With Presidents Day approaching I like to look at fun facts to share with the students. This article shares the Presidents unusual pets through the years. Very interesting... (National Geographic)
U.S. Presidential Pets: Then and Now
Theodore Roosevelt's son Quentin once interrupted him by dropping snakes on Dad's desk!
Illustration by Bob Brugger
President Bush's dogs often play on the White House lawn, but did you know that he also has cows and a cat? These animals are part of a long history of U.S. presidential pets—from horses and owls to snakes and elephants.
President Bush's dogs include two Scottish terriers named Barney and Miss Beazley. He also used to have an English springer spaniel named Spotty. His cat is named India. India, nicknamed "Willie," has lived with the Bush family for more than ten years!
On his ranch in Crawford, Texas, the President keeps a longhorn cow named Ofelia. Bush named Ofelia after a staff member who worked with him when he was the governor of Texas.
Pat Finnegan, a U.S. National Park Service expert who works at the White House, said that the pets "are very friendly, and the dogs are out on the grounds daily."
Past Presidents brought many interesting animals to the White House, Finnegan said. The wife of John Quincy Adams, the sixth President, had silkworms. Herbert Hoover, the 31st President, had an opossum. And Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, had a raccoon named Rebecca who walked on a leash!
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President, was famous for his many pets. His six kids had snakes, dogs, cats, a badger, birds, guinea pigs, and more.
When Roosevelt's son Archie got the measles, Quentin, another of Roosevelt's sons, thought a visit from the family pony might cheer Archie up. So Quentin put the animal on the White House elevator and brought him to Archie's upstairs room.
Quentin's animal adventures didn't end there. Once he borrowed a bunch of snakes from a pet store. Running to show his father, Quentin interrupted an important meeting and dropped the snakes all over his father's desk!
During World War I, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President, kept a herd of sheep on the White House lawn.
"He did this so the First Family would appear to support the war effort," Finnegan described. "Help was at a premium ... and the sheep cut the lawn [by eating the grass]."
John Riley of the White House Historical Association explained that Wilson's sheep's wool was auctioned to raise money for the American Red Cross, a group that helps people in emergencies.
Some of the more unusual U.S. presidential pets have been gifts from other world leaders. According to Finnegan, 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.
But even the more typical pets have had an unusual time at the White House. Warren Harding, the 29th President, and his family had a birthday party for their dog Laddie Boy. According to Finnegan, they invited other dogs and served a dog biscuit cake, complete with frosting.