You Won’t Believe the Most Unique Pets Ever to Live at the White House
First pets are nothing new, but in recent years it’s been all about the canines. Typically, presidents — except for Trump, as of now — have had at least one adorable pooch that the country grows to know and love through snapshots of its life at the White House. But you may be surprised to learn that a whole host of other, not-so-typical animals have had their run of the White House grounds, too, according to the Presidential Pets Museum.
From alligators to raccoons, we’ve rounded up the rarest pets to ever step foot on White House property. And who knows, maybe this list will inspire President Trump to join the ranks of his predecessors.
1. Grizzly bear cubs
While George Washington and John Adams had dogs and horses — both of which were standard for the time — it wasn’t until our third president in office that things really got exciting. Kicking the pet game into high gear, Thomas Jefferson received two grizzly bear cubs as a gift.
Naturally, the White House was no place for them, and Jefferson planned to send them to his friend’s museum in Philadelphia. However, before he transferred them, the bears spent two months at the White House, where they sat in a cage on public display on the front lawn.
Next: This pet had to live in the bathtub.
The White House’s first pet alligator was a gift to John Quincy Adams. While the president and first lady weren’t quite sure what to do with the gator at first, they eventually settled on keeping it in the bathtub.
Furthermore, the couple liked to show the gator off to visitors, leaving them in disbelief. They got to enjoy this little prank for several months before they relocated the alligator. And if you think no other president would be crazy enough to house a gator, think again.
Next: A president’s son had not one, but two alligators.
More alligators call the White House home
Belonging to Allan Henry Hoover, a pair of alligators were often spotted roaming the White House grounds during Herbert Hoover’s time in office. These gators, in particular, were mischievous little guys, as they’d often escape the confines they were kept in (the bathtub). The alligators spent the winter at the Washington Zoo, but Allan was so attached that they were soon back the following spring. In the end, even a rambunctious boy was no match for these gators, and the Hoovers eventually donated them to the Smithsonian Zoo.
Next: Farm animals take up residence at the White House.
A few different presidents had goats at the White House, including William Henry Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s goats, Nanny and Nanko, stirred up some trouble with their colorful antics, such as pulling Lincoln’s sons, Tad and Willie, around the house in makeshift kitchen chair carts.
Next: These animals weren’t uncommon back in the day.
Because Washington, D.C. didn’t have any dairy delivery options, cows at the White House were fairly common until the late 19th century. Presidents such as William Henry Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes were in the cattle-owning club. But the most famous of the cows by far belonged to William Taft.
Her name was Pauline Wayne, and she was the last cow to roam the White House grounds. Known as “Queen of the Capital Cows,” Pauline’s job was to provide milk and butter for the First Family. The New York Times even highly publicized her life at the White House.
Next: Some people might consider these pets of the rodent variety.
Benjamin Harrison’s grandchildren were actually the proud pet owners of opossums, but their clever descriptors clearly showed that the president himself was responsible for naming the little guys. Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection? Hardly names a kid would concoct. But, as history tells us, the Republican platform at the time said, “Protection and reciprocity are twin measures of Republican policy and go hand-in-hand.” Often seen running around the White House, these two marsupials were certainly beloved by most.
Next: Another out-of-the-ordinary pet who was good-natured — at least at first.
6. A badger
During a presidential stop in Kansas, a young girl approached Theodore Roosevelt, asking him if he’d like a badger. Although he probably only intended to humor the girl at first, she promptly returned with a two-week old badger. The president latched on, and all were delighted at the sight.
Josiah the Badger was kept in a cage, to protect him from becoming dinner for other animals at the White House. People loved the little guy, and his silly antics and friendly nibbling kept everyone entertained. However, he became more aggressive after some time, and the Roosevelts had to relocate him to the Bronx Zoo. They did, however, visit him often so he knew they didn’t abandon him.
Next: Room for more reptiles in the White House? You bet.
