The Presidential Pet Museum: Celebrating 150+ Years Of President's Furry Friends

Posted by Megan Swinney
presidential pet museum
Photo by Michael Williamson/The The Washington Post via Getty Images

Everyone knows that first pets live in the White House. But did you know there is the Presidential Pet Museum?

Pets have been present in the White House, except for Trump, since the 1860s. While the first dog may not hang out in the oval office, it's common to see them frolicking out on the white house lawn or hanging with the first family. President Barack Obama's Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, were a favorite. While President Joe Biden's German Shepherd, Champ, and his buddy Major, got plenty of media attention. While dogs were the most popular animals in the White House, they are not the only presidential pets. There has been a cat, horse, tiger, and even an alligator. The Presidential Pet Museum in Maryland, founded by Claire Mclean, holds the largest collection of presidential pet memorabilia, including President William Taft's cow Pauline Wayne's cowbell.

Presidential Pets Since 1953

RELATED: Some Past Presidential Pets Were Capable of Eating Current Presidential Pets

You do not have to go back too far into presidential history to find more than just dogs as White Housepets. President George W. Bush had quite a few presidential animals, Miss Beazley, a Scottish terrier, Spot, an English springer spaniel who was from President George H.W.Bush's dog, Millie. The younger Bush also had Barney, another Scottish terrier, India, a cat, and Ofelia, a longhorn cow, though she lived at the ranch.

President Bill Clinton had Socks the cat and Buddy the labrador retriever running around the White House grounds while President George H.W. Bush had Millie and one of her puppies, Ranger.

President Ronald Reagan had quite a variety of pups. However, their dogs and horses stayed at their ranch when they moved into the White House. However, President Reagan was gifted a Bouvier des Flandres puppy by the March of Dimes spokes child. First lady Nancy Reagan gave the puppy the name Lucky. Their dogs ranged from a Cavalier King Charles spaniel to a Siberian husky named Taca at the ranch. They even had a Belgian sheepdog named Fuzzy.

The only president in recent history to have more animals than Reagan was President John F. Kennedy. But, as with many US presidents, one of his dogs was a gift. He was gifted Pushinka, a mix, by the Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev.  Pushinka and Kennedy's Welsh terrier Charlie went on to have four puppies, who all lived in the White House. So, on top of his ten dogs, Kennedy had a cat, canary, two parakeets, three ponies, two hamsters, a rabbit, and two horses.

Presidential Pets Before 1953

Even the first president had pets in the White House. George Washington had about eight horses and about a dozen hounds plus five French hounds, and his wife has a parrot. Though the museum is currently closed for renovations, we spoke to Andrew Hager, the historian-in-residence, about the numerous unique presidential pets.

While many pets end up in photos with the presidents, it does not necessarily mean that they are with them all the time. Andrew Hager said that Fala President Franklin Roosevelt's dog went absolutely everywhere with him.

"Fala toured the country on inspections, visited the Aleutian Islands, and even went to the Quebec Conference, where the US and the United Kingdom agreed to share nuclear secrets. He was also with FDR's when the president died in Warm Springs, Georgia," said Hager.

It may seem like many of the presidents in recent decades have had numerous pets, the president who takes the cake for having the most pets in Theodore Roosevelt. Hager said, " He had a few dozen animals, including horses, guinea pigs, snakes, dogs, cats, flying squirrels, a badger, a lizard, and a one-legged rooster."

Woodrow Wilson had a unique pet in his ram, mostly because he liked to chew tobacco. Not to say, other presidents did not have odd animals. For example, Harvey Firestone gifted Calvin Coolidge a hippopotamus, and it had to go to a zoo. However, he did have a pet raccoon named Rebecca, who walked on a leash.

According to Hager, many of the exotic animals that were gifted to presidents were promptly regifted to a local zoo. Where did many of the other pets live? "For a long time, the White House had kennels where are the dogs would stay. At this point, I believe the dogs live inside with the family, but in the days before effective flea and tick medication, they stayed outside much of the time."

There have been many White House groomers and caretakers over the years. From Nixon on, the dogs have been taken care of by Dale Haney. Before Haney was Traphes Bryant. Byrant released a memoir of his time in the White House titled, DOG DAYS AT THE WHITE HOUSE. 

Hager said many of the presidents had a great love for animals, but Lincoln may have been ahead of the rest. He was the first president to have cats inside the White House and even fed his dog from the table. "Lyndon Johnson loved dogs so much that he even recorded a record album about them," Hager said.

As for the most loved pet? Hager said it's almost impossible to say. However, Millie Bush was allowed to take showers with the president.

You can see more information on the pasts presidential pets by heading over to presidentialpetmuseum.com.

Who's your favorite presidential pet? Tell us on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page! 

READ MORE: Bo and Sunny: The First Dogs Loved Their Presidential Duties

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The Presidential Pet Museum: Celebrating 150+ Years Of President's Furry Friends