The Most Famous First Pets to Live in the White House
Dogs and cats have lived at the White House during many presidential terms. So have exotic birds, a flock of sheep and even more unconventional animals!
Pete the Squirrel
President Warren G. Harding and his wife, Florence, had several canaries and two dogs (Laddie Boy and Old Boy), but their most interesting pet was Pete the Squirrel. Pete lived on the White House grounds and would eat right out of people’s hands. Even Navy Secretary Edwin Denby made friends with Pete on the White House lawn.
Some could accuse presidents of being parrots of their party, but George Washington and James Madison had actual parrots in their families. Their wives each had one. Andrew Jackson also had a parrot, which learned how to swear. Someone brought the parrot to Old Hickory’s funeral, but it became unruly because of its persistent swearing. These strange White House jobs are well-paid. Maybe you’ll end up a parrot-keeper!
John Quincy Adams received an alligator from Marquis de Lafayette. The gator apparently lived in a bathroom, and Adams sometimes used it to scare guests. Herbert Hoover’s son, Allan, later owned a pair of gators at the White House. Clearly, scaring guests is not one of the things U.S. presidents are forbidden to do while in office.
via Library of Congress
Benjamin Harrison had a Billy goat and a Durham cow at the White House during his term from 1889 to 1893. The goat, known as “Old Whiskers,” used to be harnessed so it could haul Harrison’s grandchildren around the White House grounds. According to a 1903 story published in the Washington Evening Star, Old Whiskers took off with Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin, a few years prior to Harrison’s death in 1901. The goat and grandson headed toward an excavation site with the president, who was in his late 50s, chasing after them. Eventually Harrison caught up to the racing goat and grabbed the bridle, preventing any disaster.
After Barack Obama won the 2008 election, he and First Lady Michelle Obama promised their daughters, Malia and Sasha, a new puppy. Bo is a Portuguese water dog given to the first family by Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife. The stories behind these White House ornaments are a piece of history.
Rutherford B. Hayes, who served as president from 1877 to 1881, kept a Siamese cat, the first of the breed ever documented in the United States. He also kept cows, a goat, canaries, and a mockingbird. Learn which well-known presidential “facts” are actually completely false.
Fala, “The Informer”
Dubbed “The Informer,” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s dog Fala was instantly recognized when out on walks during secret presidential trips. But the Scottish Terrier redeemed himself by accepting the role of president of Barkers for Britain, a dog lovers organization whose members supported British people affected by World War II.
Guinea pigs, badger, lion, hyena, zebra, and bears—oh my!
The Law of Adventures/Shutterstock
Leave it to Teddy Roosevelt, the man who once got shot during a speech and finished it, to have a veritable zoo on the White House grounds. That’s right: The man who carried a big stick also kept snakes, a badger, a lion, a hyena, a zebra, and five bears. That’s in addition to the traditional pets around the place, such as dogs, cats, horses, birds, rats, and guinea pigs. The guinea pigs were named Dr. Johnson, Bishop Doane, Fighting Bob Evans, Father O’Grady, and Admiral Dewey. Check out these surprising animals that are actually illegal to keep as pets.