The Top 5 Strangest Presidential Pets

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It might seem like every First Family has a dog padding around the Rose Garden and leaving paw prints on the bedspread of the Lincoln Bedroom. In fact, dogs are only one of many First Pets that have called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home; the White House has also seen its share of decidedly more unusual critters scurrying about its hallowed halls. The tradition of welcoming animals into the executive mansion is a generations old practice, and in that time a few of our nation’s Commanders in Chief have gone with anything but traditional pets.

5 Presidential Pooches

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Far and away the most popular presidential pet, dogs deserve mention on this list for the sheer number of them that have lived at the White House. They may be the obvious choice, but considering that dogs have been members of the first family since the very first family, that of George Washington, we couldn’t leave them out. Some of the more notable First Pooches include Washington’s hound named Drunkard, Lincoln’s dog Fido and LBJ’s beagles named Him and Her.

4 Madison’s Parrot

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Many presidents have kept birds at the White House, but most were either chickens kept more for food than companionship, or else were parakeets or other smaller birds often kept by the president’s children. James and Dolley Madison, however, kept just one pet, a Macaw parrot. The bird ultimately outlived both the fourth president and his wife.

3 Benjamin Harrison’s House Pets

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President Harrison had a dog named Dash. That seems normal enough, right? He also had a goat named Old Whiskers. That’s slightly more unusual, but not truly bizarre. His opossums, though, were where things got strange. Not only is it more than a bit unusual for a president to keep opossums as pets, but their names were the real kicker. Harrison’s pet opossums were called Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection.

2 The Coolidge Family Raccoon

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Calvin Coolidge may not have been the most electrifying president of all time—he was only elected to one term in office, though he did finish Harding’s term after that man’s death—but he sure had a lot of wacky pets. Among all the dogs, fowl and exotic though temporary visitors such as a hippo and a bear, Coolidge kept as a pet a raccoon named Rebecca. Coolidge often walked her on a leash, and she was allowed to roam around in many parts of the White House. The raccoon had a special little house just for her on the grounds of the executive mansion.

1 Teddy Roosevelt’s Zoo

Perhaps the most amazing thing about TR’s ark-like White House is that he didn’t go shooting every animal in the place, shooting animals being one of his favorite pastimes. Teddy kept quite a menagerie roaming around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There were four or five different breeds of dog, a few cats, several roosters and chickens, a pig, a badger, a bear, a pony, some snakes, a few rodents and a bird or ten.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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