There have been famous pets claiming residence at the White House for as long as there have been U.S. Presidents in office.
Counting President Trump, there have been 45 Presidents and only three of them – Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and Donald Trump, — have not had pets. Donald Trump is the first President in 130 years to not have a pet in the White House. Most Presidents have had at least one dog, and many have had several.
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Calvin Coolidge was sent a raccoon to be cooked for Thanksgiving dinner in 1926. The Coolidges chose instead, to keep her as a pet, naming her ‘Rebecca.’ They built a tree house for her and took her for walks around the White House and allowed her to roam around the White House itself.
John F. Kennedy was presented with a special puppy by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. She was the daughter of Strelka, the dog that the Russians had shot into space. Not only did this puppy, named Pushinka, win the hearts of all the Kennedys, but it seems she also won the heart of Charlie, the President’s Welsh Terrier because they had a litter of puppies together. President Kennedy called these puppies “the pupniks.” They didn’t keep the pups, instead giving them away to good homes.
Benjamin Harrison kept two opossums, named Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection, in the White House.
Martin Van Buren received a pair of tiger cubs from the Sultan of Oman. However, Congress eventually vetoed them becoming full-time White House residents, and they were later donated to a zoo.
Thomas Jefferson sent Captain Zebulon Pike out west to explore some land that was purchased from France, asking for samples of what they found sent back to him. Captain Pike sent two grizzly bear cubs to the President. They roamed the White House lawn. Jefferson’s favorite pet was his mockingbird, Dick.
John Quincy Adams was presented with an alligator by General Marquis de Lafayette, and the President enjoyed scaring guests with his pet alligator. It lived in the East Room bathtub.
Herbert Hoover had several dogs. Allan Henry Hoover, the President’s second son, owned a pair of alligators that were occasionally allowed to wander around the White House grounds.
Theodore Roosevelt had a one-legged rooster.
Woodrow Wilson had a herd of 48 sheep, using them as a way to keep the White House lawn trimmed. They earned more than $52,000 for the Red Cross when their wool was auctioned off.
Calvin Coolidge had some unusual pets including a pygmy hippopotamus named Billy. Billy came from Liberia and was a gift from Harvey Firestone (tire mogul). Coolidge donated him to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.
Abraham Lincoln kept two goats named Nanny and Nanko. His sons, Tad and Willie, would race them around the White House with carts or chairs tied to them.
Rutherford Hayes brought the first Siamese cat to the U.S. and the White House.
PRESIDENTS WHO HAD THE MOST PETS
Theodore Roosevelt had a zoo at the White House. Pets included a zebra, bears, a hyena, a parrot, a lion, a one-legged rooster, a badger, five bears, dogs, cats, horses, birds, rats, and guinea pigs. His daughter, Alice had a garter snake named Emily Spinach. When his son Archie was sick, his brother, Quentin, brought the family pony up on the elevator to visit and cheer up Archie.
Calvin Coolidge also had a zoo at the White House. Coolidge had a wide assortment of bird species and dog breeds, two lion cubs, an antelope, a bear cub, Pekin ducks, raccoons, a bobcat, a wallaby, and a pygmy hippopotamus.
John F. Kennedy was the youngest president, and as such, this First Family included two young children, Caroline and John Jr. and a lot of pets.
With the Kennedys, the White House became home to a grey cat named ‘Tom Kitten,’ a canary Caroline named ‘Robin’, a Welsh Terrier, named ‘Charlie’, a pair of deer from the Irish president, an Irish Cocker Spaniel, named ‘Shannon’, an Irish wolfhound named ‘Wolf’, a German Shepherd called ‘Clipper’, a pair of parakeets (Bluebelle and Maybelle), a pair of hamsters (Debbie and Billie), a white rabbit received from a magician, 3 ponies (Macaroni, Leprechaun and Tex) and Pushinka, the daughter of Strelka, the dog that the Russians had shot into space. A litter of puppies belonging to Charlie and Pushinka also spent the first couple months of their lives at the White House.