All the Presidents’ Pets: These Popular Leaders’ Companions Revealed
When times get tough, some presidents need to turn to others for support, whether it be their Cabinet members, family, or perhaps a furry friend. These popular presidents have kept everything from alligators (page 4) to zoo animals (page 8) in the White House.
Learn about the tradition, meet the first pets, and find out which presidents have had unique animals at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
It’s sort of an unspoken presidential tradition
White House pets have inspired books, made television appearances, and eased strenuous time periods in American history. When the White House was closed for tours following 9/11, George W. Bush’s administration released the “Barney Cam” videos that followed the family’s Scottish terrier’s “adventures in the West Wing.”
Next: How historians believe presidential pets make the leaders appear.
What it says about the presidents
“It softens their image, it broadens their appeal,” Ed Lengel, chief historian at the White House Historical Association, told CNN. “They help create an atmosphere of the White House as a family, a lived-in place and not just a stiff museum, but a place where a family lives and plays and enjoys each other’s company.”
Next: This president’s journal gave us insight into his favorite animal.
- Third U.S. president
- Mockingbird, bear cubs
Thomas Jefferson is considered by many the first president to have a pet that lived in the White House with him. Jefferson reportedly had a few different mockingbirds, his favorite animal, but he only mentioned one by name in journal entries.
Dick the Mockingbird lived with him during his presidency, as did two bear cubs for a brief period of time. Jefferson received the grizzly cubs from explorer Zebulon Pike along with a letter calling them “a different species of bear from that found in the East.” Jefferson sent them to Peale’s Museum.
Next: This is arguably one of the most dangerous pets to live in the White House.
John Quincy Adams
- Sixth U.S. president
- Alligator, silkworms
Marquis de Lafayette, French general and war hero, gifted Adams an alligator while visiting the White House on his tour through the states. Adams housed the gator in the unfinished East Room with a nearby bathtub and relished showing it to shocked White House guests.
His wife, Louisa, preferred to keep smaller and safer pets like silkworms. Reports claim she liked to harvest their silk and use it to spin with.
Next: This president wasn’t allowed to keep his wild pets in the White House.
Martin Van Buren
- Eighth U.S. president
- Tiger cubs
The Sultan of Oman gave Van Buren a pair of tiger cubs that he prepared to keep in the White House, allegedly making the necessary preparations to give the cubs a comfortable life.
Congress had something to say on the matter, however, and ordered Van Buren give the tigers to a local zoo.
Next: The president who helped found a chapter of the ASPCA.
- 13th U.S. president
Fillmore wasn’t just an animal owner, he was an animal lover as well. Thrust into the presidency following Zachary Taylor’s death, Fillmore reportedly never felt quite at home in the White House. His ponies, Mason and Dixon — named for the border between the Northern and Southern states — hopefully eased the transition.
Fillmore also helped to found a New York chapter of the ASPCA in its early years, using his influence as a past president to help protect local animals from cruel treatment.
Next: This president’s family kept Christmas dinner as a pet.
- 16th U.S. president
- Pigs, dogs, ponies, rabbits, goats, turkeys, cats
The White House was stocked full of furry friends during the Lincoln administration. The remarkable president left his beloved dog, Fido, back at his home in Illinois, but filled the White House with other pets to dote on.
He was reportedly a cat lover and owned two during his presidency, Tabby and Dixie. Lincoln allegedly called Dixie “smarter than my whole cabinet,” while in office. At one point, the Lincoln family owned a turkey when Abraham’s son, Tad, intervened before the kitchen staff cooked it for Christmas dinner.
Next: Introducing: The President’s Zoo.
- 26th U.S. president
- Horses, dogs, snakes, cats, badger, rabbit, rats, squirrel, guinea pigs, lion, hyena, wildcat, coyote, bears, parrots, zebra owl, lizard, roosters, hen, pig, raccoon
We’re unsure if Roosevelt was running a country or a zoo, however, he won a Nobel Peace Prize all while housing the dozen-plus animals listed above. No president housed more animals than Roosevelt and his children, the most notable of which were Bleistein, Roosevelt’s favorite horse, and a bull terrier named Pete who “sank his teeth into so many legs that he had to be exiled to the Roosevelt home in Long Island,” according to the National Park Service.
