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President Pet Parrot

February 20, 2012 by staff 

President Pet Parrot, President Barack Obama, his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, daughter Malia, daughter Sasha, and the family dog, Bo, go for a walk. Bo is the lastest in a line of popular presidential pets. MCT PHOTO/NANCY STONE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE

As we celebrate Presidents Day on Monday, a review of some pets that spent time in the White House over the last century or so is in order. For those of us who love American history, it is interesting to note that many of our furry

friends had a big impact on our cultural fabric. From President William McKinley’s (in office from 1897-1901) famous and exotic Mexican yellow-headed parrot to President Barack Obama’s cool dog named Bo, the presidential pets have remained a major part of the American presidency.

While most of our Presidents had pets, a few made their pets a major part of their administration.

President William Taft (1909- 1913) was responsible for bringing the last cow to the White House. Yes, that was a big deal. Why? Cows were the most common presidential pets of the 1800s. Of course, dogs won that distinction in the 20th century. And, President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) kept track of his favorite pet named Old Ike, a tobacco-chewing ram, from the windows of the White House. Old Ike and a few sheep were allowed to graze the White House lawn.

For instance, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945) had a faithful and loyal companion named Fala, a black Scottish terrier. Fala traveled with the president on trips abroad and was often photographed by the press. He was a master of tricks and entertained the president and all those around him.

A beloved White House pet just like the Clintons’ cat socks, Fala lived most of his life at the White House. In addition, Roosevelt owned many other dogs including Major, a German shepherd; Tiny, an English sheepdog; and a great dane aptly named President.

When it comes to resemblances, Fala looked something like Miss Beazley, the 10- week-old Scottish terrier that arrived at the White House during the George W. Bush administration in January of 2005. The canine was a surprise birthday present for first lady, Laura Bush.

A few presidents hosted nothing short of zoos when they were in the White House, such as Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Teddy Roosevelt. President Calvin Coolidge served from 1923 to 1929 and he and his wife, Grace, were pet lovers. The first couple’s white collie was best known to the American public yet the Coolidges also had terriers, airedales, chow chows, bulldogs, and a Shetland sheepdog.

In addition to the dogs, canaries and mockingbirds were the beloved pets of Grace. The most exotic pets of the Coolidge administration were gifts from dignitaries including a wallaby, a pygmy hippo, and African lion cubs.

No matter the president, in terms of sheer numbers of pets, Theodore Roosevelt trumped all of his White House colleagues when it came to the animal menagerie. A great games-man, hunter, and naturalist,

Roosevelt brought many, many animals with him and his large family to the White House during his years of service from 1901 to 1909.

Roosevelt’s favorite pet was said to be a horse named Bleistein. Yet, there were other horses that the president rode with regularity including Renown, Roswell, Rusty, Jocko, Root, Grey, Dawn, Wyoming, and Yangenkah. The menagerie of pets living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during much of the first decade of the 20th century also included owls, lizards, roosters, guinea pigs, cats, badgers, raccoons, and hyenas. And, national fame came to Alice Roosevelt’s pet snake and Quentin Roosevelt’s macaw named Eli Yale — an interesting names since the president graduated from Harvard.

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