In Honor of Fred Gipson and Old Yeller

In front of the Mason Public Library in Mason, Texas is a statue of child with a dog, and astute bibliophiles (and many dog loving librarians) will make the connection. Old Yeller, the story about a boy and a stray in post-Civil War Texas, was written in 1956 by Mason native, Fred Gipson. The library also has a display of memorabilia about Fred Gipson who penned what has to be the saddest dog story of all time.  The statue was created by Garland Weeks in 1999.
In the movie, Old Yeller was a Labrador Retriever and Mastiff mix, but there is debate over whether the Old Yeller in the book was a Black Mouth Cur or a Mountain Cur. As an aside, “Spike,” the dog who played Old Yeller in the movie, was purchased as a pup from the Van Nuys Animal Shelter in Van Nuys, California by trainers Frank and Rudd Weatherwax. At the time of his purchase, Spike’s ancestry was unknown, but in the commentary on the two-disc Old Yeller DVD, it is revealed by a Weatherwax relative that Spike was a 170+ pound Labrador Retriever/Mastiff cross.
As for the breed that Fred Gipson had in mind when he wrote the book, the Black Mouth Cur is regarded by many as the classic Texas hunting dog, absolutely fearless, but sensitive and protective around his people.  The Mountain Cur is described as a courageous dog whose tenacity and grit are second to none, and that, too, fits Old Yeller. So which breed was Old Yeller?  As the author wrote in the book,  “Travis” called the canine an “old yeller” dog after first laying eyes on him, the “yeller” referring to the dog’s yellow color. As the Mountain Cur comes in several colors, our hunch is that Yeller was indeed a Black Mouth Cur.
We came across rumors from 2020 that the statue of Old Yeller was going to be removed; such talk was so rampant that the Mason Chamber of Commerce put out a statement indicating that the gossip was false.
The United Kennel Club recognizes the BMC as a member of the Scenthound Group, but to our knowledge, the only “cur” the AKC may accept is the Mountain Cur, and they are not the same breed.

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