For animal lovers, watching the White House often goes beyond policy and politics.
We ask ourselves the big questions like:
WHO IS THE PRESIDENT’S PET? Is he a dog person? A cat person? A goat person?
Yes, there has been a presidential goat. (More on that later)
We all know or have heard of Bo and Sunny, Socks, Buddy, Millie, Rex, Grits, or Liberty. But how many of us remember Algonquin the Pony or Billy the Hippo?
Many of our presidents have been major animal lovers and because they were, you know, THE PRESIDENT, they were able to have some pretty unusual pets.
So here, for your Presidents Day pleasure, are some of our Commander in Chief’s most unusual animal companions. If you’re like me, the animals on this list make you consider running for office. (Free pony with every presidency right?)
Alligator and Crocodiles
John Quincy Adams was given a crocodile as a pet by the Marquis de Lafayette. Not knowing what to do at first with this unusual gift, Adams put the crocodile in the East Room bathtub. He supposedly delighted in sending guests to this restroom, then watching them run in fright from his crocodile.
Thought at first he didn’t know what to do with his pet, it’s reported that over time he became quite fond of him.
Herbert Hoover actually had two crocodiles! One of which was purportedly named “Swampy”.
One-Legged Rooster, Hen, Hyena, Pony, Blue Macaw, Bear, Badger, and Pig
All of these animals — and many more — were pets of Theodore Roosevelt. Many of these animals were Roosevelt’s children’s pets, but many close to the president said that he loved the animals just as much as the children did, and took an active role in caring for them.
Once, when Roosevelt’s son Archie was ill with the measles, his brothers loaded his pony, Algonquin, into the White House elevator to cheer him up. Upon arriving in Archie’s room, the boy was so excited to see Algonquin, that he lunged at the pony for a hug. The pony was so startled that he stumbled, and made a loud thud.
Teddy Roosevelt came running into the bedroom to find his boys and Algonquin all looking a little guilty. Roosevelt proceeded to scold the boys, not because they brought a pony into the White House, but because Algonquin could have been hurt!
Roosevelt also kept a one-legged rooster, and a badger named Josiah whom he bottle fed from a baby.
Goats and Opossums
Apparently goats and opossums were the pets du jour at certain points in White House history.
Benjamin Harrison had a goat named Whiskers who was apparently something of a grouch. One day while pulling Harrison’s grandchildren in a cart around the White House lawn, Whiskers got tired of such servitude and took off down Pennsylvania Avenue with the kids in tow! Harrison went sprinting after Whiskers, waving his hat, and when Whiskers was finally caught, all agreed that such menial labor was not befitting of a Presidential Goat. Whiskers did not have to pull the cart again.
Abraham Lincoln was also a pet goat owner. The Lincoln family apparently loved their goats, Nanny and Nanko, so much that they allowed them to ride in the Presidential Carriage with them! One man’s Golden Retriever is another man’s goat.
Whiskers the Goat, courtesty of www.millercenter.org
Harrison also had two opossums, Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection, that he regularly carried around with him.
Herbert Hoover had an opossum too, by the name of Billy O’Possum. Billy was caught on the grounds of the White House, but the Hoovers took such a liking to him, they could not bear to dispose of the critter. Billy went on to become the mascot for Hyattsville High School in Maryland.
Calvin Coolidge AKA Dr. Doolittle
If ever there was a president who was an animal lover, it was Calvin Coolidge.
Among his many dogs, cats, rabbits, and birds, Coolidge and his wife, Grace also had a wallaby, a goose named Enoch, a bobcat named Smoky, two lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, two Raccoons named Rebecca and Horace, and a Pygmy Hippo named Billy.
One story about Coolidge was his love for Rebecca the Raccoon. Rebecca was build a special house on the White House property, and Coolidge would often walk her on a leash around the house itself.
When the White House was undergoing renovation, Coolidge worried so much for Rebecca, that he sent a limousine to pick her up, and bring her to the presidential family’s temporary lodgings.
Grace Coolidge and Rebecca. Courtesy of Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c31302/
The White House was a wild kingdom indeed!
So this Presidents Day, remember not only the Presidents who shaped this country, but also that as animal lovers, you have more in common with them than you may think.
Happy Presidents Day!
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger
PS- We do not endorse purchasing, obtaining, or catching any exotic pet. If you are not experienced and educated in the ownership of an unusual or exotic pet, and do not have the space or means needed to keep such an animal happy and healthy, PLEASE do not bring one into your life. Times have changed drastically since many of these presidents lived, and many of the animals they owned are illegal for private citizens to keep within city limits now.