Legislature Could Name Loyal Hound, Psychic Setter Missouri's State Dogs


"Can I be the state wonder dog? Can I?" - AUTEUR ON FLICKR
  • auteur on flickr
  • "Can I be the state wonder dog? Can I?"

Missouri has a lot of state things: a state bird (bluebird,) a state instrument (the fiddle,) a state fossil (Crinoidea) and even a state dessert (the ice cream cone.)

Now, Missouri legislators want to add two state dogs, one historical dog and one wonder dog.

A bill before the Missouri Legislature would name Old Drum, a dog that died in the 1800s, as the historical dog of Missouri and Jim the Wonder Dog as Missouri's state wonder dog.

So gather 'round, Daily RFT readers, and let us tell you the story of two historic Missouri dogs.

Old Drum

Old Drum, a black and tan hound, became famous in Missouri only after its murder.

Boys remember Old Drum at the memorial marking the place where he was found dead. - MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE
  • Missouri Secretary of State
  • Boys remember Old Drum at the memorial marking the place where he was found dead.

On the night of October 28, 1869, just when families were getting back to the routine of raising crops and livestock after years of plundering and raids during the Civil War, rancher Leonidas Hornsby asked his nephew to shoot a dog on his property.

Old Drum's memorial.
  • Old Drum's memorial.

Dogs and wolves had been decimating his sheep, and Hornsby vowed to kill the next hound on his property, according to Missouri state archives.

That hound was Old Drum, the beloved hunting dog of his brother-in-law Charles Burden. Burden was devastated to find his dog dead, full of lead with its head in a nearby creek, and he vowed revenge, telling Hornsby, "I'll have satisfaction at the cost of my life."

Burden took Hornsby to trial, but he wasn't very successful. There just wasn't enough evidence for an easy conviction, especially since Hornsby didn't pull the trigger.

At the fourth trial in Warrensburg, Burden's lawyer George G. Vest won the case with an epic, heart-wrenching eulogy not just for Old Drum but for man's best friend. The speech wasn't written down until after the trial, so only a small portion remains:

Gentleman of the Jury, a man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and the sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. (Read the entire remaining speech on the third page of this story.)

Jurors ruled in favor of Old Drum's owner Burden, who received $50.

Want to read about Missouri's proposed official state wonder dog, Jim the Wonder Dog? Continue to the next page. Jim the Wonder Dog

Folks who remember Jim, the Llwewllyn setter born to pureblood champion stock in Louisiana, say he was psychic.

Sam VanArsdale, a hotel owner in Marshall in the 1920s and 30s, bought Jim on discount because he was the runt of his litter. The joke is on the original owner, because Jim was a talented hunter. VanArsdale stopped counting after Jim hunted his 5,000th quail, leading Outdoor Life Magazine to call him the hunting dog of the country.

See also: Jim the Wonder Dog Should be Missouri's Historical Dog

Jim the wonder dog. - TOWADOLLA ON FLICKR
  • towadolla on flickr
  • Jim the wonder dog.

But Jim's talents went far beyond hunting. He could follow explicit commands in a number of languages, including Morse Code, say witnesses. He could locate a car by make, color, out-of-state plates or a license number. He predicted the winner of seven Kentucky Derbies, the 1936 World Series and the sexes of numerous unborn children.

When Jim died in 1937, he was buried in Marshall's Ridge Park Cemetery, where he's now the only animal in the all-people graveyard.

Continue reading for the full text of the bill and of Vest's Old Drum speech. Here's the full text of House Bill 1456.

House Bill 1456

And here's the Old Drum speech:

Eulogy of the Dog

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.