keeping in America evolved from Native Americans’ and
European settlers’ domesticating
as hunters, guardians, workers, and companions.
Horses, cows, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, songbirds,
parrots, and other small animals were a part of
daily life during the early years of the White
House. Since 1870, domestic pets at the White House
have mirrored the species generally seen in American
households. The major difference has always been
that a pet belonging to a president generates great
public interest and scrutiny.
Fun Fact: Tad Lincoln saves Jack the Turkey.
President George W. Bush
pardons a turkey before Thanksgiving at the White
House, 2006. White House photo by Paul Morse
In 1863, ten-year-old
Tad Lincoln befriended a turkey sent to the White
House for a holiday feast. He named the bird
Jack and treated him as a pet. As Christmas day
approached, Tad realized it would soon be time
to prepare the turkey for Christmas dinner. The
young boy burst into the cabinet meeting in tears
and pleaded with his father to pardon the bird
from the "executioner." Recent
presidential speeches cite this historic anecdote
as the basis for the modern-day turkey pardoning
photo-op at Thanksgiving.