Yosemite Sam made his debut in "Hare Trigger". However, Sam bears a resemblance to a cowboy character in "Buckaroo Bugs", which would be seen as a prototype. Michael Maltese claims that he made Yosemite in the likeness of director Friz Freleng. When Elmer Fudd, who was Bugs Bunny's first enemy, proved to be too much of a softy for his target, Friz decided he needed a tougher opponent so Sam was created.
Yosemite Sam is one of Bugs' toughest antagonists. Yosemite Sam is a more violent character than Bugs' most famous antagonist Elmer Fudd, given that Sam has a tougher accent, a higher fierce voice, and a more violent spirit. He is also quicker to learn from his mistakes and never falls for the same ploy twice. Despite his aggressive and hot-tempered nature, he doesn't prove much brighter than Elmer in his encounters with Bugs. His noise contrasts to the calmly cocky rabbit. Sam's own cockiness gets the best of him, portraying him as a bumbling idiot, and Bugs can see he is incapable of turning down a challenge.
A running gag is that sometimes Yosemite Sam tells Bugs "Open up this door open it up now!" and Bugs opens it when Yosemite Sam is in its way of opening and then closes it, leaving a raging Yosemite Sam flattened. Another gag involves Sam yelling 'Whoa!' at whatever mode of transportation he was using, only to whack it when it refuses to stop.
In addition to his fiery temper and violent nature, Sam is also very abusive towards animals, as he often violently beats his animal minions such as horses (e.g. in "Wild and Wooly Hare"), camels (e.g. in "Sahara Hare"), elephants (e.g. in "Prince Violent"), dragons (e.g. in "Knighty Knight Bugs"), etc. every time when they refuse to stop in their tracks or when they annoy him in the slightest such as sneezing or roaring at him, or forcing them to attack Bugs for him. Unfortunately these proved to be his undoing most of the time, as the animals often either retaliate with violence or make the situation even worse for him. For example in "Prince Violent", the elephant betrays Sam and defects over to Bugs' side as revenge for all the abuse it endured from Sam.
In some cartoons, such as "From Hare to Heir", "Honey's Money", and "Dumb Patrol", he has a rather foul mouthed, as sometimes he cusses unintelligibly when angry, saying things like "racken fracken varmint," either loudly or when mumbling to himself.
Yosemite Sam has had several occupations in his appearances. Among them include:
Prison Guard/Police Officer: In "Big House Bunny", Yosemite Sam is a prison guard working at a fierce prison. When Bugs Bunny enters the prison to escape hunters, Sam claiming to be named Sam Schultz, arrests Bugs, believing that the wabbit is a prisoner trying to escape. Sam sentences the subdued chained Bugs to fifty years in prison. However, Sam gets infuriated and changes his mind after Bugs annoys him. He eventually orders Bugs to leave and never return and celebrates ridding Bugs until he is arrested for helping a prisoner (Bugs) escape.
Warrior: In "Sahara Hare", Yosemite Sam is an Arabian warrior named Riff-Raff Sam. One day, Sam sees footprints on his desert and follows them on the way abusing his camel. Sam eventually sees Bugs trespassing and chases the wabbit into an abandoned base. Sam tries several unsuccessful attempts to enter the base in the episode, which all fail.
Indian Chief: In "Horse Hare", Sam is an Indian chief that leads an army of Indians to capture US Cavalry Sergeant Bugs' base.
Cowboy: In "Wild and Woolly Hare", Yosemite Sam is a legendary gangster cowboy who takes over towns, through intimidation. One day Bugs Bunny challenges him to a gunfight. After Bugs wins the gunfight, Yosemite Sam decides to rob a train. Bugs, however, boards and hijacks the train to save it; Yosemite Sam as a running gag, orders Bugs to get off by the time he counts to a specific number but just when he reaches his final number, he always runs into something like a tunnel wall, telephone pole and falls off a bridge.
Yosemite Sam is a small fellow with a big mouth. He has a temper as short as he is, often drawing his guns on anyone who dares to defy him. He is much like a character from a Western movie, wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. His small size is lampooned in the short "Hare Trigger", where a train he tries to hold up passes right over him without him being harmed. He is reckless, very stubborn, and hates it when he's wrong and hates it so much, in fact, that he shoots bullets at random targets, but never hits anyone. He possesses a mean and somewhat vindictive streak. However, he has taken the roles of several other positions, such as a knight and mayor, but the miniature bandit is best known for his Western cartoons, even though his non-Western "Knighty Knight Bugs" cartoon won an Academy Award.
He usually has a full head of hair when he's not wearing a hat, except in Looney Tunes Cartoons, where he is mostly bald with a few strands of hair and a liver spot.
Sam has, on several accounts, attempted to rid himself of his arch-nemesis, Bugs Bunny, but he has never succeeded, due to the brilliant cleverness and cunning of Bugs. No matter how many times he tries, Sam always seems to experience some form of pain or humiliation when he challenges Bugs. Bugs likes to call him Sam.