Next: This dog was the first ever ‘celebrity pet.’
- 29th U.S. president
- Dogs, squirrel, canaries
Harding had a tame number of pets compared to Roosevelt, however, his favorite dog certainly received the royal treatment. Laddie Boy, an Airedale terrier, had his own assigned chair for Cabinet meetings in the Roosevelt Room and was pronounced the first “celebrity pet” in the early 1920s, according to CNN. Laddie Boy’s other notable accomplishments include watching the traditional Easter Egg Roll and sitting on the “murder trial” children declared for White House owls.
Next: FDR’s new dog.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- 32nd U.S. president
- Dogs: German shepherd, Scottish terriers, Llewellyn setter, English sheepdog, Great Dane, English bullmastiff
FDR had six different dogs, however, Fala, one of his Scottish terriers, was his obvious favorite. A friend of FDR’s cousin, Margaret Suckley, gave Fala to the president, who renamed him Fala after Murray the Outlaw of Falahill.
Next: This beloved president received a pet as a gift during a controversial moment in history.
John F. Kennedy
- 35th U.S. president
- Dogs, cats, horses, parakeets, hamsters, canaries, rabbit
JFK, Jackie Kennedy, and their two children owned an array of dogs, including a Welsh terrier, French poodle, cocker spaniel, and a German shepherd, many of which were given to the family as gifts from admirers and friends.
Caroline Kennedy recounted the story of Pushinka, a “non-breed” tiny white puppy sent to the family by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. “My mother told a funny story,” Caroline said, “She was sitting next to Khrushchev at a state dinner … she asked about the dog, Strelka, that the Russians had shot into space … A few months later, a puppy arrived and my father had no idea where the dog came from.”
Next: The pet with a surprising sweet tooth.
- 37th U.S. president
- Dogs: Poodle, terrier, Irish setter, mix
The Nixon family allowed a few dogs into the White House, and one had a knack for sneaking sweets from the family. An NBC Evening News clip showed King Timahoe, the family Irish setter, stealing a slice of cake during Nixon’s 61st surprise birthday party.
Next: President’s pet turned TV superstar
George H.W. Bush
- 41st U.S. president
- Dogs, cat, cow
The elder Bush’s English springer spaniel, Millie, was arguably the most famous presidential pet of the bunch. She’s “written” a New York Times best-seller, Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush, and made an appearance in an episode of the Simpsons. She was also referenced in a few 90’s TV shows including Murphy Brown, Wings, and Who’s the Boss.
Next: This president may not have been a pet person, but his children sure were.
- 44th U.S. president
- Two Portuguese water dogs
Reportedly not a “dog kind of guy” before his presidency, Barack allowed not one, but two Portuguese water dogs into the White House over his two terms — acting on a promise to his daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Sen. Ted Kennedy gifted the Obama’s their first dog, Bo, who had recently been returned to the breeder. They added Sunny, a female Portuguese water dog, four years later. “Some of my fondest memories of the White House are just being with the girls on a summer night and walking the dogs around the South Lawn, talking and listening to them, trying to get Bo to move because sometimes it’s hot,” Barack said.
Next: The first president in over a century not to own a dog.
- 45th U.S. president
- No pets to date
Donald Trump has yet to invite a furry friend into the White House, however, reportedly breaking the tradition of having a White House pet (the last president to live on Pennsylvania Avenue without a dog was William McKinley in 1897, making Trump the first president in 130 years without a pet).
Rumors arose that Trump was thinking about adopting Patton, a goldendoodle owned by his friend. While nothing has been confirmed, Trump doesn’t have a positive history with dogs (or at least, poodles). Ivana wrote in her memoir, Raising Trump, that “Donald was not a dog fan,” and that her poodle, Chappy, “had an equal dislike of Donald.”
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