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Old Yeller Day

September 15, 2023

Do you remember the Disney classic Old Yeller? It may be time for a rewatch; September 24th is Old Yeller Day. Of course, you’ll want to stock up on tissues before seeing the film: it contains one of the most heartbreaking scenes ever. A San Antonio, TX vet offers some insight into the film below.


Old Yeller was based on a novel by rancher Fred Gipson, who was a Mason native. The manuscript is now preserved in the Library of Congress for its cultural significance. The book wasn’t specifically based on a true story, but it very much was influenced by time Gibson spent on ranches … presumably around some beloved dogs. In the story, Yeller shows up on the ranch of a struggling family in 1800’s Texas. The pup is originally unwelcome, but wins the family over by being a very, very good boy. The story follows the story of Yeller and his human, Travis, touching on that special, deep bond between humans and animals.


The fictional Yeller is a Black Mouth Cur. However, the canine’s part was played by a pooch named Spike, who was a Mastodor, a Mastiff/Lab Retriever mix. Spike’s story is also pretty interesting. A former shelter pup, the pooch was trained by Frank Weatherwax. Weatherwax was also the trainer for another famous pup: Pal, the original Lassie. As for Spike, Old Yeller wasn’t his only acting gig. He also appeared in Lassie and The Mickey Mouse Club.

What’s In A Name?

Ever wonder how Old Yeller got his name? There’s a double meaning to the pup’s now-famous moniker. The pup’s fur was yellow, which was often pronounced as ‘yeller’ back then. Plus, the canine’s bark sounded like a human yelling.


We can’t really discuss Old Yeller without mentioning rabies. If you remember, the faithful pooch contracted the deadly disease when protecting his humans from a rabid wolf. The main character, Travis, is devastated when Old Yeller, who is quarantined, starts showing signs of aggression. This, as you may know, is a classic sign of rabies. (Stephen King took that to a whole new level with Cujo, but that’s another topic.) Rabies is still as deadly today as it was in the post-Civil War era. In fact, it’s the deadliest virus on the planet, with a nearly 100% fatality rate. Keep up with your canine pal’s vaccinations!

As your San Antonio, TX animal clinic, we’re dedicated to offering top-notch care. Contact us anytime!

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