Anyone who knows me knows my love for Abraham Lincoln and my love for animals. I’ve been wondering, how can I incorporate these two into my blog?! It just so happens that Lincoln’s birthday is in a few days, on February 12th (born in 1809)! So, in honor of his birthday, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at all the crazy animals that presidents have had as pets!
John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) had one of the more unusual and dangerous pets: an alligator that had been gifted to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. Not to be outdone by her husband’s eccentric pet, First Lady Mrs. Louisa Adams kept silkworms as pets!
William Henry Harrison, the 9th president, and the first president to die while in office (he was only in office for 32 days), had a billy goat and a Durham cow named Sukey!
James Buchanan, our 15th president, and the only president to never marry, was the lucky recipient of a herd of elephants-given by the King of Siam. He kept one at the White House, along with his pair of bald eagles, his large Newfoundland, and his toy terrier!
It can be said that this president brought the Siamese cat breed to America. Siam, a Siamese kitten was given to him as a gift and was the first Siamese to reach the U.S. This would be our 19th president, Rutherford B. Hayes. He also had a small menagerie that included Jersey cows, a goat, canaries, a mockingbird, several carriage horses, a greyhound, and an English mastiff among quite a few other dog breeds.
Benjamin Harrison, our 23rd president, had a collie named Dash, a billy goat for his grandchildren named Old Whiskers, and two opossums, Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection. It’s said that the goat would often pull the grandchildren around the White House lawn in a cart! Interesting fact: Harrison got the nickname “Little Ben” by the Democrats because of his small stature; he was only 5’6” tall!
Our 26th president, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, had quite the zoo! Along with his 6 kids, he had “normal” pets that included dogs, cats, horses, birds, rats, and guinea pigs. And then the more extravagant animals included; a lizard named Bill, a one-legged rooster, a flying squirrel, a hyena, a lion, a wildcat, a coyote, bears, a zebra, a barn owl, Baron Spreckle the hen, a raccoon, Josiah the badger, a pig, and Algonquin the pony. And don’t forget his oldest daughters snake, Emily Spinach! Random interesting fact: The teddy bear is named after Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt!
Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, took after President Roosevelt and also had quite the zoo! He had a wide assortment of dog breeds, a few cats, and had a number of bird species which included canaries, a thrush, a mockingbird, and Enoch the goose. Rebecca and Reuben were their raccoons, and one is said to have walked on a leash. There was Smoky the bobcat and Ebenezer the donkey. Finally, given to them by dignitaries from other countries, there was also lion cubs (named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau), a wallaby, a pygmy hippo named Billy, and a black bear!
Now we’re on to my favorite, Abraham Lincoln, the 16 president! He was most definitely an animal lover! His family had two goats, Nanny and Nanko. Nanny and Nanko even rode with President Lincoln in the presidential carriage. He had rabbits and a horse he named Old Bob. Old Bob was the rider-less horse with a pair of boots turned backward in the stirrups in Lincoln’s funeral procession. He had his dogs, Fido (who stayed at home in Springfield) and Jip. Honest Abe was also the first president to have a cat in the White House! He loved cats and could play with them for hours. When Mary was asked if her husband had a hobby, she replied “cats”. He had two named Tabby and Dixie, and at one time he fed Tabby from the table during a formal dinner at the White House. When Lincoln’s embarrassed wife later stated that the action was “shameful in front of their guests,” the president replied, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.”
In 1865, as the Civil War was winding down and the enormous task of reuniting the country lay ahead, Lincoln would frequently sit at the telegraph office so he could send and receive messages easily. While there one day, Lincoln noticed three stray kittens. He picked them up and set them on his lap and asked about their mother. When he learned that the kittens’ mother had died, he sat with them on his lap for a few minutes and before he left, he made certain someone there was committed to taking care of them.
President Lincoln’s compassion extended to turkeys too! They had Jack, the turkey, who was originally on Lincoln’s dinner menu. But when his son, Tad, became fond of the turkey and pleaded with his father to spare Jack’s life, Lincoln’s compassion once again came through and Jack soon became a part of the family household as a pet and not dinner!
Those are the main presidents who had the most wild and extravagant pets! Pretty crazy huh?!
Happy Birthday Lincoln!
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” -Lincoln