Sam has appeared in forms of a pirate, a riff-raffer, a knight, a prospector, and many others in cartoons with Bugs. No matter which form Sam takes, Bugs always beats him in the end.
Over the years, Sam has been voiced by the following people:
- Mel Blanc: 1945 - 1989
- Joe Alaskey: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tiny Toon Adventures
- Jeff Bergman: 1990-1992, 2014, 2021
- Charlie Adler: Tiny Toon Adventures (1 episode only)
- Maurice LaMarche: 1992 - 2016
- Greg Burson: 1991 - 1997
- Jim Cummings: 1996 - 2014
- Bill Farmer: Space Jam
- Frank Gorshin: "From Hare to Eternity"
- Jeff Bennett: Looney Tunes Back in Action, "Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas"
- Fred Tatasciore: 2018 - present
- Keith Scott: Looney Tunes Musical Revue
- Eric Bauza: Looney Tunes World of Mayhem
Main article: Yosemite Sam/Gallery
Main article: List of Yosemite Sam cartoons
- Yosemite Sam has "died" in five cartoons: "Roman Legion-Hare", "Sahara Hare", "Shishkabugs", "Devil's Feud Cake", and "Dumb Patrol".
- In the book The Looney Tunes Treasury, Yosemite Sam has a show called Yosemite Sam's Kiddie Corral, which is a parody of locally hosted children's shows.
- In The Looney Tunes Show episode "Ridiculous Journey", Yosemite Sam's cousin is Blacque Jacque Shellacque.
- In The Looney Tunes Show Sam's full name is Samuel Michelangelo Rosenbaum.
- In New Looney Tunes, Yosemite Sam's full name is Aloysius Barthomelew Sam.
- Ooooooohhhhh! I hate that rabbit!! ~"Southern Fried Rabbit"
- Great horny toads! I must've dug clean through t' Chinee! ~"14 Carrot Rabbit"
- I'm Yosemite Sam, the roughest, toughest, rip-roarin'-est, Edward Everett Horton-est hombre whatever packed a six-shooter! (fires a few shots) That's who I am! ~"Hare Trigger"
- If there's ever givin' away any cigars, Yosemite Sam'll give 'em! -"Ballot Box Bunny"
- Twenty years trying and ya missed me again! Ya shovel-nosed mackerel! No good bushwhacking barracuda. -"Rabbitson Crusoe"
- AH, SHUDDUP! Here! You're a-swabbin' the deck! -"Mutiny on the Bunny"
- Ya ornery fur-bearin' rebel! You'll pay for this! -"Bunker Hill Bunny"
- Oooooh, ya long-eared fur-bearin' flatfooted varmint! Say yer prayers, ya critter! I'm a-blastin' ya to kingdom come at the count of ten! -"Hare Lift"
- What?! Ooooh -- listen, rabbit! Yosemite Sam never makes a mistake! Now get that flea-bitten carcass off'n my real-estate! -"The Fair Haired Hare"
- Let me outta here, let me outta here! Ooooooh! Get me a mouthpiece! I want a "habus corpeus!" -"Big House Bunny"
- Open up that door! Ya notice I didn't say Richard? Come on, open up or I'll bust her down! -"High Diving Hare"
- The first one that tries to get out of here to warn that rabbit, gets his hide blown off! And that goes for the rest of you! -"Rabbit Every Monday"
- Now where'd that skunk of a rabbit go? (a lion roars in his face) Why, you mangy fang-toothed critter! (hits the lion over the head) Take that! Maybe that'll learn ya to keep yer big mouth shut! That fur-bearin' varmint's around here somewhere. (Bugs opens the cell gates. The lion roars in Sam again, forcing him to whack it on the head more times) HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU...to...shut...up? (runs away, chased by the lion) - "Roman Legion-Hare"
- When I say "whoa" I mean "whoa!" - "Sahara Hare"
- Ya double crossers! I'm a-comin' back and I ain't comin' back to play marbles! -"Prince Violent"
- Cook, where's my lunch? Where's my dinner? Ooh, that gastronomic, epicure, culinary crepe suzette! I hate him! -"Shishkabugs"
- If you're not here to gamble, you're not here! -"Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas"
- We ain't a-goin' nowheres! ~Space Jam
- Come back here, ya darn idiot galoots! ~Looney Tunes Back in Action
- Dadburn slapstick cliche`! ~Looney Tunes Back in Action
- You got us stuck on this stupid rock, you good-for-nothin' feline! You no good rassin-frassin kitty cat! Get back here and take the fur! Come here, boy! ~Tweety's High-Flying Adventure
- Great horny toads! I'm being railroaded! ~Tweety's High-Flying Adventure
- Ya wanna know what I think of Alex? Well IIIIIIIIII think he's PATHETIC! I mean, that's y'all's protagonist?! There's no art to that character! What obstacle did he overcome?! What was his emotional journey?! In fact, only thing that's more pathetic than Alex is this book club! NOW GET OUT! Get! Get! Don't forget your books! Yosemite Sam is back! YEE-HAW! ~ The Looney Tunes Show