Thursday, September 8, 2011

Presidents and their White House Pets

Over 93% of U.S. Presidents had at least one pet during their administration. James Polk, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and Chester A. Arthur are the only Presidents who were not known to keep a pet while inhabiting the White House. (It is perhaps worth noting that none of these men were elected to a second term). In fact, there has continuously been one or more pets living at the White House since 1885. While horses were popular presidential pets early in the nation's history, they have since fallen out of favor along with cows and other livestock. Since Nixon's term began in 1969, the White House has been home only to humans, cats, and dogs. Apparently the modern crop of Presidents are not nearly as adventurous as some of their predecessors.

The below compendium of strange animals living at the White House was compiled from raw data found at Presidential Pet Museum:

John Quincy Adams, for example, was the proud owner of one crocodile and a group of silkworms.

Martin Van Buren briefly owned two tiger cubs given to him by the leader of Oman, until Congress forced him to donate them to the zoo.

William Henry Harrison might have enjoyed different varieties of milk, as he owned both a billy goat and a cow.

James Buchanan owned a herd of elephants as well as a pair of bald eagles, both of which must have made his dog Lara seem rather bland.

Abraham Lincoln owned a pig, a rabbit, a pair of goats, and a turkey alongside some comparatively conventional cats and dogs.

Theodore Roosevelt owned a plethora of traditional pets in addition to a snake, badger, and five guinea pigs.

Woodrow Wilson had a herd of sheep including one which enjoyed chewing tobacco. During WWI Wilson  cut down on labor costs at the White House by letting his sheep pasture on the White House lawn, thereby eliminating the need for professional lawn mowing services (see image below).

Wilson's sheep graze the south lawn of the White House.

William Howard Taft owned the last cow to call the White House home.

Calvin Coolidge, the most recent present to harbor unusual pets at the White House owned a goose, tiger, racoons, a donkey, and a bobcat. He also received lion cubs, a wallaby, and pigmy hippo and a bear as gifts from foreign officials! It is no wonder why the Presidential Pet Museum: declared that Coolidge "literally had a zoo at the White House."

First Lady Grace Coolidge with her pet raccoon Rebecca. 

In the years following Coolidge's office Presidents became considerably more conservative both in pet and name selection. Gone are the days of hounds named Drunkard wandering around the presidential property. Long passed is the time when Adams' dog Satan called the White House home. Surely no modern candidate with a crassly named pet would make it past the primary elections let alone into the White House.

Although exotic presidential pets and politically incorrect presidential pet names have been in decline, pet ownership among U.S. households has been steadily increasing since 1956. Presently, 62% of U.S. households own at least one pet according to the American Pet Products Association.

Additional Resources

Presidential Pets: The Weird, Wacky, Little, Big, Scary, Strange Animals That Have Lived In The White House (Julia Moberg)

No comments:

Post a Comment