Animals have long been our constant companions, and this goes for presidents too- they’ve frequently taken their four-legged and flying friends into office with them. A variety of pets have lived in the White House, ranging from stallions to wolfhounds to alligators. Some presidents, like Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, brought a whole menagerie with them when they were elected to the Oval Office! Here’s a rundown of the various pets that have lived in the White House.
The White House had a stable until the early 1900s, when it was converted into a garage for early cars. But up until then, presidents still relied on horse-drawn carriages to get around. George Washington started the trend of bringing horses into the White House with Nelson and Blueskin, two veterans of the Revolutionary War. John Adams brought his horse Cleopatra, and Thomas Jefferson followed suit with his steed Caractacus.
A variety of ponies also lived in the White House. Millard Fillmore brought a pair of his favorites, as did Teddy Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy’s children were frequently photographed riding around the grounds on a pony named Macaroni- the last horse to live in the White House.
Abraham Lincoln owned the first cats in the White House, remarking that his cat Dixie was “smarter than my whole cabinet.” Rutherford Hayes was the next president to keep furry felines by his side, owning the first Siamese cats in the United States. William McKinley welcomed in a pair of Angora kittens during his term. The trend continued up until the modern day, when Chelsea Clinton famously owned “Socks” the White House Cat. George W. Bush owned a cat as well named “Willie,” the last cat to prowl the Oval Office.
Dogs have long been man’s constant companion for hunting and affection. Dozens of breeds have lived in the White House, ranging from Richard Nixon’s cocker spaniel Checkers (which helped his presidential ambitions) to Theodore Roosevelt’s Saint Bernard named Rollo. George Washington brought his hunting dogs with him, setting a trend that continued until the 1960s, when the breeds changed from working to non-working.
Many presidents brought multiple dogs into office. Reagan brought six; Herbert Hoover had nine; Rutherford Hayes brought eight. But the habit of bringing many four-legged friends has subsided. The current dogs residing in the White House are Bo and Sunny, a pair of Portuguese Water Dogs belonging to Barack Obama and his family.
A dazzling variety of pets have inhabited the White House. Washington, Madison, and McKinley all owned parrots, while Jefferson favored his mockingbird. Woodrow Wilson owned songbirds; John Tyler doted on his canary; Andrew Jackson introduced fighting cocks onto the presidential mansion’s grounds. Among Teddy Roosevelt’s menagerie was a macaw and a speckled hen.
Some of the pets were gifted to presidents, and others were viewed as downright dangerous. James Buchanan notoriously received a herd of elephants from the King of Siam, keeping one with him at the White House. Martin van Buren owned two tiger cubs. Jefferson had two bear cubs at one point, while Coolidge famously owned a black bear, pygmy hippo, and two lion cubs. Hoover even kept two alligators on the property.
Other presidential pets included goats, donkeys, cows, hamsters, snakes, and sheep. Regardless of the type of pet, all were welcomed at the White House during various times. The most common pets were dogs, but anything that warmed the heart was taken to the Oval Office for a term. The list of presidential pets shows us that pets- of any type- truly are man’s best friend.
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