It is traditional for American presidents to have family pets that often appear in official family photographs. President Barack Obama is no different; he currently has two dogs, Bo and Sunny., But over the centuries, the White House has been home to far more exotic animals.
Horses, cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, songbirds, parrots, and other small animals were a part of daily life during the White House’s earliest years. Since 1870, White House domestic pets have mirrored the species generally seen in American households, according to the White House Historical Association.
Then there were those presidents who had pets that were a little on the wild side.
John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover both had pet alligators. Adams’ reptile reportedly lived in a bathtub in the East Room.
Martin Van Buren received two tiger cubs from the Sultan of Oman and the pair lived in the White House for a few months until Van Buren sent them to live at the National Zoo.
When Teddy Roosevelt moved into the White House in 1901, he brought along his wife, six children and more animals than the White House staff had ever seen before, including a bear, lizard, guinea pigs, a pig, badger, blue macaw, hen, one-legged rooster, hyena, barn owl, rabbit and Algonquin the pony who supposedly rode up the White House elevator.
Macaroni the pony was a gift to John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, from Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Macaroni usually lived at the Kennedys’ country home in Virginia but frequently came to the White House and roamed the grounds.
Calvin Coolidge had a pet cow that he liked to milk himself.
When it came to smaller animals, Thomas Jefferson owned a mockingbird that is said to have eaten directly from the president’s mouth. Descendants of Jefferson’s bird can still be found at his home, Monticello.
Abraham Lincoln’s turkey, Jack, was supposed to be slaughtered for the Thanksgiving holiday meal, until his young son, Tad, bonded with the bird, and convinced his father to spare the turkey’s life. It is thought that this incident led to the modern-day presidential tradition of turkey pardoning at Thanksgiving.
Andrew Johnson was so devoted to his tiny white mice that he fed them food and water from saucers in his bedroom and let them roam free in the White House. There’s no word on what the White House staff thought of that.
Here’s a look at some of the White House’s most famous or unusual presidential pets: