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Presidential Pups and Pussy Cats: White House Pets – Part I

Can you name any of the pets that felt at home in the Oval Office? Do you know who was the famous pet parent to Fido, Fala, Checkers, King Tut and Socks?

There have been dozens of first family pets—animals that became famous long before the internet ever existed to boost their followers and reputations. In fact, presidential pets can be traced all the way back to George Washington, who also kept horses, foxhounds, a donkey, and a parrot named Snipe.

As the 19th century dawned, horses and hounds were common, as well as the occasional goat, pig, mockingbird, canary, fighting cocks, an eagle, and two alligators. President Jefferson’s pair of grizzly bear cubs and Van Buren’s two tiger cubs gifted by the Sultan of Muscat and Oman quickly outgrew practicality and ended up at the zoo. President Ulysses S. Grant, former Civil War commanding general, had his thoroughbred of renowned racing pedigree brought to the White House stables. His beloved Cincinnati was kept along with Jeff Davis and Egypt, two more prized horses that Grant never raced.

Let’s take a closer look (presented in two parts) at presidential pups and pussy cats that ruled the roost at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C.

Related: Presidential Pups and Pussy Cats: White House Pets—Part II

Early Presidential Dogs and Cats

George Washington was partial to coonhounds and foxhounds for hunting and there was also a greyhound called Cornwallis, named after the famous British war general who surrendered to the American Constitutional Army during the Seige of Yorktown in 1781. Among the many hounds, history books tell us there was Sweetlips, Vulcan, Scentwell, Drunker, Taster, Tipsy, and Tipler.

Our second president, John Adams, kept Juno, Mark, and Satan while Thomas Jefferson moved in after him with Bergère and Grizzle, two large shepherd dogs of French origin known as Briards. James Monroe had Sebastian, a Siberian husky, and John Tyler kept an Italian greyhound called Le Beau. The next few years saw a toy terrier, a Newfoundland, and two Japanese spaniels until Abraham Lincoln, an animal lover, moved into the White House in 1861.

Lincoln’s residency indicated his fondness for animals: goats, rabbits, a turkey saved from the Thanksgiving table, and Old Bob, the 16-year-old riderless horse behind the hearse at the presidential funeral cortege. Tabby and Dixie were the White House cats and the president is said to remark that Dixie “is smarter than my whole cabinet.” Lincoln’s dog, Fido, who met a tragic death a few months after its owner, is credited with making the canine name so popular.

Faithful and Rosie kept President Ulysses S. Grant company during his eight-year term of office. Rutherford B. Hayes arrived afterward, another pet lover, with all sorts of dogs named Doc, Hector, Duke, Grim, Otis, Juno, Jet, and Shep. Three cats—Piccolomini, Siam, and Miss Pussy—included the first Siamese cat to live in the White House.

In 1881, President James A. Garfield served in office for only six months when he was assassinated, leaving his dog, Veto, to find a new pet parent. Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, kept a Japanese poodle named Hector and three dachshunds.

Related: Choosing a Name For Your New Puppy

Dash was Benjamin Harrison‘s collie who got a handsome dog house on the White House lawn in about 1890.

The 25th president, William McKinley, ushered in the dawn of the 20th century with Valeriano Weyler and Enrique DeLome, his Angora cats named for a Spanish general and a Spanish ambassador. McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish-American War before his assassination in 1901.

Teddy Roosevelt, the conservationist, naturalist, and father of America’s national parks, came along next and by all accounts, the White House became a menagerie. In fact, some say it was more like a zoo.

Next: 20th and 21st Century White House PetsSee Part II

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