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Before Sylvester the Cat, there was Sylvester the Dog

The canine appeared with Bugs Bunny in the Merrie Melodies short Hare Force in 1944

By Cheryl E PrestonPublished 29 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2024
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Sylvester the dog

Sylvester was a Merrie Melodies canine

Sylvester, the Cat, is a beloved Looney Tunes character who debuted in March 1947 in the animated short Life with Feathers. The iconic Mel Blanc once said that he enjoyed voicing Sylvester, one of his favorite characters. The cartoon short that was near and dear to Blanc's heart was Bird's Anonymous which starred the popular cat.

The feline's name was not original as a Merrie Melodies character was called Sylvester in Hare Force, which premiered July 27, 1944, starring Bugs Bunny and Sylvester the Dog.

A dog and rabbit fight

In this seven-minute classic, Sylvester is a canine, warm and comfy by the fireplace in his home. One cold, snowy night, Granny brings Bugs Bunny out of the elements and into her house, and the dog is furious. Bugs had been hamming it up and exaggerating his condition, pretending he is not long for this world.

Granny falls for it, and believing the rabbit would freeze to death, she takes him in. Sylvester is furious at the interloper and as soon as the older lady is gone, a fight for the house ensues between the animals.

This earlier version of the famous cartoon grandma who cares for Tweety Bird is tall and slender. Both versions of Granny are voiced by Bea Benaderet, who portrayed Kate Bradley in Petticoat Junction and Cousin Pearl Bodine in The Beverly Hilbillies.

The dueling animals battle for the house

Ted Pierce, the man Chuck Jones said bragged about being a ladies' man and was his inspiration for Pepe LePew, was Sylvester's voice as a dog. The plot revolves around the canine and rabbit trying to put each other out into the cold and be the only animal inside the house. They begin throwing one another outside quickly and furiously and make so much noise that Granny angrily tells them both to get out.

In a plot twist, the fur-bearing creatures band together and turn on Granny throwing her out of the house into the snow. She looks bewildered while inside Sylvester curls up near the fireplace as Bugs Bunny gets comfy in a chair. The Wascally Wabbit looks into the camera, and says one of his signature lines, "Ain't I a Little Stinker?"

AN early version of Granny

Revisiting a familiar storyline

If the plot seems familiar, it's because of a similar situation in 1943's Hiss and Makes Up, which you can watch below. In this animated short, Granny is fed up with her unnamed cat and dog's constant fighting.

In later episodes, Granny becomes the short, stout beloved character we know and love today. Sylvester the Dog is not seen again, and his name is given to the iconic Sylvester the Cat. Bugs Bunny goes through several changes before he becomes the Looney Tune icon he is today.

Hare Force has caused controversy based on comments on Letterboxed. Some commenters were under the mistaken impression that Sylvester the Dog was given his name after the iconic cat was created. As mentioned earlier the canine's one episode was in 1944, and the feline was not created until 1947.

How to watch Hare Force

I could not find the full Hare Force animated short online but it is shown randomly on Saturday morning Looney Tunes on MeTV. Tune in and perhaps you might catch this one-off episode with Sylvester the Dog.

Hare Force is available on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3. It can also be found on the Bugs Bunny: Hollywood Legend VHS, the "Starring Bugs Bunny" VHS,[6] the "Looney Tunes Collectors Edition: Canine Corps" VHS from Columbia House, and the "Bugs Bunny Classics" laserdisc.

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About the Creator

Cheryl E Preston

Cheryl is a widow who enjoys writing about current events, soap spoilers and baby boomer nostalgia. Tips are greatly appreciated.

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Comments (8)

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  • Anna 22 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!

  • Mika Oka23 days ago

    This is interesting to know

  • angela hepworth26 days ago

    Whoa who knew??

  • 🐑

  • Clyde E. Dawkins27 days ago

    I loved that short! Very hilarious and it was on as part of Catchy Comedy's Weekend Binge of Looney Tunes this past weekend!

  • D. D. Lee27 days ago

    I enjoyed the backstory on Sylvester. He’s my favorite looney tune. Congrats on Top Story!

  • Sasi Kala29 days ago

    i like story

  • Mariann Carroll29 days ago

    Very informative.

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