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Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets

By: Alex Lieber

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A zebra, a hyena, several lions and a coyote – sounds like a zoo or some African safari trip. Actually, this was just part of the collection of pets owned by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Presidential pets have ranged from the famous (President George H.W. Bush's dog Millie, for one), the infamous, (Richard Nixon's little dog, "Checkers," for another) and the obscure (William Henry Harrison's pet goat and cow; they were barely in the White House because Harrison died after one month as president).

So which one of our Presidents wins the distinction of owning the most unusual pet? Read the list below, and you may be surprised. Presidents have kept stables of some of the strangest animals imaginable on the White House lawn, feeding their image, their egos or even themselves and their families.

Note: Many pets that now would be considered unusual, such as goats and cows, were not considered strange at the time. The United States was, after all, an agricultural nation in its early days. Those pets were excluded from the list.

Here are the 10 most unusual "First Pets":

  • Pygmy Hippo: Calvin Coolidge, 30th President

  • Alligator: John Quincy Adams, 6nd President and Herbert Hoover, 31st President

  • Elephant: James Buchanan, 15th President.

  • Zebra: Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President

  • Antelope: Calvin Coolidge, 30th President

  • Bears: Thomas Jefferson, 3nd President; Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President; Calvin Coolidge, 30th President

  • Coyote: Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President

  • Hyena: Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President

  • Tigers/Lions: Martin Van Buren, 8th President; Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President; Calvin Coolidge, 30th President

  • Wallaby: Calvin Coolidge, 30th President

    Although they ran a close race, Calvin Coolidge wins as the president who owned the most unusual pets. He began collecting them as vice president, and continued to do so after he finished Warren Harding's term (Harding died in office), and one term of his own before stepping down.

    A museum dedicated to Presidential pets is operating just outside Washington, D.C. The founder and CEO, Claire McLean, has collected hundreds of rare artifacts, prints and memorabilia of the nation's First Pets. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, you can visit the Presidential Pet Museum, located in Lothian, Maryland. Call (410) 741-0899 for more information.

    Strange But True

    President Benjamin Harrison's son Russell Harrison had a pet goat named Old Whiskers. This goat was so ornery that one day the President was forced to chase him down Pennsylvania Avenue when he decided to run away with the Harrison grandchildren.

    John Quincy Adams' alligator took up residence in the bathroom in the East Room of the White House.

    Fala, a Scottish Terrier and the most famous of all First Pets, belonged to President Franklin Roosevelt. Born on April 7, 1940, Fala was a gift to the President from his cousin Margaret Stuckley. The President loved Fala so much that he rarely went anywhere without him.

    Caroline Kennedy's pony, Macaroni, was a present from Lyndon Johnson. Macaroni roamed freely around the White House grounds and received thousands of fan letters from the American public. Caroline also had a famous dog named Pushinka, who was given to her by the head of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev.

    Thomas Jefferson's mockingbird was trained to eat food right out of the President's mouth.

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