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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


4-H Animal Projects: An Option for any 4-H Member

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No matter where you live, you can learn how to take care of an animal!

Learning how to be responsible for another being takes practice – and 4-H members who experience animal projects practice those skills daily. And animal projects aren’t just for 4-H members who live in rural areas. You can learn how to take care of just about any animal you can think of, in just about any location – small ones like rabbits or ducks, mid-size like goats, or larger like steers, or horses. Or even more unique animals like miniature pigs.

Ohio 4-H members meet in traditional community-based clubs, during in-school or after-school programs, or in unique special interest groups. No matter how they are involved in 4-H, they also work with their peers, complete projects, and learn about specific subjects, also while they also learn life and leadership skills. That includes 4-H animal projects.

We have several free fact sheets available on Ohioline to learn more about positive youth development-related topics, including how to work with animals:

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills as they work in partnership with caring adults. What does that mean? Learn more at

The Ohio 4-H Family Guide outlines the entire collection of Ohio 4-H projects for the current year. During the summer fair season, 4-H members are judged on their projects. This is serious business – and a time-honored tradition, including with animal projects. Learn more about the animal project categories in 4-H, check out

When they come to the county fair with animal projects, 4-H members exhibit what they have learned during showmanship classes – in which they demonstrate how well they handle their animal and what they have learned about it. In market show classes, the focus is on the animal – this includes things like bone structure, muscle, mobility, and overall quality of the animal for its species.

4-H market animal projects usually end at the county fair, because the animal does just that – goes to market. However, 4-H members can also show almost any species of animal at the Ohio State Fair in a “junior division,” in which they compete with their peers from across the state. For the most part, this is a completely different animal than the one actually exhibited at the local fair.

All of this also inspires good-natured competition among youth at the county and state level. Winners are entitled to some bragging rights about the results of their hard work! Those who exhibit animals that win county fair market classes may sell their animal for more money at the fair auction. They might even be proving good genetics if their family raises a particular species of animal year-round, and one of their animals wins at the county or state fair.

Want to try a completely different angle  what about beekeeping? Yep, that's an option too! Visit to learn more about the 4-H beekeeping project.

This program teaches 4-H youth how to use best practices that support the production of quality and safe animal products for consumers, as well as responsible animal handling, care and welfare in not only farm animal production, but also with companion and performance animals. Learn more at

4-H Project Central is an easy online way for current and prospective 4-H members to preview Ohio 4-H project books and resources. You can take a closer look at a book, find out what others have to say, and share your experience at

There are several options that teachers can explore with kids in their classroom! For example – what can we learn from a chick? Find out with ChickQuest, a Science Alive 4-H School Enrichment program that uses science, technology, engineering, and math skills to investigate the life cycle of an embryonic chicken egg. Students get to monitor living eggs and care for newly-hatched chicks.

Contact your local Ohio State University Extension office and the 4-H professional in the county where you reside.  They will suggest a community club, in-school or after-school program, and other activities that will best meet your child’s needs and interest areas. Find a list of county Extension offices here.

Attending the Ohio State Fair has been a family tradition since 1850! You can check out the youth animal and other project judging throughout the fair, as well as a great variety of fair food, the famous butter cow display with great ice cream, a large natural resources park with free fishing for kids and wildlife, rides on the midway, free stage shows, and other activities. Make plans today to visit through Aug. 8 at