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White House has long history of presidential pets

February 11, 2012
Art &?Antiques by Dr. Lori , The Inter-Mountain

As we celebrate Presidents Day, a review of some pets that spent time in the White House over the last century or so is in order for those of us who love history and, more importantly, pets.

The pets of the presidents have remained a major part of the history of the American presidency. President William McKinley, in office from 1897-1901, had a famous and exotic Mexican double-yellow-headed parrot, while President Barack Obama and his family have a dog named Bo.

While most of our presidents had pets, a select few made their pets a major part of their administration.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) had a faithful and loyal companion named Fala, a black Scottish terrier. Fala traveled with the president abroad and often was photographed. He was a master of tricks and entertained the president and those around him.

Like the Clintons' cat, Socks, Roosevelt's dog Fala was a beloved pet that lived most of its life at the White House. In addition, President Roosevelt owned Major, a German shepherd; Tiny, an English sheepdog; a great dane named President; and others.

When it comes to resemblances, Roosevelt's dog Fala looked something like Miss Beazley, the 10-week-old Scottish Terrier that arrived at the George W. Bush White House in January 2005 as a birthday present for First Lady Laura Bush.

President Calvin Coolidge and his wife, Grace, maintained something likened to a zoo at the White House while he was in office from 1923 to 1929. His white collie was best known, but the Coolidges also had terriers, airdales, chow chows, bulldogs and a Shetland sheepdog. In addition to the many dogs, canaries, geese and mockingbirds were the beloved pets of Mrs. Coolidge. However, the vast land available to the president sparked his desire to own other animals such as cats and donkeys. The most exotic Coolidge pets were gifts from dignitaries including a wallaby, a pigmy hippo, a bear and lion cubs. Now that's what I call some serious presidential pets.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) kept track of his favorite pet named Old Ike, who was a tobacco-chewing ram along with some sheep that grazed the White House lawn.

William Taft (1909-1913) was responsible for bringing the last cow to the White House. He put an end to the keeping of a most common 19th century presidential pet.

In terms of numbers of pets, Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) trumped all of his colleagues in the White House. A great gamesman, hunter and nature enthusiast, Roosevelt brought many, many animals with him and his large family to the White House. Roosevelt's favorite pet was said to be a horse named Bleistein, however, there were other horses that the president rode with regularity including Renown, Roswell, Rusty, Jocko, Root, Grey, Dawn, Wyoming and Yangenkah. In addition to the Roosevelt family horses, there were guinea pigs, cats, badgers and terriers in the Roosevelt White House, as well as Alice Roosevelt's pet snake. The pet with the most interesting name of them all was, in my opinion, Eli Yale, Quentin Roosevelt's macaw.

Little Quentin Roosevelt was nearly 4 years old when his family moved into the White House. He and his siblings had a pony named Algonquin, who became almost as famous as his young master for all the mischief they caused.

One day, Algonquin was brought into the White House and upstairs in an elevator by Quentin in an effort to cheer up his sick brother, Archie. The White House was never the same.

The menagerie of pets living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. during much of the first decade of the 20th century included owls, lizards, roosters, raccoons, hyenas, lions and bears.

In looks and vigor, Algonquin rivaled Caroline Kennedy's pony named Macaroni. The Kennedy children received pets as gifts. For instance, Macaroni was a present from Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Macaroni roamed the White House grounds and received fan letters from the public. Caroline's dog, Pushinka, was given to her by the Soviet Union's head of state, Nikita Khrushchev. I guess being the president's daughter has its benefits.

Happy Presidents Day!

- Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author and award-winning TV personality Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. As seen on NBC's "The Tonight Show" and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," Dr. Lori appears on Lifetime Television. To learn more about antiques, visit or, or call 888-431-1010.



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