Hog dogging as a sport developed from the training of specialist boar-hunting dogs. Typically a hunter's pack of dogs is divided into "bays" who corner the hogs and "catch dogs" that try to bring them down. The development of this training into a competitive spectator event is believed to have first taken place in Winnfield, Louisiana at an event known as "Uncle Earl's Hog Dog Trials." The Trials were first organized in 1995 as part of the celebration of former Governor and well-known hog hunter Earl K. Long's 100th birthday. The annual event is known as "The of Hog Dog Baying." In these trials, a group of five judges score the dogs' skill at baying the hog (cornering it and causing it to stand still.) Events are classed by the age of the dog and the number of dogs attempting the bay.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), most active pens are found in the U.S. Southern states with the highest current concentration in Alabama. Louisiana passed a bill in 2004 to prohibit hog dogging contests in which either animal could be hurt or killed. The Winnfield event, which is officially recognized by the Louisiana legislature, is exempted from the ban because only bay dogs are used and if a dog "catches" or clamps onto the hog for more than five seconds it is pried loose with a "break stick" and disqualified from competition. The organizers consider their event to be a "family-oriented" spectacle that preserves aspects of Louisiana's traditions and culture.
Already such contests can be prosecuted as animal cruelty, though only the dogs' owners are punished, often with a fine or short sentence. In 2006 state legislatures throughout the south moved to outlaw hog baiting. Governors in Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi and South Carolina all signed bills into law that prohibit organized hog catch competitions, after an undercover story on Inside Edition took notice of many still being held in those states. Crafting such laws is complicated by organized resistance from breeders of fighting cocks, whose long-established, though technically illegal, industry still has enough power to discourage broad new legislation against all animal combat. The proposed legislation in Alabama would also exempt the use of dogs in hunting wild boar or for herding hogs on a farm.
On July 26, 2007, commentator Geraldo Rivera, in a conversation with Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor, which the latter hosts, called for a crackdown on hog-baiting, asserting that not doing so while aggressively pursuing individuals engaged in dog-fighting — such as Michael Vick — would constitute hypocrisy, and even racism since the latter is associated with African-American culture while the former is popularly connected to white Southerners.