From Pooches to Alligators – Here’s the Pets of the White House
In the near-250 years of United States history, only three presidents haven’t had a pet while serving as the president of the United States of America.
Presidents of the United States have been keeping pets ever since the U.S.A. was founded in 1776, and it’s no wonder why they’re a popular addition to the White House. However, inhabitants have ranged from dogs and cats to lions and alligators
Here we pay tribute to the pets helping their POTUS. Forget the First Lady, here’s our run-down of top First Pets that have supported POTUS’s through the ages.
Although the White House wasn’t completed until after his presidency, George Washington owned plenty of animals. He had foxhounds named Sweetlips, Scentwell, and Vulcan, and he had coonhounds named Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy. He also kept many horses – Nelson and Blueskin were two of his favorite horses that he rode during the Revolutionary War. George Washington was gifted a donkey by King Charles III of Spain, and his wife Martha owned a parrot.
George Washington’s foxhounds (Universal History Archive)
Teddy Roosevelt was the most prolific pet owner in the White House, and kept a wide variety of species. His daughter Alice owned a garter snake named Emily Spinach, and his son Archie had a pony named Algonquin. Some of his more unusual pets included Eli Yale the macaw, Jonathan Edwards the black bear, Josiah the badger, Fierce the one-legged rooster, Maude the pig, a barn owl, and Bill the hyena, who was a gift from Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia.
Calvin Coolidge also had an impressive number of animals. Rebecca the racoon was meant to be the 1926 Thanksgiving dinner, but Coolidge’s wife Grace decided to keep her and built her a treehouse. Rebecca had a racoon companion named Reuben, but Reuben frequently escaped and unfortunately disappeared.
After Rebecca was donated to a zoo when next president moved into the White House, a wild opossum named Billy Possum moved into her vacant treehouse.
Coolidge also owned two lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, a hippo named William Johnson Hippopotamus, a bobcat, a wallaby, a duiker, a donkey, and thirteen ducklings.
In more recent history, George H. W. Bush owned an English Springer Spaniel named Millie. She was considered “the most famous dog in White House history”, and Barbara Bush wrote Millie’s Book as if from Millie’s point of view. The book received the number one spot on The New York Times Best Seller list in 1990. Millie littered six puppies while in the White House including Spot Fletcher, who became George W. Bush’s dog. Spot remains the only pet to live in the White House for two non-consecutive terms.
George H. W. Bush and Millie (Public domain archives)
Bill Clinton owned a black-and-white cat named Socks, who lived with the Clintons for the eight years they spent in the White House. He first joined the family after jumping into Chelsea Clinton’s arms in 1991! Clinton’s other pet was Buddy, a chocolate Labrador given to the president in 1997. Socks and Buddy didn’t get along, but Hillary Clinton wrote a children’s book titled Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets that included letters written to the pets by children across the country. When the Clinton family left the White House in 2001, they kept Buddy but had to rehome Socks, since the two pets wouldn’t be able to live together in a smaller home.
When Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, his family didn’t have a pet to bring with them to the White House. He promised his daughters that they would get a dog, and in April 2009 the Obamas welcomed Bo to their family. Bo is a black-and-white Portuguese Water Dog, a hypoallergenic breed chosen due to Malia Obama’s allergies. He was named Bo by Malia and her sister Sasha. Bo was joined by Sunny in 2013, another all-black Portuguese Water Dog. Sunny and Bo continue living with the Obama family after they moved out of the White House in 2017.
President Barack Obama pets Bo, the Obama family dog, in the Oval Office, June 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Champ and Major are the current pets of the White House. Belonging to President Joe Biden, these two dogs are German Shepherds and have been living with the Biden family since 2008 and 2018.
Much like Obama and Bo, Biden promised his family that they would buy a dog after the 2008 election, and they purchased Champ as a puppy. He was named after Biden’s father by Biden’s granddaughters. Major has been fostered by the Bidens since 2018, and he is the first dog in the White House to have been adopted from a shelter.
Some more notable pets kept by Presidents of the United States include Mooly Wooly and Pauline Wayne the cows owned by William Howard Taft, Pete the squirrel owned by Warren G. Harding, two tiger cubs given to Martin Van Buren by the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, and Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection, the opossums owned by Benjamin Harris.
John Quincy Adams was gifted an alligator by Lafayette, and supposedly kept the animal in the East Room of the White House for two months. Adams’s wife Louisa also kept silkworms in the White House, which she used to spin silk. Woodrow Wilson owned a flock of up to 48 sheep that he used to trim the White House lawn, led by a ram named Old Ike. Wilson sold the wool from the sheep and donated the proceeds to the Red Cross.
Andrew Johnson was one of three presidents who did not have a pet while sitting in office, but he did feed the mice he found in his bedroom. Andrew Jackson owned a parrot named Polly who knew how to swear, and she had to be removed from Jackson’s funeral due to her profanity.