Presidental Pets

Engraving of George Washington with a Foxhound

Our founding father, George Washington, was a big fan of hound dogs, as most of us know. What you may not know is that the American Kennel Club recognizes Washington as the father of the Foxhound breed. George Washington bred French, English and American hounds to become what is now the Foxhound! It seems Washington was in general smitten with canines because in addition to a large number of hounds, he owned terriers, spaniels and a Newfoundland that resided at Mount Vernon. Washington was creative in the naming of pups. He had Coonhounds named Drunkard, Tipler, Taster and Tipsy, and Staghounds named Sweetlips, Scentwell and Vulcan. Washington was also a wealthy, accomplished equestrian and owned many stallions. His favorite was a stallion named Nelson that he rode in the Revolutionary War. Later, Nelson lived his old age out at Mount Vernon in return for his services during the war.

Lyndon Johnson with a furry friend


   Although Washington did not live in the White House, an array of animals have resided there since the time of our second President, John Adams. Adams was an admirer of horses and built the stable at the White House that housed his horse Cleopatra. He also owned 2 dogs named Juno and Satan.  Next in line was Thomas Jefferson. He quite possibly was the one who began the trend of unusual animals at the White House. In addition to some dogs, Jefferson also had a mockingbird. During their expedition across the United States, Lewis and Clarke sent a magpie, 2 grouse and a prairie dog to Jefferson. Even more unusual was a gift of 2 baby grizzlies bought from Indians and delivered across the country to Jefferson by horseback. For a time, the bears lived in a cage on the White House front lawn, but eventually they were sent to a museum.


Harry Truman’s puppy, Feller


  After Jefferson, the resident animals of the White House became more odd. Tiger cubs, given to Martin VanBuran by a Sultan, stayed in the White House until Congress stepped in and had them sent to a zoo. John Quincy Adams had an alligator that lived in a bathtub for several months. This was not the only alligator to spend time at the White House! Herbert Hoover’s son had 2 pet alligators that would visit and crawl on the grounds. This list goes on from goats, cows and one legged roosters,  to possums, black bears and Pygmy Hippos! Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge had the most animals resulting in what could be considered a petting zoo! Coolidge’s pet raccoon, Rebecca, was meant to be part of their Thanksgiving dinner. Coolidge found her to be too friendly and instead she became part of his menagerie until she got to rambunctious and was sent to Rock Creek Zoo! Thankfully, it is no longer politically correct to own exotic or wild animals so hopefully no more caged bears or alligators in bathtubs at the White House!


William Taft with Pauline Wayne the cow


   No matter what pet is living in the White House, we enjoy hearing about it. When we hear the name Socks we think of Bill Clinton and Barney and Millie conger up memories of the Bushes. Likewise, when a Portuguese Water Dog walks through the doors of Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we are reminded of Sunny and Bo!