Old Drum


In 2017, Old Drum became the official historical dog of Missouri. Drum, owned by Charles Burden, was a black and tan hunting hound whose shooting death became the subject of a long series of court cases leading up to an 1872 Missouri Supreme Court decision. On the night of Oct. 28, 1869, Samuel Ferguson shot and killed the dog after his uncle, Leonidas Hornsby, spotted him on property he owned. Because Hornsby allegedly coaxed Ferguson into it, Burden sued Hornsby for $100 in damages.

Burden appealed his case multiple times, eventually convincing attorney George Graham Vest to take it up before the Johnson County Circuit Court in 1870. It was during the closing arguments that Vest brought lasting notoriety to Burden vs. Hornsby. Vest’s speech became known as the Eulogy of the Dog and it was renowned for its reverence of “man’s best friend.” Two years later, the Supreme Court of Missouri upheld the Johnson County verdict in Burden’s favor, affirming that Hornsby owed him $50 plus court costs.

A statue and plaque at the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg memorialize both Old Drum and the Eulogy of the Dog (aka Tribute to the Dog), and a bust of Old Drum is found in the Supreme Court of Missouri Building. The Animal Planet network even produced The Trial of Old Drum, a made-for-television movie loosely based on the case that first aired in 2000, starring Scott Bakula, Ron Pearlman and Randy Travis. Previously, the case received a 1957 television treatment on The Joseph Cotton Show: On Trial in an episode entitled “Dog vs. Biddeford” where Cotton portrayed George Graham Vest.


Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo)

§10.112. Old Drum designated as the historical dog of Missouri. – The dog known as “Old Drum”, whose death became the subject of an 1870 Missouri Supreme Court case and the delivery of a famous speech as the closing argument to the case known as the “Eulogy to Old Drum”, is designated as the historical dog of the state of Missouri. (L. 2017 S.B. 376)

approved 23 June 2017
effective 28 August 2017


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Additional Resources:

Check out the whole story of Old Drum, including original court documents, on the Missouri State Archives website here.

DiBenedetto, David. “The Case of Old Drum: An Inspiring Story Every Dog Owner Should Know.” Field & Stream, January 27, 2010.

Snyder, Gerald S. “Monument to be Erected to Old Drum Whose Death Inspired Famous Speech.” Evening Herald, October 12, 1957, 10.

Vance, Joel M. “A Couple of Well-known Dogs.” Missouri Conservationist 51, no. 12 (December 1990): 3-4. Read this article for free on Missouri Digital Heritage here.


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