Bo, President Obama’s Portuguese water dog, is not the first pup to scamper around the White House. Ever since our founding fathers first stepped foot in the presidential home, pets have been a vital part of the first family. In fact, our very first president, George Washington, shared his home and grounds with his beloved dogs, as well as his cherished horses.
While Martha Washington had a parrot, good old George, a definite dog lover, had five French hounds, and twelve hounds with colorful names: Drunkard, Mopsey, Taster, Chloe, Tipsy, Tipler, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover, Vulcan, Sweetlips, and Searcher. Washington’s pride and joy, however, were his stallions: Samson, Steady, Leonidas, Traveller, and Magnolia. He was devoted to the two horses that served him well during the American Revolution, “Blueskin,” and “Old Nelson.”
In our nation’s earlier days, birds were popular presidential pets. Thomas Jefferson was very attached to his mockingbirds, which he allowed to fly from their cage whenever they desired. James Madison had a parrot; Grover Cleveland had canaries and mockingbirds; William McKinley had a Mexican double yellow headed parrot, and Theodore Roosevelt had several roosters among his many pets.
Roosters were hardly the most exotic animals to reside at the White House, however. John Quincy Adams was the first president to harbor an unusual pet: the alligator given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. Martin Van Buren had a pair of Tiger cubs given to him by the Sultan of Oman; Congress pressured Van Buren to send the cubs to a zoo. William Henry Harrison had a billy goat and a Durham cow. James Buchanan had elephants, gifts from the King of Siam, and a pair of Bald Eagles. Rutherford Hayes had a pedigreed Jersey cow, as well as the very first Siamese kitten in America. The last president to own a cow at the White House was William Taft.
Calvin Coolidge was the last president to have a “zoo” in his home. Most famous and beloved of his pets was a white collie. The roster of pets Calvin and Grace Coolidge cared for includes: Peter Pan, a Terrier, Paul Pry, an Airedale, that was originally named Laddie Buck. and Rob Roy, a white Collie, originally named Oshkosh. Also popular was Calamity Jane, a Shetland Sheepdog, Tiny Tim, a Chow, Blackberry, also a Chow, and Ruby Rough, a brown Collie. They also had Boston Beans, a bulldog, King Kole, a police dog, Bessie, a yellow collie, and Palo Alto, a bird dog. Coolidge had many feathered pets: canaries Nip and Tuck, Snowflake, a white canary, Old Bill, a thrush, Enoch, a goose, and a Mockingbird. Finally, there was Tiger, an alley cat, Blacky, another cat, Rebecca and Horace, a pair of raccoons, Ebeneezer, a donkey, and Smokey, a bobcat.
Modern day presidents had more “tame” pets. Dwight Eisenhower had a Weimarnar. John F. Kennedy’s family had several dogs, kittens, canaries, parakeets, and Carolyn Kennedy’s well known pony, named Macaroni. Assorted beagles, poodles, terriers, Irish setters, Labradors, and cats have piddled on the White House steps, including Bill and Hillary Clinton’s cat, Socks, who recently passed away. As we all know, Miss Beazley and Barney, George W. Bush’s Scottish terriers, passed their place of honor in the White House to Bo, the Obama’s new pet.
Whether it’s a mockingbird or a rooster, an alligator or an elephant, a cat or a dog, animals have played an important role in the lives of our American presidents.