‘Uncle Earl’s’ Hog Dog Trials set

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

We have more wide spread community support this year than I think ever before,” Deano Thornton, former four term Mayor of Winnfield told the Piney Woods Journal. “We have firmly established that the fourth weekend in March each year is Uncle Earl’s Hog-Dog Trials.”

“Also, we have a new promoter this year, Jake Loiacano. Although Jake is from the Jasper, Texas area, he is no stranger to Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials. Jake has worked every position there is in the Hog Dog Pens at the Winn Fair Grounds. He has a real passion about Uncle Earl’s hog dog trials.”

“Jake produces three Hog Dog Trial Events in Texas each year, but he still calls our Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials ”The Super Bowl of Hog Dog Shows" in the South. I’m very eager myself to see how Uncle Earl’s Show unfolds with Jake as our promoter. Jake’s motto about our Uncle Earl event is: Bring your Best to the Granddaddy of them All!"

Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials was begun in 1994 in an effort to comemorate the 100th birthday of former three term Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long. Although being Governor of the State of Louisiana was his day job, it seemed like Uncle Earl’s real passion was in hog hunting in the swamps of Dugdemona River.

“It was a huge shock to the merchants of Winnfield the year we cancelled Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials," Thornton emphasized. “Our first event was also memorable in that so many people came to Winnfield for the event that every loaf of bread and the fixings to make a sandwich with was totally sold out.”

“We have a seven member Board of Directors made up of active community participants. Mr. Claude O’Bryan to whom much credit is due for starting this event, is on our Board. I represent the Kiwanis Civic Club on the Uncle Earl Board. We have five other Board members who represent some segment of the Winn Parish community.”

The new show producer promoter is Jake Loiacano of Village Mills Texas which is in the middle of the Big Thicket area in East Texas. Loiacano has a five year contract to produce Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Show from 2018 through 2023.

“My dad and I first attended a couple of Hog Dog Bayings in our area,” Loiacana told the Piney Woods Journal. “We were very involved in using stock dogs in working cattle.”

“I loved watching our dogs work the cattle. It was like watching poetry in motion, how a well trained dog could control cattle. I saw the same thing in Hog Baying and quickly developed a passion for it. I made my first trip to Uncle Earl’s at a young age and started working the pens.”

“I soon started training and showing my hog dogs,” Loiacano pointed out. “That was a load of fun and I won several competitions including the Best of the Best and High Point with my dog, Jumper.”

“My desire in Hog Dog Baying is to raise the level of competion and fan participation to the point that a person can make a good living raising, training and competing with Hog-Dogs all over the South. For instance, this year at Uncle Earl’s, we anticipate having 600 entries and payout to the winners over $60,000.”

“That does not include any of the earnings that fans may make in backing their favorite dog in one or more of the categories of competition. In addition, Uncle Earl’s will generate at least $2,000 for scholarships for our youth. As in anything, the youth are the future of Hog-Dog Baying.”

“We also have a couple of events planned for the Hog-Dog exhibitors outside the bay pen,” Loiacano, a ormer football player at McNeese University in Lake Charles pointed out.

“We will have a Great Supper for our entries in the competition.”

“In addition, we have a game of chance called ”Cornhole."

Cornhole is a lot like a game of washers because the participants throw a bag of “corn” at cut-outs in plywood. The participants who can put a bag of corn in one of the cut-outs is one of the winners."

For those of you who haven’t attended a previous “Uncle Earl’s Hog-Dog” event, the bay-dogs are judged on their containment and control of the boar (male hog of size) and their style of baying, continually barking at the hog. The better bay-dogs will bay in a pattern that alerts the trainer to the movements of the hog and the dog retains control of the boar with his demeanor and herding ability. Bay-Dogs are outfitted with Kevlar vest, chest armor, and extra-wide collars to protect them from any major injuries they might incur in the face-off against a wild boar hog.

If a boar runs from the bay-dogs, the dogs may nip the boar to make him stop running; however, catching the hog is prohibited. For generations in the Winnfield area, hundreds of families have owned herds that roamed for forage in the swamps of Dugedoma Swamp. The fall of the year was hog-hunting time. Herd owners would go into the woods, find their marked hogs and proceed to determine how many and which hogs they wanted to carry home for bacon and ham. During the manuevering of the herd of hogs, an owner would usually have two or three bay dogs and one or two catch dogs. The catch dogs were used to temporarily hold for inspection by the owners.

The bacon, ham and other meat obtained from the woods hogs were oftentimes the difference between a family staving off starvation during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Governor Earl K. Long, having been born in 1895 was well aware of the improtance of having wild hogs in the woods for a source of meat for the family each fall and winter.

Uncle Earl’s Annual Hog-Dog Show helps preserve a very important part of rural American history. In addition, Hog-Baying has developed into a fascinating family sport. Hog-Baying is not just a spectator sport but one that strenghtens family and friends connections in a postive manner.