Old Yeller is the name of a book by Frank Gipson and the name of the title character. In 1957, the Walt Disney studio produced a film based on the book also by the same name. Since then, there has been much discussion about just what kind of dog is Old Yeller.
While Old Yeller was described in the book as a yellow cur, some opinions on its breed include a Yellow or Southern Black Mouth Cur, or a Lacy Dog Cur and Texas State Dog mix.
The dog used in the film was a yellow Labrador Retriever/Mastiff mix breed. This dog was named Spike and found in a Van Nuys animal shelter.
Besides this firm, Spike has also the dog in the Lassie movie.
Shortly after the Civil War, the book focuses on a family in a small, fictional Texas town. While the father is off on a cattle drive, work on the home ranch falls to two young brothers, Travis and Arliss, and their mother. When meat keeps disappearing from the family smokehouse, the culprit is eventually discovered to be a dingy yellow dog. Travis wants to chase off the dog to protect the family’s provisions, but younger brother Arliss wants to keep him. The mother relents, and the dog is named Old Yeller, both for his color and bark, which sounds like a human yell.
Labrador is a the perfect breed of dog as this dog breed is courageous and protective of its owners. And we can see that the dog proves to be a good protector of the family in a number of occasions. First, it saved Travis from an attack by wild hogs, and later the mother and a friend from a lone wolf. One day Arliss discovers a bear cub by itself. Arliss does a dangerous thing by offering the cub something to eat to get it close enough to catch. The cub’s mother appears, in a foul mood seeing her cub’s situation. Old Yeller shows up and manages to drive the bears away.
One day a neighbor, Bud Searcy, stops by the ranch with his granddaughter. While Old Yeller gets friendly with the Searcy female hound, Bud tells the family about some kind of animal that has been getting into storehouses belonging to area ranchers. Bud’s granddaughter, Lisbeth, quietly tells Travis that she saw Old Yeller in her family’s stores. After this, Travis takes steps to keep the dog at home.
Later on, a cowboy comes by and when he sees Old Yeller, he tells the family that he’s actually the dog’s owner. He had disappeared while accompanying a long cattle drive. However, after a time the cowboy sees how much the family has become attached to the dog and decides to let them keep him.
After supper, the cowboy tells Travis and the area has seen a plague of hydrophobia, or rabies. He informs Travis that the disease is very contagious and that even humans can get it. He urges Travis to be careful while out on the ranch and to watch for any animal that behaves strangely or is very aggressively.
Unfortunately, one evening Travis finds the family milk heifer moaning and walking in circles, and even charges at Travis’ mother. The heifer’s condition gets worse, and when an aggressive bull wanders onto the ranch, Travis shoots and burns the body, then realizes he must do the same with the heifer.
While gathering firewood, the mother and Lisbeth, who has been helping out at the ranch, are attacked by a rabid wolf. Old Yeller is defending them, but before Travis can shoot the wolf, Old Yeller is bitten. Travis reluctantly realizes he has to shoot Old Yeller. Brokenhearted, the family slowly recovers with the help of a pup from Lisbeth’s hound. The father was Old Yeller.
Both Gipson’s book and the film have retained their popularity over the years, and the film is one that most children have seen. It’s usually rated along with Bambi as one of the saddest kids’ movies of all time. And who can forget the Old Yeller who was really the star in the movie and book.