The Roosevelts were known for their love of animals. In fact, they loved animals so much they hosted a wide variety of pets that most folks would deem totally disturbing. But still, the Roosevelt family loved them all, even those of the slimy, scaly variety. In particular, Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin, had an affinity for keeping snakes at the White House. The only problem was, they would get loose sometimes. Yikes.
Next: These animals are most content when scampering up trees.
During Warren Harding’s term, a squirrel named Pete scurried through the White House halls, joining in on press conferences and news briefings. Although this little “guy” answered (do squirrels answer when called?) to “Pete,” one paper reported that “he” was actually a “she.” So, what exactly gave it away? Pete was possibly the mother of a litter of kits who also lived on the White House grounds.
Next: One president turned pets into profit.
During Woodrow Wilson’s term, America’s involvement in World War I was unavoidable. Interestingly enough, though, Wilson was able to put the political power of pets to good use in a completely new way that no president had done before. According to the Presidential Pet Museum, “Although many other presidents had kept farm animals on White House grounds, Wilson was the first to use them to help the country’s finances.”
More specifically, the president was able to do this in two ways. First, Wilson freed the White House gardeners — who were then able to join the war effort — by keeping grazing sheep on the lawn. Additionally, the president auctioned off the flock’s fleece. Talk about being resourceful.
Next: Wilson needed someone, or something, to keep all those sheep in check.
10. A tobacco-chewing ram
Leading the herd of sheep over a course of two years was an ornery Shropshire ram. Answering to “Old Ike,” this mean, angry animal would often charge White House staff, and eventually, his aggressive antics resulted in his removal from the presidential property. Probably the most memorable aspect of Old Ike’s personality, though, was his love for chewing tobacco. He’d munch on cigars and cigarette butts every chance he got.
Next: This kind of cat isn’t of the housebroken variety.
11. A bobcat
Calvin and Grace Coolidge were true animal lovers, and it’s well-known that the couple had a zoo of animals throughout Coolidge’s presidency. While house cats don’t exactly garner any sort of reaction, a bobcat certainly should. And that’s exactly what the president and his wife got as a gift from the Great Smoky Mountains Association — a bobcat named Smoky from the wilds of Tennessee.
According to the Presidential Pet Museum, “While the Coolidges were apprehensive about taking in a wild bobcat (justifiably, given all their other pets that Smoky would see as food) they felt they had no choice but to gracefully accept the bobcat.” However, Smoky didn’t call the White House home for long before he was rehomed to a nearby zoo.
Next: This animal is better suited for trash cans than fancy homes.
Saved from being part of Thanksgiving dinner in 1926, Rebecca the raccoon was one of the most memorable pets during the Coolidge years. The family fell in love with her right off the bat and decided they’d rather keep her as a pet than eat her for dinner. Not everyone, however, was a fan. In fact, White House staff members knew Rebecca as quite an annoyance, as she often escaped and tore clothing and upholstery.
Next: Rebecca needed a playmate.
Another raccoon joined the Coolidge clan
In 1928, the White House welcomed another raccoon, Reuben, hoping he’d be a companion for Rebecca. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly pan out the way the first family had hoped, and the two didn’t get along. After stirring up plenty of mischief, Reuben escaped for good, while Rebecca was given to the Washington Zoo (formerly the Rock Creek Zoo).
Next: A horse’s behind.
13. A donkey
Yet another Coolidge pet claims a spot on our list. Calvin and Grace accepted a donkey named Ebenezer, who is considered to have been fairly low key, seeing as he got very little press coverage. Additionally, the couple had an assortment of atypical pets that didn’t take up residence at the White House, including a pygmy hippo, a black bear, and lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.
While there were lots of presidents who also kept birds, horses, and even rodents, the days of unique presidential pets seem long gone. But you never know, maybe Trump will suddenly develop zoo-keeping skills akin to those of presidents past. We wonder what kind of animals he’d bring into the White House — fluffy puppies or slimy snakes? Take your best guess.