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He was far from the biggest bass ever caught--that was the 22-pound, four-ouncer reeled in by Georgia farmer George Washington Perry in 1932--but six-pound, seven-ounce Leroy Brown was surely the smartest. When bass-fishing great Tom Mann pulled him out of Lake Eufaula in '73, he said he noticed the fish's "intelligent eyes." He put Brown in a tank at his Eufaula, Ala., bait shop and the fish learned to jump through a hoop above the water. Mann said Brown was so brainy he never bit a test hook and bumped other fish so they wouldn't either; he was also so caring, or so in denial, that he pushed dead fish back down when they began to float. Hundreds came daily to see Brown, and his funeral, in '81, drew 700 mourners. The sculpture erected in his honor in Eufaula is inscribed: Most Bass/Are Just Fish/But Leroy Brown/Was Something Special.
In 1952 and '53 he outlasted hundreds of dogs over scores of competitions to win consecutive National Retriever Championships--a feat not duplicated for more than 40 years. "The first really famous retriever," as he's called by American Kennel Club retriever expert Bill Speck, was honored on the '59 federal duck stamp, the only dog to ever to appear on one. All for a retriever who weighed just 60 pounds, 20 pounds less than many others. "He was a little boy," says Speck, "but he had a big heart."
LITTLE YELLOW JACKET
The 1,750-pound Brangus bull, part-owned by Elton John's lyricist Bernie Taupin, won an unprecedented third straight Bull of the Year title on the Pro Bullriders' tour in 2004--at the ripe old age of eight. "It's like he's a 40-year-old linebacker," says Cody Lambert, the PBR's vice president. Little Yellow Jacket began his career in 1999, and riders have stayed on him for the full eight seconds only 12 times in 86 career trips. "You're talking about a true athlete," says '97 PBR champion Michael Gaffney. "He had a hop-skip and a quick switchback, and he'd mix it up. He adapted to each rider. And when he threw you off, you knew he loved it. Before rodeos they'd take the trailer out to the pasture, and he'd run to get in because he loved going to the next event."