Presidential Pets: A Look at White House Pets Throughout History

Presidential Pets: A Look at White House Pets Throughout History

The White House has been home to some of the most famous occupants in American history, but it's not just the presidents and their families who have left their mark. Throughout the years, the furry, feathered, and even scaly presidential pets have captured the hearts of the nation. This President’s Day, let’s look at some of the most famous pets to grace the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: 

 

Fun Facts First:

Though 31 presidents have had dogs in the White House, they are not the only animals to be a presidential pet. According to lore, John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette, and for a while, it lived in the bathroom in the East Room. William Henry Harrison's goat, Whiskers, was a staff favorite. Calvin Coolidge had a raccoon named Rebecca who roamed the halls of the White House. And James Buchanan was gifted elephants, kept on the White House grounds. 

Theodore Roosevelt's menagerie of pets was a source of fascination for visitors to the White House and included a wide variety of animals. His time in office saw the most animals that the white house had ever seen and included a small bear, a lizard, guinea pigs, a regular pig, a badger, a blue macaw, a hen, a one-legged rooster, a hyena, a barn owl, a rabbit; and a pony. There were also five dogs in residence.

 

Presidential Pooches:

Like the every-man, dogs are the president’s best friends, too. That must be why so many presidents have had dogs as white house pets. Here are some of the most famous:

 

George Washington

President Washington wanted to create a pack of superior hunting hounds and he even kept written accounts of his dog breeding program. He eventually developed a new breed of foxhound he called “Virginia Hounds”. Along with Virginia Hounds, Washington also had Greyhounds, Dalmatians, Spaniels, Terriers, Newfoundlands, Briards, and a Poodle. The president had more than 50 dogs in his lifetime.

 

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln's dog, Fido, was the first presidential pet to be photographed, and he was known for his gentle nature and loyalty to the Lincoln family.

 

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt loved dogs so much that he had seven of them. But the most famous was Fala, a Scottish Terrier puppy. Fala was his favorite and traveled with the President on his overseas visits. His popularity was so huge that MGM made two films about him.

 

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy had three dogs named Shannon, Clipper, Charlie, and Wolf and he built them a special play area near the West Wing. J.F.K. was also the first president to request that his dogs meet him when arrived at the White House in the presidential helicopter.

 

Lyndon B. Johnson

President Johnson’s dog was well known for his singing capabilities. Yuki, a mixed-breed dog, was a rescue found by LBJ’s daughter, Luci, at a gas station in Texas on Thanksgiving Day. The president loved his dog so much that he and Yuki used to swim together, sleep together, and even danced together at his daughter’s wedding.

 

George W. Bush

President Bush had a total of three dogs. Two Scottish Terriers, named Miss Beazley and Barney and an English springer spaniel named Spot. Among the dogs, Barney had an official website with “Barneycam” videos that were filmed from a camera hung around his neck.

 

Barack Obama

The Obamas have two Portuguese Waterdogs, Bo and Sunny. President Obama promised his daughters they would get a dog after the presidential election regardless of the results. Bo was a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy and his wife; Sunny was adopted in 2013. The pups were very famous and were often asked for pictures.

 

Joe Biden

 

President Biden’s puppy, Commander, a pure-bred German Shepherd, joined the White House after the death of their dog Champ. James Biden and his sister-in-law Sara Biden gifted him to the president for his birthday. Commander and Major, Biden’s other dog, now live outside the White House. 

 

 

The White House is home for the president and their families while they are in office. And for some presidents and many pet owners, a house isn’t a home without our beloved animals. These animals, from the lizard to the pony, have provided companionship, levity, and joy amidst the weighty responsibilities of leadership. As we celebrate President’s Day, we honor the legacy of past presidents and their furry, feathered, and scaly companions, recognizing the profound bond between humans and animals and the unique contributions these pets have made to the historical narrative of the United States.

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