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Which US President Kept the Most Pets at the White House?

Margaret Lipman
Updated May 16, 2024
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Americans have long been fascinated by the personal lives of our nation’s presidents and their families. Though rarely overlapping with serious diplomatic or policy responsibilities, their unique interests serve an important role in helping the public get to know their elected leaders. For example, presidential pets have been a constant source of interest ever since Thomas Jefferson brought pet birds to the White House, most notably his beloved companion, Dick the Mockingbird.

Although Jefferson also owned dogs, sheep, and horses (and briefly two grizzly cubs gifted by Capt. Zebulon Pike), no U.S. president has come close to equaling the veritable menagerie kept by Theodore Roosevelt, who was in office from 1901 to 1909. Theodore and Edith Roosevelt and their six children had around 40 animals, some housed at the White House and others at Sagamore Hill, the family’s Long Island retreat. In addition to many dogs and ponies, there were cats, guinea pigs, a macaw, a black bear, a garter snake, a rat, a lizard, a badger, a pig, a rabbit, a hyena, a barn owl, a one-legged rooster, and almost certainly others.

Alice Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s eldest child and his only daughter from his first marriage, was the owner of the garter snake, which she named Emily Spinach because "it was as green as spinach and as thin as my Aunt Emily."

The black bear, originally from West Virginia, was named Jonathan Edwards after the 19th-century religious leader, who was also Edith Roosevelt’s great-great-great grandfather. As was the case with many of the more exotic presidential pets, he was ultimately sent to live at a zoo (in this case, the Bronx Zoo.)

Said to be Roosevelt’s favourite dog, Pete was either a bull terrier, Boston bull terrier, or a bull dog. He earned a measure of notoriety for his habit of chasing and biting people on the White House grounds, including numerous policemen, the Secretary of the Interior, the French ambassador, and various State Department and Cabinet officials. After several attempts to exile him from the White House, he was finally relocated to Sagamore Hill in 1908.

Algonquin the pony was especially beloved by the Roosevelt children. He was once brought up to Archie Roosevelt’s room in the White House elevator during a bout of childhood illness in an attempt to cheer the boy up. The pony was reportedly entranced by his reflection in the elevator mirror.

Learn more about presidential pets:

  • Abraham Lincoln had a dog named Fido (based on the Latin word fidus, or faithful) while living in Springfield, Illinois, during the 1850s. However, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln didn’t like the idea of a dog in the White House, so Fido stayed in Springfield with another family. Fido was briefly a popular name for dogs in the late 1800s and has now become a generic name for dogs, though rarely used.

  • During World War I, Woodrow Wilson kept a herd of sheep at the White House to cut the lawn by eating the grass. Their wool was auctioned off to support the American Red Cross.

  • Bill Clinton and his family brought their tuxedo cat Socks to the White House when Clinton took office in 1991. Much to the dismay of Socks, the Clintons added a Labrador Retriever named Buddy to the family in 1997. The pair were famous for not getting along, with Bill Clinton once commenting that "I did better with the Palestinians and the Israelis than I've done with Socks and Buddy.”

  • Spot Fetcher, an English Springer Spaniel named after Texas Rangers player Scott Fletcher, was owned by President George W. Bush. She was born in the White House in 1989 to Millie, a dog belonging to then-President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. Spot moved back in when the younger Bush became president in 2001, becoming the first pet to live in the White House during two different administrations. The Bush family also owned two Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, during their time in the White House.

  • The Biden family moved into the White House in 2021 with two German Shepherds, Champ and Major (the latter being the first shelter dog in the White House). Champ passed away at age 13 in 2021, and Major had to be rehomed due to several biting incidents. The Bidens now live with a young German Shepherd called Commander and a grey tabby cat named Willow.

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Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman , Writer and editor
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.

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Margaret Lipman

Margaret Lipman

Writer and editor

With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
Learn more
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