White House Pets

When Theodore Roosevelt became President in 1901, the White House suddenly became a very lively place. Roosevelt had six children, and the children loved pets. The Executive Mansion burst at the seams with dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, guinea pigs, a badger, a black bear, a rat, a parrot and a green garter snake.

The children's favorite pet was a pony named Algonquin. When Archie Roosevelt got the measles and was made to stay in his second floor bedroom, his brothers decided to cheer him up with a visit from Algonquin. How did the Roosevelt boys get Algonquin to the second floor? The way everyone else went up: Algonquin rode in the elevator.

Thomas Jefferson kept a pet mockingbird in his study in the White House. Jefferson taught the bird to ride on his shoulder and take food from his lips.

Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War of 1846, provided a home for his old war-horse, Whitey, on the White House grounds. But it was not a peaceful existence for poor old Whitey. White House visitors pulled hairs from his tail for souvenirs.

Warren G. Harding kept a pen of turkeys at the White House.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, loved animals. Among his many pets was a raccoon named Rebecca that he walked on a leash.

Coolidge also owned a dog named Paul Pry and a cat named Tiger. One day when Tiger could not be found, the President asked local radio stations to broadcast a "missing cat" bulletin. Tiger was recovered but later ran away again and was never found.

During World War I, (1917–1918), the Woodrow Wilsons, like other American families, did whatever they could to help out. In order to release the White House gardeners for the war effort, the Wilsons kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn to eat the grass. The plan worked better than anyone expected: not only was the grass kept neatly trimmed, but the sheep grew heavy coats of wool. After the sheep were shorn, the wool was sold and the money donated to the Red Cross.

William Howard Taft kept a cow that grazed on the White House lawn. She lived in the garage amidst the President's four automobiles, and often supplied the milk that was served in the White House.

Herbert Hoover's son, Allan, had two pet alligators that sometimes were permitted to wander loose around the White House.

The John F. Kennedy family, which included daughter Caroline and son John, had almost as many pets as the Theodore Roosevelts. The Kennedy menagerie included dogs, a cat, three birds, three ponies, two hamsters, and a rabbit.

Do you know what kind of pet President Bill Clinton and his family have?


Adapted from Facts and Fun About the Presidents by George Sullivan. (Copyright 1987. Published by Scholastic.)

  • Subjects:
    Animals, The Presidency