The White House — Home To Some Very Interesting Pets

Besides being an important office, the White House is also a home and many American homes have pets. So, of course, First Families since 1800 have had their own pets. Everyone loves being worshiped enthusiastically and unconditionally and many pets do just this! Presidents and their families keep pets for the same reason anyone else does – they love them.

Taking a look at the history of White House pets is pretty interesting. First of all, the kind of animals that have been accepted as pets has changed over the years and if you think about it, they reflect the changes in our American society. Not many of us have sheep as pets anymore. And having a pony is not the biggest, most precious dream of tween girls anymore. Our early First Families tended to have pets more for necessity than for pleasure or luxury i.e. carriage horses and war mounts. Many of our early presidents had been farmers and many Americans at that time lived on small farms so these were common pets.

As the years passed, Americans began to have fewer and fewer barnyard and functional animals as pets. The number of pets as companions began to rise and these pets began to move into the family home. And with the help of images in magazines, newspapers and on television, the American public could get a glimpse, firsthand, of the lives of our First Families. Suddenly presidential pets served to present their owners’ public image as “just folks like us.”

Here are some of our First Families’ pets. Take a look and decide what image you think presidential pets gave their owners:

President George Washington, 1789-1797

  • Samson, Steady, Leonidas, Traveller, Magnolia and other stallions
  • Nelson and Blueskin, horses used during the American Revolution
  • A horse given to him by Gen. Braddock
  • Drunkard, Mopsey, Taster, Cloe, Tipsy, Tipler, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover, Vulcan, Sweet Lips, and Searcher, all hounds
  • Five French hounds
  • Rozinante, Nellie Custis’s horse
  • A parrot belonging to First Lady Martha Washington

His favorite animal was reportedly Nelson, the sorrel horse that he had been riding when he accepted the British surrender at Yorktown, the battle that ended the Revolutionary War.


President John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829


President Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841

   Received a pair of tiger cubs from the Sultan of Oman


President William Henry Harrison, 1841-1841

  • Billy, a goat
  • Sukey, a Durham cow


 President James Buchanan, 1857-1861

Received a herd of elephants from the King of Siam (now Thailand).


President Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865

  •  Nanny and Nanko, two goats
  •  Turkeys, horses, and rabbits


President Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909

President Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929

Calvin and Grace Coolidge quite literally had a zoo at the White House:

Finally, given to them by dignitaries from other countries, there were also lion cubs (humorously named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau), a wallaby, a pygmy hippo named Billy, and a black bear!


President Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921

During World War I, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, kept a herd of sheep on the White House lawn. He did this so the first family would appear to support the war effort. Help was hard to come by and the sheep cut the lawn by eating the grass. Wilson's sheep's wool was auctioned to raise money for the American Red Cross, a group that helps people in emergencies.


President Warren G. Harding, 1921-1923

President Harding and First Lady Grace Harding had a birthday party for their dog Laddie Boy. They invited other dogs and served a dog biscuit cake, complete with frosting.


 President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-1969

Image of LBJ and Yuki.png

President Lyndon B. Johnson with Yuki in the Oval Office (Image from the LBJ Presidential Library)

President Lyndon Johnson wirth Him and Her (Image from LBJ Presidential Library)

President Lyndon Johnson wirth Him and Her (Image from LBJ Presidential Library)