The White House

When it comes to famous inhabitants of the White House, the only animals that ever come to mind are elephants and donkeys, or the two leading political parties. We seldom think of the dogs that have been presidential companions during the term of their world-renowned owners. However, some of these pets have stood out to the public, either because of their noteworthy actions, or the devotion their owner has shown them, or simply because they were numerous or exotic and rare. Here are some of the unusual pets owned by the President of the United States.

From about the 1960’s on, most of the United States presidents have owned a few dogs, cats or birds. But in the decades preceding many presidents exercised their rights to own quite a wide variety of impressive animals! Here are some of the most unusual pets that have lived in luxury at the White House.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) had two beagles named Him and Her. (He also owned hamsters, lovebirds and a couple other canines.)

President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was the proud owner of quite a menagerie during his tragically short term. He had 5 purebred dogs, several mixed breed dogs (the offspring of his Welsh terrier Charlie and Pushinka a mutt gifted to him from Nikita Khruschev of the Soviet Union).  JFK also owned a cat, a canary, two parakeets, three ponies, two hamsters, a rabbit and a horse.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) owned seven dogs, including a Great Dane who bore the name “President” himself. 

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) not only had nine dogs, but his son, Allan Henry Hoover, also brought a pair of alligators to the White House. These intimidating animals were allowed to crawl around the expansive green lawns of the prominent property. However, Hoover was not the only president to own an alligator: John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) kept his pet alligator in a spacious White House bathroom during his administration.

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) had pet ownership habits that well reflected his season of presidency during the lavish “roaring twenties.”  He was responsible for owning what was basically a private zoo, including 13 dogs (from collies, to terriers, chows, bulldogs, and sheepdogs), two canaries named Nip and Tuck, a goose, a thrush, mockingbirds, cats, raccoons, a donkey, and a bobcat named Smoky.  Because of his eccentric love of animals, Coolidge was also given lion cubs, a wallaby, a pygmy hippopotamus, and a black bear! (The lion cubs were affectionately called Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.)

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) had a ram named Old Ike who was known for regularly chewing tobacco, and an entire herd of sheep that were allowed to feed on the grass in front of the White House.

Theodore with Rollo the Saint Bernard (Harvard University)

Theodore with Rollo the Saint Bernard (Harvard University)

Yet of all the Presidents of the United States, few can compete with Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) who had the following animals under his jurisdiction:

  • Horses named: Renown, Roswell, Rusty, Root, Wyoming, General, Judge, and several others.
  • Ponies
  • Dogs including Saint Bernards, bull terriers, retrievers, mutts, and Pekingese dogs, etc.
  • Snakes
  • Cats
  • A badger named Josiah
  • A rabbit
  • A flying squirrel
  • Kangaroo Rats
  • Guinea Pigs

(He also had a lion, hyena, coyote, not one –but 5 bears, parrots, a zebra, an owl, roosters and hens, pigs and a raccoon!)

Other presidents displayed a love of animals in different ways. While President Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) was in the process of being impeached, he would set out a platter of flour in the office after hours so that several mice, the smallest residents of the White House could feed on it.

Before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln owned a pig, a dog classical named Fido (perhaps that’s where the go-to dog name comes from!), a white rabbit, goats, a turkey, some ponies, and several dogs.

George Washington himself, the nation’s very first President may have set the bar high with a parrot, five hounds from France, revolutionary war horses, several stallions, and 12 hound dogs.