In "Old Yeller", why did most of the hog owners keep 4 or 5 old barrows to run with the sows?What did Bud Searcy tell Travis Coates when he visited their home?
The hog owners let their hogs loose on the range, where they were pretty much on their own. Range pigs were fierce, tenacious fighters, as they had to be to survive "in a country where the wolves, bobcats, panther, and bear were always after them". Most of the owners kept four or five old "barrows", or "bar' hogs", to run with the sows to help protect them and the shoats born every year. The barrows were no more vicious than the boars, but, unlike the boars who "generally pulled off to range alone", the barrows tended to stick with the sows to help keep them and their shoats safe from predators (Chapter 9).
When Bud Searcy comes to visit, he has plenty to talk about, being an exceptionally garrulous man by reputation. There are two things he tells Travis that are especially important, however. First of all, he mentions that Jed Simpson's boy Rosal had been attacked by a fox while he was hunting; since a fox will not ordinarily jump on a hunter like that, it is possible that the fox was stricken with hydrophobia, or rabies, a particularly dreaded disease if it should spread. The second bit of news Searcy brings is that there is an unidentified "varmint" loose who has "recently started robbing the settlement blind", nabbing meat from smokehouses, eggs from henhouses, and even cornbread left out to cool. Travis suspects Old Yeller, and his suspicions are verified when Lisbeth tells him she has seen the dog stealing (Chapter 6).