to my shed. It's a forgotten thing, from a forgotten era. Nowadays we are few and far in-between."