Old Yeller

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First edition (publ. Harper & Brothers)

Old Yeller is a 1956 children's novel written by Fred Gipson[1] and illustrated by Carl Burger.[2] It received a Newbery Honor in 1957.[3] In 1957, Walt Disney released a film adaptation starring Tommy Kirk, Fess Parker, Dorothy McGuire, Kevin Corcoran, Jeff York, and Beverly Washburn.


Travis Coates has been working to take care of his family ranch in the late 1860s in the fictional town of Salt Licks, Texas, with his mother and younger brother Arliss, while his father goes off on a cattle drive. A "dingy yellow" dog comes to the family and Travis reluctantly takes it in; they name him Old Yeller. The name has a double meaning: the fur color yellow pronounced as "yeller", and the fact that its bark sounds more like a human yell.

Travis initially loathes the "rascal" and at first tries to get rid of it, but the dog eventually proves his worth, saving the family on several occasions: rescuing Arliss from a bear, Travis from a bunch of wild hogs, and Mama and their friend Lisbeth from a wolf. Travis grows to love Old Yeller, and they become great friends. The rightful owner of Yeller shows up looking for his dog. He recognizes that the family has become attached to Yeller, so he trades the dog to Arliss for a horned toad and a home-cooked meal prepared by Travis' mother.

Old Yeller is bitten while saving his family from a rabid wolf. Travis cannot risk Old Yeller becoming rabid and turning on the family, and has to kill the dog. Old Yeller had puppies, and one of them helps Travis get over Old Yeller's death. They take in the new dog and try to make a fresh start.


Old Yeller in the novel is described as being a "yellow cur".[4][5] It has been claimed that the dog was actually modeled after the Yellow or Southern Black Mouth Cur or a Blue Lacy, the state dog of Texas.[6] In the Disney film adaptation Yeller was portrayed by a yellow Labrador Retriever/Mastiff mix.[7]

Other books in the series[edit]

The new puppy becomes the title character of the follow-up book Savage Sam (1962)[8] and 1963 film adaptation. A third book, Little Arliss (1978), is set after the first two and features Travis' younger brother.[9]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Gipson, Fred (October 1, 1990). Old Yeller. Perfection Learning. ISBN 978-0812416336.
  2. ^ Carl V. Burger, 79, Illustrator And a Writer on Wildlife, Dies, N.Y. Times (Dec. 31, 1967)
  3. ^ "1957 Winner & Honorees - Newbery Award & Honor Winners - Research Guides at Dean B. Ellis Library - Arkansas State University". Archived from the original on 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  4. ^ Old Yeller (Book, 1956) in libraries (WorldCat catalog): "But most important there was Old Yeller, a big ugly yellow cur".
  5. ^ Rife, Susan (June 6, 2010). "A classic tale now on CD". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  6. ^ Renna, Christine Hartnagle (2012). Herding Dogs: Selecting and Training the Working Farm Dog. I-5 Publishing. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-593-78653-3.
  7. ^ Shue, Brenda Greene (2014). West, Mark I. (ed.). Old Yeller: From Gipson Tale to Disney Classic. McFarland & Company. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-476-61824-1.
  8. ^ Gipson, Fred (July 28, 1976). Savage Sam (1st Perennial Library ed.). Harper Perennial Modern Classics. ISBN 978-0060803773.
  9. ^ Old Yeller (1957 Film) Summary. Retrieved 2007-11-08. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  10. ^ "Hawai'i State Nēnē Award Winners". The Nēnē Award. Retrieved April 22, 2015.