July 4th may get all the glory and fireworks, but November is truly one of the most American of months. With an election at the beginning and Thanksgiving towards the end, this month packs a lot of patriotism in. November 3rd marks the big day this year—and with the presidency up for grabs, we at Rover—naturally—have turned our thoughts to presidential pets.
As it turns out, nearly all U.S. presidents have had pets. And while dogs tend to steal the show, receiving fan mail and sometimes even accompanying POTUS in greeting dignitaries, many animals have lived in the White House, from your regular ol’ dogs and cats to birds, horses—and other, more exotic pets. Some have made their marks on our memories and in media, while others entertained behind the scenes.
Presidential Pets, from George Washington to Barack Obama
From the prestigious to the scene-stealing to the plain old wacky, we’re highlighting some of the presidential pets that have roamed the White House grounds.
President George Washington’s (Drunk?) Dogs
Good ol’ George Washington, the original president, is said to have been not only the father of America (well, that part’s a fact), but the father to more than 30 dogs, too. The most memorable of the mixed-breed pack? A couple of his hounds named Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy. Hmm, we’re sensing a theme here…
President Thomas Jefferson’s—and Madison’s—Pet Birds
According to Audubon’s “A Brief History of President-Bird Companionship,” Thomas Jefferson owned several mockingbirds throughout his life. His bird love inspired the wife of his successor, James Madison. Dolley Madison brought a macaw named Polly to the White House, who, according to the Presidential Pet Museum, “would often perch on her shoulder as she went about her daily life. She would often greet people in the Reception Room at the White House with her parrot, which she used as a conversation starter for visitors who were too timid to spark up conversation first.”
Abraham Lincoln’s Photogenic Presidential Pet
Abraham Lincoln’s trusty companion, Fido—game-winning trivia question alert!—was the first presidential dog to be photographed. Unfortunately, he was left in Illinois before the Lincolns made the move to Washington—Lincoln was worried the move would stress Fido. In D.C., he acquired another dog, Jip, who rarely left son Tad’s side.
It didn’t end there, as Lincoln was an avid animal lover: Goats, Nanny and Nanko, seemed to have free rein in and around the White House; the family also had cats, rabbits, and a few other dogs. Oh yeah, the tradition of pardoning the presidential turkey started with Lincoln, too—after his son, Tad, bonded with, and named, the live turkey intended for the 1863 Christmas feast.
President Andrew Jackson’s Foul-Mouthed Pet Bird
At his funeral, Poll the parrot, who Jackson had allegedly taught to swear, stole the show by squawking and letting fly a few choice words, according to attendees.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidential Pet Menagerie
Like Calvin Coolidge, Teddy Roosevelt brought many animals to the White House, including horses, dogs, a pair of kangaroo rats that hung out in the children’s pockets, a one-legged rooster, and Eli Yale, a Hyacinth macaw who was a favorite of son Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Teddy himself was a particularly avid bird lover and kept a checklist of birds he saw on White House grounds.
Calvin Coolidge’s Presidential Pet…Raccoon?!
Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace were pet parents to a veritable menagerie, including a dozen dogs, one of which—their white collie Prudence Prim, to be exact—was famously photographed wearing an Easter bonnet at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Fun fact: The couple was also pet parents to a couple of cats, birds, a pair of raccoons, a donkey, and even a bobcat who was gifted to them by a political group. It was reluctantly accepted for a brief time by the couple, who eventually gave him to a nearby zoo.
President Herbert Hoover’s Dog Begged for Votes
President Herbert Hoover might as well have been President King Tut the Belgian Shepherd—his dog did help him earn the presidency, after all. An autographed photo of Hoover and King Tut “begging” for votes circulated around America, and it worked! The First Family moved into the White House, and a handful of dogs soon followed—including a rare Irish Wolfhound.
John F. Kennedy’s Dog and Pony Show
John F. Kennedy was allergic to dogs, but that didn’t stop “America’s Most Royal Family” from housing nine of ‘em. The iconic clan had a pair of parakeets and kept a pony, too. His name? Macaroni. Isn’t that just Yankee Doodle dandy?
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Perfect Pet Pair
Lyndon B. Johnson loved dogs and called a brother and sister pair of his floppy-eared Beagles Him and Her (he was also responsible for naming their dad: Beagle). Upon moving to the White House in 1963, he had the White House doghouse (there’s a White House doghouse?!) redesigned and enlarged. That famous ear-pulling photo did become a hot topic with angry dog lovers who registered their disapproval, and he apologized publicly. But by all accounts, they were otherwise spoiled, even visiting with heads of state. The Beagles romped with two other dogs, a Collie named Blanco and a mutt named Yuki.
President Richard Nixon’s Heartwarming Pet Dogs
A cocker spaniel named Checkers helped ease the hardened hearts of America during the 1952 vice-presidential election drama Richard Nixon faced. While he was president? It was a Yorkshire Terrier named Pasha, a French Poodle named Vicky, and an Irish Setter named King Timahoe that strolled the White House grounds with him. Unfortunately, these pets weren’t quite cute enough to smooth over that whole Watergate thing.
President Gerald Ford’s Pet Lady Liberty
Gerald Ford was the proud presidential pet parent of a golden retriever named Liberty, along with one of her puppies, Misty, another dog named Lucky, and Shan, the Siamese cat. In fact, Liberty gave birth in the White House (with a whelping box built for her by White House carpenters) to nine puppies. Photos of the puppies were in high demand—Betty Ford was protective and didn’t allow photos until they were two months old—and each request was “signed” by a paw print from Liberty herself.
President Ronald Reagan’s Lucky Dogs
Ah, to be a Ronald Reagan dog. The Reagans were proud pet parents to Lucky and Rex, both of whom lived at the White House. Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres, grew to be rather large and boisterous—and a little overwhelming for the White House, so during Reagan’s second term, they sent Lucky to live at the Reagans’ ranch, where they often went to spend downtime.
The Clintons’ Pet Dog and Cat
First came Socks the cat, then, during Bill Clinton’s second presidential term came Buddy the Chocolate Lab. Socks and Buddy reportedly had a contentious relationship, but Buddy’s outgoing personality inspired fan clubs and websites, and Hillary talked about the letters both presidential pets received from kids in a book: Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.
President George W. Bush’s Barneycam
George W. Bush and Laura had quite a few pets: Spot, who came from his dad’s dog Millie (who was also in the White House during George H.W. Bush’s presidential term), two infamous Scottish Terriers Barney and Miss Beazley, as well as India, a kitty who came with them to the White House (and died just before Barack Obama took office). But Bush is responsible for maybe the greatest thing that ever happened to the internet: The “Barneycam,” videos that chronicled what a day in the life as the Bush dog was really like.
The Obamas’ Hypoallergenic Presidential Pets
Bo the Portuguese Water Obama dog was chosen for his hypoallergenic coat due to Barack Obama’s daughter Malia’s allergies—but because of the family’s love for shelter dogs, they donated to the Washington Humane Society when they acquired Bo. Aww! The next dog to join this presidential pack? Sunny!
More Presidential Pets
That’s just the tip of the presidential pet iceberg—with nearly 240 years of presidents under America’s belt, a lot of dogs, cats, birds, and more have served as loving and loyal companions to our nation’s leaders. And of course, we didn’t even list all of the aforementioned presidents’ dogs because there have been that many, which begs the question: Do you have a favorite presidential pooch?