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Presidents and first families have brought a wide variety of pets to the White House. While many have preferred typical household pets like dogs and cats, there have been some unusual additions over the years:

  • Theodore Roosevelt’s Menagerie: President Theodore Roosevelt’s children brought a fascinating assortment of pets to the White House when they moved into the residence in 1902. Their pets included the typical dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and ponies. However, they also brought along some unusual pets like a large blue macaw named Eli Yale, a green snake named Emily Spinach, a badger named Josiah, a hen named Baron Spreckle, and a one-legged rooster. The Roosevelt children were also avid guinea pig owners. At one point they owned five of the creatures—Bishop Doane, Dr. Johnson, Father G. Grady, Fighting Bob Evans, and Admiral Dewey.
  • In 1910, United States Senator Isaac Stephenson of Wisconsin gifted Pauline Wayne, a Holstein cow, to President William Howard Taft as a replacement for his cow ‘Mooley Wooly,’ who had passed away earlier that year. On November 3, 1910, Pauline reached the White House with her handler James P. Torrey and impeccable credentials. According to the Washington Post, she was the granddaughter of “‘Gertude Wayne,’ champion nine-year-old milker of the United States.” After President Taft’s defeat in the 1912 presidential election, he sent her back to the farm on which she was raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
  • Sheep: The sight of sheep grazing on the White House South Lawn may seem unusual, but during World War I, it was a highly visible symbol of home front support of the troops overseas. The flock, which numbered 48 at its peak, saved manpower by cutting the grass and earned $52,823 for the Red Cross through an auction of their wool. The Wilsons wanted to be a model American family helping the war effort, so they suspended entertaining at the White House and actively participated in public programs. Margaret Wilson sang to raise money for the troops. Mrs. Wilson organized war bond rallies, which were held on the steps of the Treasury Building with appearances by Hollywood stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, and Douglas Fairbanks. She also demonstrated her support by publicizing White House compliance to food and fuel conservation programs spearheaded by Herbert Hoover, one of Wilson’s dollar-a-year-men and head of the Food Administration.
  • Rebecca the Racoon: Rebecca was given to the Coolidge family in 1926 by a supporter from Mississippi, who suggested that the raccoon be served up for Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, the family fell in love with her, and instead adopted Rebecca as a pet. That Christmas, President Calvin Coolidge gave her an embroidered collar with the title, “White House Raccoon,” her nickname in the press. Rebecca often joined in annual White House celebrations. On April 18, 1927, the famous raccoon accompanied First Lady Grace Coolidge during the White House Egg Roll. The first lady held Rebecca close to her chest, occasionally setting her down so that children could pet the raccoon. Rebecca remained on a short leash, as she had developed a reputation for evading staffers and climbing trees to avoid capture. According to one account, she enjoyed playing hide and seek with personnel, exhausting them until she was ready to return “to her house on top of a stump” on the White House Grounds.

Sheep grazing on the South Lawn of the White House, c. 1918.

Library of Congress

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