Presidential Pets : Are Racoons That Cute?

What were the most interesting Presidential pets? A raccoon named Rebecca or a horse named Jefferson Davis. Learn about the fluffy and scaly critters in the white house.


For Ulysses S. Grant, horses were more than just a means of transportation. He had a special affection and ability to relate to horses. Cincinnati, Jeff Davis and Egypt, the horses he rode during the Civil War, all lived to enter the White House stables when Grant became president in 1869.

Albert Hawkins, who was in charge of the stables, stated that Jeff Davis was such a kicker and biter that the stable hands were afraid to go near him. President Grant, however, was able to handle the horse with ease. Jeff would throw back his ears and move about restlessly until Grant came up and patted him.

Jesse Root Grant, Grant's youngest son, describes a ride he took with his father when Grant was president: "Father was driving a fast horse and we were going at a good clip, when a butcher's delivery wagon drew up and passed us. A short distance it stopped to make a delivery. Then again it caught up with us and despite all father's effort, it passed us a second time. By now father had read the owner's name on the wagon and the following day he bought that horse. The animal became a great favorite and father named him Butcher Boy." (In the Days of My Father, by Jesse Root Grant).

In fact, Grant is the only president to have gotten a speeding ticket while riding in a horse and buggy. The policeman who stopped him did not realize that it was the president and apologized when he did. The president told him that it was okay and that the policeman was only doing his job.    

According to The White House Historical Association, Theodore Roosevelt and his family were famous pet lovers who kept a menagerie of kangaroo rats, snakes, dogs, birds, ponies, and other small animals. The president preferred what he called “Heinz pickle” dogs from multiple bloodlines. One of his favorites was Skip, a short-legged Black and Tan mongrel terrier, brought home from a Colorado bear hunt. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1999 as a Teddy Roosevelt terrier. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s black Scottish terrier, Fala, was his constant companion, accompanying the president to secret meetings or publicized war conferences. Fala was the subject of two MGM films. The dog became so recognizable that his appearance on a train platform revealed the presi­dent was nearby and became a security concern.

Republicans charged that he had accidentally left Fala behind on the Aleutian Islands while on tour there and had sent a Navy Destroyer to retrieve him at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayers. Roosevelt retorted, “These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. [laughter] Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks — but Fala does resent them.”

As a good will gesture toward the United States, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave Mrs. Kennedy a dog named Pushinka, “fluffy” in Russian. She was the daughter of Strelka, the first Russian dog in space. Some Americans were suspicious of the gift and believed the dog might be wearing a listening device. Eventually, Pushinka woneverybody over, especially Charlie, the Kennedy’s Welsh terrier, who became the father of her “pupniks.”

The beagles of Lyndon B. Johnson gained their fame from the “great ear lift,” an incident when the president playfully lifted the dogs from their ears in front of news cameras in the Rose Garden. He did not lift them from the ground to dangle, but the spec­tacle sparked outraged protests from dog-lovers.

Rebecca was Coolidge’s pet raccoon. She was originally sent to be part of the Coolidge’s Thanksgiving dinner but Mrs.Coolidge thought that the raccoon was quite good looking and Rebecca was kept a pet. The Coolidges thought that she was lonely and got a raccoon friend named Reuben, but he ran away.

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Lance Seeger June 22, 2012 at 01:37 PM
You made rather arbitrary choices of pets. Nixon's Checker's had more political significance. Taft's cow (last milking cow on White House grounds, more historical significance) John Quincy Adam's alligator more colorful; and Buchanan's elephant more exotic; just to name a few. Perhaps, I'll start blogging and give you time to do more in depth research.
Leslie Hutchison June 22, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I like the raccoon the best! They get really big though, not the best pet, I think!
Craig Zac June 28, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I think the Prez should have a few Pitbulls! If I were the president, Every time the cops bust a dog fighting ring someplace, Id take the dogs, re train them to attack humans and drop them all off in countries like Iran and North Korea.
Avi Isseroff June 28, 2012 at 05:40 PM
According to a pitbull advocacy site, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had pitbulls. One could imagine Teddy sending pitbulls on Navy ships around the world to impress upon them our military might.
Craig Zac June 28, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Thats right Avi, I do recall hearing about TR having Pitts. They are called the "American Pitbull" after all...lol


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