As a nation, our presidents and their lives in the White House have always fascinated us. Most Americans have probably spent at least a little bit of time wondering about the history, elegance, beauty and stories of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Presidential families often seem to be far removed from the average Joe, but they are like us in so many ways, including their love for pets. The list of presidential pets is long and colorful, and here at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital we are excited to share it with you!
Taking a Look at Presidential Pets
Not surprisingly, dogs have reigned as the most popular presidential pet, beginning with George Washington, who reportedly owned 36 hounds. Cats have been a familiar site around the oval office as well; Abraham Lincoln loved cats so much he reportedly enjoyed feeding his son’s cat, Tabby, with a gold fork during White House dinners.
Farming played a huge role in our nation’s history, and not surprisingly several U.S. presidents came from a farming background. Farm animals have also been found on White House grounds during the early days, as many presidential families owned horses, cows, goats, sheep, and chickens. The last presidential cow to live at the White House belonged to William Taft, the 27th president (1909-1913).
Unusual White House Companions
Throughout our country’s history, presidents and their families have brought a fascinating array of animals into the White House, including silkworms kept by the wife of John Quincy Adams, a pair of alligators belonging to Herbert Hoover’s son, Allan, Calvin Coolidge’s raccoons (one, named Rebecca, reportedly walked on a leash), and James Buchanan’s patriotic bald eagles.
Many of the unusual pets belonging to the presidents were given as gifts from foreign dignitaries, such as the herd of elephants given to James Buchanan by the King of Siam (now Thailand), or the pair of tiger cubs gifted to Martin Van Buren from the Sultan of Oman.
It’s easy to imagine that the animals who have inhabited our nation’s capital haven’t exactly led normal lives. For example:
- One of Theodore Roosevelt’s sons coaxed his pony, Algonquin, into a White House elevator to visit his sick brother.
- Warren Harding, the 29th president, and his family hosted a birthday party for their dog Laddie Boy, including a dog-friendly cake and dog guests.
- During World War I, Woodrow Wilson’s herd of sheep grazed on the White House lawn to save money on trimming.
- Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, enjoyed pony rides around the presidential grounds.
The Roosevelt Pets
A discussion of presidential pets wouldn’t be complete without a special nod to animal lover, naturalist, and 25th president, Theodore Roosevelt. Although Calvin Coolidge had more pets than any other president (12 dogs, a bobcat, a pygmy hippo, a goose, a donkey, a cat, an antelope, two lion cubs, and a wallaby, to name a few), Roosevelt’s love of the natural world, as well as the antics of his children and their pets, was well known.
Besides the aforementioned elevator-riding pony, the Roosevelt menagerie included:
- Guinea pigs
Your pet may not be presidential, but his or her health is still our top priority at ULVH! Don’t hesitate to give us a call with any questions or concerns you may have about your family pet!