With all of the political ads and debates going on right now leading up to our next presidential election, it is easy to get swept up in the madness and think about all of the differences between us and our fellow man. Instead, let’s take a little time to relax and talk about something all of our presidents have had in common, from George Washington to Barack Obama – animals! While not every president has had dogs and cats, they have all had a pet of some kind. Animals can bring us together during these tumultuous times.
September 23rd is Dogs in Politics Day, also known as Checkers Day. This holiday came about in 1952 when Richard Nixon gave a speech defending the monetary backing for his vice presidential campaign. In the speech, Nixon admitted to receiving a gift in the form of a black and white dog named Checkers, while denying using any campaign money for personal use. This speech became famous after being watched by a record 60 million Americans and boosted Nixon’s appeal. Now a Checkers speech refers to any emotional political speech.
Here are a few of the more interesting presidential pets and their stories!
(Presidential Term: April 30th, 1789 – March 4th, 1797)
Our first president had many pets at the Whitehouse, including dogs, horses, and a donkey as well as a parrot owned by Martha Washington. Among his dogs, he had black and tan coonhounds with the fun names Drunkard and Tipsy!
(Presidential Term: March 4th, 1801 – March 4th, 1809)
Our third president kept two bear cubs at the Whitehouse briefly, before turning them over to Peale’s Museum. They were a gift from Captain Zebulon Pike who bought them while exploring the southern portion of the Louisiana Territory. Jefferson also had a mockingbird named Dick and Briards, one of whom was named Buzzy. Read more here (source).
(Presidential Term: March 4th, 1857 – March 4th, 1861)
Our fifteenth president, and one of only two bachelors who were elected president, had a Newfoundland named Laura to keep him company. She may be the biggest dog ever kept at the Whitehouse at about 170 lbs. He also had a toy terrier named Punch. Buchanan received a herd of elephants as a gift from the King of Siam and is said to have kept one at the Whitehouse, while giving the rest to a zoo.
(Presidential Term: September 14th, 1901 – March 4th, 1909)
Our 26th president had too many animals to count! His list of pets includes a rabbit, a pig, a bear, guinea pigs, birds, and reptiles. He also had cats and lots of dogs, including a Saint Bernard named Rollo! The teddy bear was also named after Theodore Roosevelt, after a display of good sportsmanship. Roosevelt, despite being a big game hunter, refused to shoot a black bear that his party had caught and tied to a tree. Read more here (source).
John F. Kennedy
(Presidential Term: January 20th, 1961 – November 22nd, 1963)
Our 35th president had dogs, cats, birds, ponies, hamsters, a rabbit and a horse. He and his family owned dogs of many different breeds, including a gift from the Premier of the Soviet Union-a puppy named Pushinka. Pushinka was the offspring of the soviet space dog Strelka. Along with her comrades, Strelka was the first living creature to survive a trip into space. The Kennedy family also had a cocker spaniel named Shannon. Read more here (source).
(Presidential Term: January 20th, 1981 – January 20th, 1989)
Our 40th president owned horses, which he kept at Rancho del Cielo, his vacation home in California. He also had many different dog breeds. These include a Bouvier des Flandres named Lucky and a Siberian Husky named Taca. Reagan seems to have had an affinity for large dogs!
(Presidential Term: January 20th, 2009 – present day)
Even our current president and his family have become part of the club! They may not have as exciting an array of pets as some of our previous presidents- but times have changed. They enjoy spending time with their two Portuguese Water Dogs named Bo and Sunny, who I hear Malia and Sasha very badly wanted and love! The choice of dog breed was made due to Malia’s allergies.
Do you know any other interesting presidential pet facts? Let us know in the comment section below!