While presidential pets of the modern era have typically been dogs or cats, earlier Chief Executives thought much farther outside the litter box.


The Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

Martha Washington's Parrots
Though the White House wasn't completed until after George Washington left the executive office, parrots of various species were a common sight at both the President's House in Philadelphia and the Washington estate at Mount Vernon. Martha Washington was more fond of the squawking parrots than her husband, however. In a letter written by nation's first president upon his retirement in March of 1797, Washington reflected on the move to Mount Vernon by stating “On one side I am called upon to remember the parrot, on the other to remember the dog. For my own part I should not pine much if both were forgot.” (presidential pet image via American Gallery)    



The Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

Thomas Jefferson's Mockingbird
Records dating back to 1772 indicate Thomas Jefferson had a lasting affinity for mockingbirds. “Learn all the children to venerate it as a superior being in the form of a bird,” related America's third President, “or as a being which will haunt them if any harm is done to itself or it's eggs.” At one point in his presidency Jefferson had four mockingbirds, one of which was named “Dick” and whose cage was “suspended among the roses and geraniums in the window recesses of the presidential cabinet.” (presidential pet image via The Jefferson Monticello     



John Quincy Adams' Alligator

John Quincy Adams' Alligator
John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, hosted the Marquis de Lafayette at the White House in 1825... but the Revolutionary War hero had brought along a most unusual guest: a live alligator. It seems the gator was one of many gifts Lafayette had received over the course of his tour of the 24 states. No doubt tired of the reptile's company, the French aristocrat re-gifted the gator to Adams, who kept him for several months in a bathtub in the executive mansion's then-unfinished East Room. (presidential pet image via Amazon.com           



President Hayes' Siamese Cat

Rutherford Hayes' Siamese Cat
Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th President of the United States but when it comes to pets, Lucy Webb Hayes (the first presidential wife to be called First Lady) takes the honors. In 1878 and midway through her husband's term of office, an American diplomat in Bangkok, Siam (later Thailand) sent the First Lady a gift of a Siamese cat – the first such cat to be brought to the United States. The cat, named “Siam”, sadly passed away after just a year at the White House but by then the public at large had taken a fancy to the exotic felines. (presidential pet image via NCState Vet Medicine      



The Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

Benjamin Harrison's Goat
Benjamin Harrison, America's 23rd president, enjoyed playing with his grandchildren on the White House lawn. Adding to the fun was “His Whiskers”, a goat fitted with a harness who would pull the Harrison grandkids around in a small cart. All was well until one day when somebody left the White House gate open accidentally. His Whiskers – harnessed to the cart and hauling several presidential grandchildren – dashed through the open gate and made a break for it down Pennsylvania Avenue! The tale has a happy ending as President Harrison, yelling and waving his hat, ran after the runaway goat and caught His Whiskers a couple of blocks away. (presidential pet image via Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection / Library of Congress 



President Theodore Roosevelt's pet badger

Theodore Roosevelt's Badger
Teddy Roosevelt had a connection with animals that went far beyond the Teddy Bear. Take “Josiah”, a badger kit presented to the 26th President of the United States in 1903 as he was campaigning in Kansas for his second term. Brought back to the White House and nurtured on milk and potatoes, Josiah soon became the favorite of Roosevelt's fifth son, Archibald, who stated “he bites legs sometimes but he never bites faces”. Many guests who visited the White House around that time can attest to that fact. (presidential pet image via National Park Service     



The Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

William Howard Taft's Cow
William Howard Taft followed Roosevelt's stint as America's CinC but his pet preferences ranged more to the domestic and less to the wild. Case in point: “Pauline Wayne”, a Holstein dairy cow gifted to Taft by a Wisconsin senator. Pauline not only grazed freely on the lush White House lawns, her milk – to the tune of 64 quarts per day – was consumed by both the famously obese Taft and by visitors to the International Dairy Show in Milwaukee who lined up to buy small bottles of her milk for 50-cents per bottle. (presidential pet image via DCPL Commons)  



sheep grazing White House lawn 1918

Woodrow Wilson's Ram
America's 28th president was eager to show a good example to the public after the United States entered World War I, so he freed the White House gardening staff to enlist and replaced them with a herd of sheep led by an irascible ram named “Old Ike”. The sheep – up to 48 at one point – did an admirable job keeping the White House lawn trimmed while Old Ike's claim to fame was that he enjoyed chewing tobacco: mainly from discarded cigar butts. As the war was drawing to a close, the sheep were sheared and their wool was auctioned off raising over $50,000. As for Old Ike, Wilson quickly tired of his ill temper and he was exiled to a farm in Maryland. (presidential pet image via Roger  


The Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

Grace Coolidge's Raccoon
Calvin Coolidge's White House was known as “The Pennsylvania Avenue Zoo”, mainly due to First Lady Grace Coolidge's love of animals. When a raccoon was sent from Mississippi in 1926 for the Thanksgiving meal – not to attend it, but to be part of it – Grace put her foot down and “Rebecca”, as the critter was named, quickly became part of the family. The president often carried Rebecca around on the back of neck while the First Lady enjoyed bringing the First Raccoon, fitted with a leash and collar, to the annual White House Easter egg rolls. (presidential pet image via Library of Congress)  



The Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

Herbert Hoover's Opossum
The 31st President of the United States may have served during the Great Depression but the atmosphere around the White House was never dour thanks to the Hoover family's many pets. One of the most notable was “Billy O'Possum”, who was famously given as a gift to the Hyattsville High School baseball team after their marsupial mascot had run away. According to The Daily Tribune, team captain William Robinson said “with the White House 'possum nothing can stop us winning now.” Indeed, the team won the championship and returned Billy to the White House along with a heartfelt letter of thanks. Billy's “powers” didn't help Hoover, however, as he lost the 1932 election to FDR in a landslide. (presidential pet image via Library of Congress)

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