America's presidents have a rich history of pet ownership. While the White House has been home to some strange and unusual animals throughout the years, dogs and cats have been the most common pet residents at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In keeping with the tradition of presidential pets, President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, began looking for a family dog shortly after taking office. In April 2009, the Obamas welcomed Bo into their family. Senator Ted Kennedy gave the dog to President Obama's daughters Sasha and Malia as a gift. (The black and white neutered male Portuguese water dog is a sibling to the senator's own Portuguese water dog, Cappy.)
The "First Dog" received loads of media attention. On Bo's first day at the White House, President Obama told the press, "He's a good-looking dog. He's got star quality."
Obama's Portuguese Water Dog
Bo the presidential Pet
Although he has his own doghouse, Bo enjoys the run of the White House – including the Oval Office.
Breed was of great importance in choosing a dog since the Obamas' oldest daughter, Malia, suffers from allergies. The Portuguese water dog is considered a hypoallergenic breed.
The Obamas' goal was to rescue a dog and Bo met their criteria – before coming to live with the Obamas at the White House, Bo had been placed with a different owner who had to return him because he wasn't a "good fit" with her other dog.
Unlike former President George W. Bush's English springer spaniel, Spot, who slept on a chair in the First Couple's bedroom, Bo doesn't sleep with the Obamas. When asked where Bo would sleep, President Obama told the press, "Not with me." The President went on to say that Bo does not sleep in the girls' rooms either – he has his own designated sleeping spot.
A Rich Tradition of Presidential Pets
The White House has been home to many unusual Presidential pets, from elephants and hyenas to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). The tradition of First Pets began appropriately enough with George Washington, who owned 36 hound dogs, several horses and one parrot, named Polly.
Other presidents have had an interesting assortment of pets. Besides a mockingbird, Thomas Jefferson owned two bears, given as gifts by Lewis and Clark after their famous journey throughout the Northwest. John Quincy Adams owned an alligator and a number of silkworms. Martin Van Buren owned two tiger cubs. On the eve of the Civil War, James Buchanan owned an elephant, an eagle and a Newfoundland dog.
Which president owned the strangest collection of pets? Find out by reading about the Top 10 Strangest Presidential Pets.