'Old Yeller' Is Iconic, But We Can't Get Over His Final Scene

Posted by Crystal Long
Old Yeller Ending Scene
Screenshot from YouTube

'Old Yeller' is a classic coming-of-age story about a boy and his dog, and the final scene is one of the saddest scenes we've ever seen.

It's a timeless lesson: life is hard, but we still have to push through so we can discover what life has to offer --- Sort-of-a get back on the horse, so to speak.

Based on an award-winning book of the same name by author Fred Gipson, Old Yeller, directed by Robert Stevenson, is a tear-jerker of a movie about love and loss, and doing the right thing even if it hurts.

Yes, Disney's iconic boy-coming-of-age story is full of great life lessons that make the Disney film a great choice for family movie night, but truthfully, it's the final scene that still haunts us.

The Story of Old Yeller

The 1957 Disney movie is centered around the Coates family. After dad Jim Coates (played by Fess Parker) goes off on a cattle drive, young Travis Coates (Tommy Kirk) is left to be the "man of the house" on their family ranch in Texas and take care of his mother, Katie (Dorothy McGuire), and younger brother Arliss (Kevin Corcoran).

One day, little brother Arliss finds a yellow dog that's assumed to be a stray dog, and immediately takes him in as "his dog" - he's of course met with big bro Travis's disapproval at first. But Travis's opinion of Old Yeller (played by a labrador retriever named Spike) quickly changes when the yeller dog saves little Arliss from a bear attack plus a series of incidents involving raccoons in a cornfield, a rabid wolf attack, and wild hogs - all proving Old Yeller to be capable of protecting the Coates family, and thus earning Travis's respect and love. Ultimately, he and Old Yeller form a strong bond.

'Old Yeller' Death Scene

When visitor Burn Sanderson (Chuck Connors) shows up at the Coates farm looking for his dog, we find out that he is actually Old Yeller's original master. After making a trade with Arliss, he takes Travis aside and warns him of the growing Hydrophobia disease that's running rampant.

The turning point in this Walt Disney movie is when Travis sadly finds out that his good dog Old Yeller had contracted the dreaded Hydrophobia (aka rabies). And that moment when he knows he has no choice but to carry out the painful task of putting Old Yeller down - well, that's just heartbreaking.

Spoiler alert: Infected Old Yeller dies under Travis's shotgun after he steps up as the man and tells his mother, "No mama, he's my dog, I'll do it".

After easily one of the most horrific final scenes in a Disney movie EVER, there is a sliver of happy ending: when Travis found a way to bond with one of Old Yeller's offspring, given to the young boy by his friend, Lisbeth Searcy (Beverly Washburn).

Have you seen 'Old Yeller'? Please let us know in the comments!

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'Old Yeller' Is Iconic, But We Can't Get Over His Final Scene