You may be familiar with the famous dogs and cats of the White House, but did you know there have been some exotic and unusual pets that have lived in the historical house? Let’s take a journey through history and look at a few of the more unique residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Reptile Room
John Quincy Adams was president in the year 1825 when a French revolutionary hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, spent a few days at the White House. It was customary for visitors to bring a gift, and his special present arched a few eyebrows. An alligator was gifted to President Adams, and it became his household pet. This alligator had his own room – an unfinished bathroom – and had his own bathtub to sleep in. John Quincy Adams would have fun scaring other visitors of the White House by giving them a tour and letting them go into the bathroom without telling them what lived inside.
When Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1830, he moved in with his pet parrot named Poll. Parrots are known for their ability to mimic and copy people’s words. Andrew Jackson was an avid swearer, and you can see where this is going. The parrot picked up a lot of his vocabulary. It is said that during Jackson’s funeral the bird was screaming some of his choice words so loudly, that the bird had to be removed during the service.
Calvin Coolidge and Grace Coolidge were known for having a menagerie of animals in the White House. Everything from bobcats, a donkey, lion cubs, a wallaby, a hippo and two racoons and lots in between. The hippo, Billy, was gifted to the Coolidge family from Harvey Firestone – of Firestone Tires. Out of all of their animals, a raccoon named Rebecca was the queen of the house. Rebecca was originally sent to the White House to be eaten at their Thanksgiving dinner, but First Lady Grace Coolidge fell in love and kept her. The two are often seen together as two peas in a pod, but the staff of the White House was not fond of Rebecca. She would damage expensive furniture and heirlooms.
White House Farm
A few farm animals were put to work for the first family. President Taft owned a cow, named Pauline Wayne, who grazed on the lawn to keep it manicured and provided butter and milk for the family. Woodrow Wilson was budget conscious during World War I and had sheep graze on the White House lawn to decrease spending on landscaping costs.
The White House is already rich with history, but some of it’s more unique residents are worth looking into. They provide a different perspective on what we already know about some of our most beloved presidents.