The Crazy, Heartwarming, Surprising Pets Who’ve Lived in the White House Since the Start
Follow along as we give a president-by-president tour of White House pets. (We only skipped James K. Polk and Donald J. Trump, whose time in office did not include pets.)
While our foremost founding father did not actually live in the White House, he was quite the animal enthusiast, owning several dogs, as well as donkeys, mules, and horses. Good old George was very passionate about breeding hounds. So much so that the American Kennel Club notes that he even helped develop the American Foxhound breed!
Washington owned a number of black and tan hounds, with names like Tipsy, Tipler, and Drunkard—and a dalmatian named Madame Moose.
As the first president to reside in White House, John Adams was known to have a horse named Cleopatra, as well as two dogs named Juno and Satan. (We're guessing the latter dog was a little bit of a rabble rouser.)
His favorite mockingbird, Dick, was kept among the roses and geraniums, in a cage with the door open so Dick could fly freely. Jefferson was even said to take the birds with him on his travels to France. Additionally, history tells us that Jefferson owned a pair of bear cubs, given to him as a gift from a soldier named Zebulon Pike.
Going beyond the usual dogs and horses, James Madison had an especially friendly parrot named Polly. She was known to greet people in the reception room of the White House.
During the War of 1812, while the White House was in danger of attack, First Lady Dolley Madison famously saved the iconic and very large painting of George Washington, which hangs in the White House East Room today—as well as her beloved Polly.
Our fifth president was known to have two pets: a Siberian husky named Sebastian, and a spaniel named Buddy. Both dogs are known to make great companions, and Buddy was a close friend to Monroe’s daughter Maria.
John Quincy Adams
One of the strangest animal residents of the White House was a gift to President John Quincy Adams from the Marquis de Lafayette, on his 1825 tour of the United States: an alligator.
The alligator was kept in the East Room of the White House, which was not yet finished. And legend has it that Adams would “surprise” unsuspecting visitors by taking them to the room where his pet alligator lived.
Andrew Jackson had a stallion named after one of America’s first celebrities: Sam Patch. Patch was known for jumping into the Niagara River near Niagara Falls.
Jackson himself had a collection of horses and even had new stables built at the White House to accommodate them.
It’s also said that Jackson had a chatty parrot that he taught to swear in front of White House guests.
Martin Van Buren
While Martin Van Buren did have the usual horses and dogs, he was eventually gifted two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman—and was immediately delighted by them. Congress, on the other hand, wasn’t fond of keeping tigers at the White House and had them relocated to a nearby zoo.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison owned a Durham cow named Sukey and a goat with an unspecified name.
Our tenth president owned a greyhound named Le Beau, as well as a horse named The General.
Zachary Taylor owned a wartime horse named Old Whitey, as well as a former circus pony named Apollo.
Perhaps reflecting the country's growing unrest around the topic of slavery, President Millard Fillmore had two ponies appropriately named Mason and Dixon.
Franklin Pierce was known for building excellent relations with Japan, and when U.S. Representative Commodore Matthew Perry returned from signing a treaty with Japan, he brought back seven tiny Japanese Chin dogs for the president. The pups were tiny enough to sit on tea saucers and nicknamed “sleeve” dogs for their ability to hide in the sleeve of a kimono.
While James Buchanan never married, he did find companionship in his 170-lb. Newfoundland dog named Lara. These were a very rare breed of dog in the U.S. at the time, and it was reported that Lara looked like a bear.
Abraham Lincoln owned many animals, including a pig, a rabbit, a dog named Fido, ponies, and cats—he especially loved cats.
While Andrew Johnson didn’t have any official White House pets, he was known to have adopted a family of white mice that he found in a grain mill.
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was known to have loved pets! He owned many dogs, horses, and ponies—and his favorite pet was a dog named Rosie. She was reported to be a black-and-tan dog, and he would often take his own dinner out to the stables to eat with Rosie and the horses, chatting with them as he ate.
Rutherford Bichard Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes had many pets, including canaries, a goat, and cows. But he was particularly smitten with his gentle giant mastiff named Duke.
James A. Garfield
The second president to own a Newfoundland dog, James A. Garfield had a large, black Newfoundland named Veto. Newspaper reports touted Veto’s heroism when a barn on White House grounds caught fire and it was Veto’s barking that alerted staff to the blaze.
Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur was not a huge pet fan, but he did love horses: two reddish-brown horses that reportedly attracted scores of visitors to the White House.
The twenty-third president, Benjamin Harrison, acquired some of his pets thanks to his children and grandchildren who lived in the White House with him. Their companions included Dash the dog and Old Whiskers the billy goat, who pulled a cart in which the children could ride around the grounds. There were even two opossums, named Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection.
William McKinley was reported to have two Angora kittens named Valeriano Weyler and Enrique EdLome, as well as a Mexican double-yellow-headed parrot named “Washington Post.”
Famously fond of nature, Theodore Roosevelt kept a wide range of animals, including not only two ponies and eight horses, but a pack of dogs, snakes, guinea pigs, a one-legged rooster, a barn owl, parrots, a raccoon, a zebra, and even five bears—among others! Most notable might have been Algonquin, a pony that belonged to Roosevelt’s son Archie. When Archie was recovering from the measles in 1903, he requested to see his pony but was too sick to make the trip to the stables. So Algonquin made the trip into the White House and even up an elevator to pay Archie a visit.
William H. Taft
President William H. Taft’s prized pets were two cows: one named Mooly Wooly, the other named Pauline. They were reportedly seen grazing on the White House lawn and provided the home's milk and butter, a daily necessity for Taft’s time in office.
While Woodrow Wilson had some of the standard family pets—several dogs, a cat, and songbirds—he also kept sheep at the White House, which were often seen grazing on the lawn.
Warren G. Harding
In addition to more than a dozen dogs, Calvin Coolidge kept a goose, donkey, raccoons, a bobcat, thrush, wallaby, and a pygmy hippopotamus. One of the most famous White House pet photos is that of First Lady Grace Coolidge with their pet raccoon.
Herbert Hoover owned a Belgian shepherd named King Tut—along with eight other dogs and two alligators, who were said to lurk around the White House grounds.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR was a big dog fan and kept several different breeds with him in the White House. One of the most famous presidential pets, a Scottish terrier named Fala, often traveled with Roosevelt.
Harry S. Truman
Even though Harry S. Truman was openly disinterested in having a pet join his family in the White House, one of his supporters sent him a cocker spaniel puppy named Feller. Truman remained steadfast in his desire not to have a pet, and the puppy was given away—leading to hate mail from dog lovers across the country.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Weimaraner, Heidi, moved into the White House with him but was eventually brought back to his farm in Pennsylvania. Ike also had a parakeet named Gabby, who was buried just outside of the executive mansion when she died in 1957.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy’s love of dogs was no secret. He brought several dogs to the White House with him, including a German shepherd, an Irish wolfhound, a Welsh terrier, a French poodle, an Irish cocker spaniel, and a mutt! More than one of his dogs had puppies, which the family held onto as well.
One of his most famous dogs was Pushinka (meaning "fluffy" in Russian), who was a gift from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The dog's mother was one of the first dogs to be shot into space and come back alive. After making friends with Caroline Kennedy’s Welsh terrier Charlie, the dog gave birth to a litter of puppies that the president called “pupniks.”