Presidential Pets

Since today is Election Day, we figured we’d go with a political topic that everyone can get on board with—Presidential pets.

Washington with dogs
Washington with American Foxhounds.

Father of Our Country, Father of the American Foxhound

Taking it back to our first president, George Washington was such a great lover of hounds and the hunt that he wanted to breed his own new, American hunting dog. The result was the American foxhound, a cross between French hounds sent over by the Marquis de Lafayette and Washington’s own black and tan hounds. In addition to his hounds, Washington also had a Dalmatian, Newfoundland, and a host of spaniels and terriers. And though one wouldn’t expect it with his seemingly always serious demeanor, Washington had a true talent for naming his pets: Madame Moose (the Dalmatian), Gurmer (the Newfie), and Drunkard, Tipsy, Tipler (this dipsomaniacal theme raises so many questions…..!), Lady Rover, and Sweet Lips (foxhounds), to name just a few.

Other presidents adept at tongue-in-cheek naming include: Calvin Coolidge (his canaries, Nip and Tuck); Benjamin Harrison’s pet opossums (!!) Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection; Millard Fillmore, who had two ponies named Mason and Dixon (he was also the founding member of the Buffalo, NY, chapter of the ASPCA); and FDR’s Old English Sheepdog, Tiny.

In contrast, there are those who have shown a remarkable lack of imagination with naming presidential pets: James Monroe’s spaniel named Spaniel; JFK’s Irish Wolfhound Wolf; and LBJ’s beagles Him and Her (made (in)famous by LBJ picking them up by their ears).

President Coolidge with cat
Coolidge with cat.

Catting Around

Let’s not forget the felines: Teddy Roosevelt’s cats Tom Quartz and Slippers; Lincoln’s Tabby and Dixie; JFK’s Tom Kitten; and Tiger and Blacky, residents of Coolidge’s White House, along with a bobcat named Smoky. Rutherford B. Hayes had Siam, the first Siamese cat in the U.S.; Gerald Ford also had one, named Shan, as did Carter, which sported the lilting moniker of Misty Malarky Ying Yang.

President with pet
Hoover with his Belgian Shepard, King Tut.

So Many Dogs!

We are impressed by the breadth of presidential pet breeds that have crossed the White House transom since the days of our first president: Wolfhound (Tyler, JFK, Hoover), Greyhound (Tyler, Hayes, Wilson), Foxhound (Washington, Cleveland), Cocker Spaniel (Cleveland, Hayes, Truman, JFK), Collie (Cleveland, Hoover, Coolidge, Harrison, Carter, LBJ), St. Bernard (Cleveland, TR), Dachshund (Cleveland), Newfoundland (Garfield, Hayes, Grant, Buchanan),  Miniature Schnauzer (Hayes), Toy Terrier (Buchanan), Irish Setter (Truman, Reagan, Nixon), Llewellyn Setter (FDR), German Shepherd (FDR, Hoover, JFK), Old English Sheepdog (FDR), Shetland Sheepdog (Coolidge), Great Dane (FDR), Scottish Terrier (FDR, George W. Bush), Fox Terrier (Hoover), Belgian Shepherd (Hoover, Coolidge), Elkhound (Hoover), Siberian Husky (Hoover, Reagan), Chow (Coolidge), English Bulldog (Coolidge, Harding), Airedale (Coolidge, Harding, Wilson), Bull Terrier (Wilson), Manchester Terrier (TR), Chesapeake Bay Retriever (TR), Pekingese (TR), Portuguese Water Dog (Obama), English Spring Spaniel (George W. & George H.W. Bush), Golden Retriever (Reagan, Ford), Belgian Sheepdog (Reagan), Bouvier des Flandres (Reagan), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Reagan), Afghan Hound (Carter), Poodle (Nixon, JFK), Beagle (LBJ), and Welsh Terrier (JFK).

president Johnson with beagles.
President Johnson with beagles.

Presidential Pets in the Paddock

For more information of presidential pets, check out,which has wonderful pieces on all the presidents who owned pets while at the White House. One thing struck me as I was perusing its pages is that we forget that in earlier days that D.C. was less urban and more bucolic, and numerous presidents counted horse, cows, sheep, and the odd goat among their pets. William Taft has the unique distinction of being the last president to have a cow at the White House (named Pauline Wayne), while Coolidge had flock of sheep that grazed on the lawn, including a tobacco-chewing ram known as Old Ike.

So set a example for your own pet, and make sure you vote today. If you don’t, your pet will know it and there’s nothing worse than not being able to look your best friend in the eye. Vote; you’ll be glad you did.

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