Did you know George Washington had a parrot named Polly? Do you think Polly liked crackers?
Pets have always been very popular with U.S. presidents. According to historical records, only three of the 46 presidents—Franklin Pierce, Chester Arthur, and Donald Trump—did not have a pet in the White House. Then again, maybe they had a pet fish we didn’t know about…
President Washington’s parrot was one of the first in a long line of presidential pets—from horses to snakes, owls to elephants, and everything in between. Let’s take a look back at some presidential pets!
The past presidents brought many interesting animals to the White House. Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President, had two bear cubs. John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline had a pony named Macaroni. The wife of the 6th President, John Quincy Adams, had silkworms. And Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, had a raccoon named Rebecca who walked on a leash!
Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt could have battled for the title of “Commander in Chief of Most Pets.” Coolidge had over 28 different animals. Some of the animals included six dogs, a cat, a goose, numerous birds, a donkey, hippo, a bobcat, an antelope, a wallaby, and two lion cubs (named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau).
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President, was also famous for his many pets. His six kids had horses, snakes, dogs, cats, a badger, birds, guinea pigs, and more. When one of Roosevelt’s sons, Archie, got the measles, another of his sons, Quentin, thought a visit from the family pony might cheer Archie up. So, Quentin put the pony on the White House elevator and brought him to Archie's upstairs room!
President Herbert Hoover had several dogs and his son had two pet alligators, which sometimes took walks outside the White House.
To save money during World War I, it is said that Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President, bought a flock of sheep, which he kept on the White House lawn. He wanted the First Family to appear to support the war effort. Wilson thought it would save money to have the sheep trim the lawn, by eating it of course!
Some of the more unusual U.S. presidential pets have been gifts from other world leaders. James Buchanan, the 15th President, received a herd of elephants from the King of Siam (now called Thailand). The Sultan of Oman gave Martin Van Buren, the eighth President, a pair of tiger cubs which Congress made him send to the zoo!