Presidential pets, past and future


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

After the election day excitement dies down, we can anticipate the presidential inauguration in January and the presidential move-in...and, quite possibly, the presidential pet(s) Richard Nixon had Checkers, at right. Ronald Reagan had Lucky. The Clintons had Buddy and Socks. George H.W. Bush had Millie, who co-authored a book. And we’re told the current residents of the White House include Miss Beazley, Barney (both Scottish terriers) and a cat named India. (According to the National Geographic, ‘On his ranch in Crawford, Texas, the President keeps a longhorn cow name Ofelia. Bush name Ofelia after a staff member who worked with him when he was governor of Texas.’)

Just as a reminder, a number of four-legged White House residents have made headlines.

The National Geographic also reports:

Past Presidents brought many interesting animals to the White House. ... The wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President, had silkworms. Herbert Hoover, the 31st President, had an opossum. And Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, had a raccoon named Rebecca who walked on a leash!...


During World War I, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President, kept a herd of sheep on the White House lawn. Some of the more unusual presidential pets have been gifts from other world leaders. James Buchanan, the 15th President, received a herd of elephants from the King of Siam (now called Thailand). The Sultan of Oman gave Martin Van Buren, the eighth President, a pair of tiger cubs. But even the more typical pets have had an unusual time at the White House. Warren Harding, the 29th President, and his family had a birthday party for their dog Laddie Boy. ... They invited other dogs and served a dog biscuit cake, complete with frosting.

The Presidential Pet Museum (no, we’re not making this up) highlights past and current White House pets.

Among other factoids, the museum website says:

George Washington loved horses and hounds and gave some of those dogs some ‘silly’ names such as Tipsey and Drunkard. ‘The Great Rail Splitter [Abraham Lincoln] and Mary Todd Lincoln were ‘permissive parents’ who tolerated their children’s menagerie of cats, dogs, goats, ponies, pigs and rabbits. Even a turkey that was intended for Christmas dinner was mercifully spared when 10-year-old Tad successfully pleaded for its life.’ <>Teddy Roosevelt’s family had ‘had 12 horses, five dogs, five guinea pigs, two cats, garter snakes, a horned toad, a pony, two kangaroo rats, a flock of ducks, a flying squirrel, a badger, a pig and a blue macaw named Eli Yale.’ ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only president elected to four terms in office, and he had not only polio and at least two mistresses but also seven dogs.’

And, finally, says that John Quincy Adams ‘had an alligator living at the White House while he was president’ and that John F. Kennedy had ‘multiple pets, with one of the most famous being Macaroni, Caroline Kennedy’s pony.’

What can we expect next year? Well, the Obamas have received a fair bit of publicity about their girls wanting to get a dog ... and have received a fair bit of advice from those who are urging them to adopt from a shelter or adopt a particular breed.

John McCain already has a varied assortment of animals: Sam the English springer spaniel, Coco the mutt, turtles Cuff and Link, Oreo the black-and-white cat, a ferret, three parakeets and saltwater fish.


And finally, for those who want to continue to test their knowlege of such things, the White House for Kids website has a quiz on some of the nonhuman creatures who lived there.

--Alice Short