The Most Bizarre Pets of Presidents

Which president kept an alligator?

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Some could accuse presidents of being parrots of their party but George Washington and James Madison had parrots in their family. Their wives each had one. Andrew Jackson also had a parrot, which learned how to swear. Someone brought the parrot to Old Hickory’s funeral but it became unruly because of its persistent swearing.

Keep the birds around your house from cursing up a storm with one of these 16 seriously cool birdhouses.

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John Quincy Adams received an alligator from Marquis de Lafayette. The gator apparently lived in a bathroom and Adams used it to scare guests sometimes. Herbert Hoover’s son, Allan, later owned a pair of gators at the White House.

Alligators are plenty scary, just like snakes. Find out how one many found the best way to get rid of snakes.

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Billy Goat

Benjamin Harrison had a Billy goat and a Durham cow at the White House during his term from 1889-1893. The goat, known as “Old Whiskers” used to be harnessed so it could haul Harrison’s grandchildren around the White House grounds. According to a 1903 story published in the Washington Evening Star, Old Whiskers took off with Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin, a few years prior to Harrison’s death in 1901. The goat and grandson headed toward an excavation site with the president, who was in his late 50s, chasing after them. Eventually Harrison caught up to the racing goat and grabbed the bridle to prevent any disaster.

It might be a good idea to have some goats around if you’ve got this invasive species in your yard.

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Siamese Cat

Rutherford Hayes, who served as president from 1877-1881, kept a Siamese cat, the first of the breed in the U.S. He also kept cows, a goat, canaries and a mockingbird.  There probably wasn’t any really cool cat furniture like this around when Hayes got the cat though.

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Guinea Pigs, Badger, Lion, Hyena, Zebra and Bear, Oh My

Leave it to Teddy Roosevelt, the man who once got shot during a speech and finished it, to have a zoo on the White House grounds. That’s right, the man who carried a big stick also kept snakes, a badger, lion, hyena, zebra and five bears. That’s in addition to the traditional pets around the place like dogs, cats, horses, birds, rats and guinea pigs. The guinea pigs were named Dr. Johnson, Bishop Doane, Fighting Bob Evans and Father O’Grady. Take care of your pets with some of these homemade pet products.

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We’ll tread lightly here but Woodrow Wilson used to keep sheep on the White House ground to help … with lawn maintenance. It was part of a cost-cutting measure during World War I. 

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Calvin Coolidge also kept a small zoo at the White House. Coolidge had a bobcat, wallaby, pygmy hippo, a bear and a domesticated raccoon. The raccoon, named Rebecca, was kept by Coolidge’s wife, Grace, and allowed to walk around the White House. The raccoon was even led by a leash other times, though it was originally sent to the family for Thanksgiving to be eaten with the meal. But the family found the raccoon too domesticated to consume. Instead the raccoon got her own place to stay in a tree and grew to enjoy playing with a bar of soap in a bathtub filled with a little water.

Coolidge also had lion cubs, a duiker, which is a small antelope, and ducks.

You probably don’t want any raccoons taking baths in your backyard, so find out how to keep raccoons away simply.

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Benjamin Harrison had two opossums during his presidency. The opossums were named Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection. Reciprocity and protection were part of the 1896 Republican Party platform.

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Ulysses S. Grant kept gamecocks at the White House during his presidential term. The gamecocks actually belonged to his son, Jesse Grant. Check out some wacky chicken coops like the Hotel Eggcelsior.

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Tiger Cubs

The Sultan of Oman gifted Martin Van Buren two tiger cubs. Van Buren later gave the cubs to a zoo.

It might feel like you’re running a zoo with all the animals you’ve got at home, but find out the easy ways to clean up with pets.

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Pauline the Cow

William Howard Taft kept a cow named Pauline around so he and his family could enjoy milk. Pauline was the last cow at the White House. Add a cupola to your home or garage to get that barnyard feel.

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Karen Allin

Grizzly Bear

Thomas Jefferson was known as a man of science and received a pair of grizzly bears from Zebulon Pike. They stayed on the White House lawn in cages for several months until they were taken to a museum in Philadelphia.

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James Buchanan kept an eagle during his term. Do you know why the bald eagle almost wasn’t the national bird?

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Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached, kept mice he found in the White House and he fed them. Make sure you’re not inadvertently feeding mice and learn how to get rid of mice for good.

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William McKinley kept roosters but Teddy Roosevelt kept a one-legged rooster.