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Presidential Pets

Previously published May 13. 2021
Adam Schultz
President Biden with his dogs

Previously published May 13. 2021

Since the completion of the White House, it has been the tradition for presidents to have pets while in office. John Adams, the second president of the U.S. and the first president to live in the White House, owned three dogs — Juno, Mark, and Satan — and two horses, Cleopatra and Caesar.

But the tradition of presidential pets extends past the history of the White House. George Washington had even more pets than Adams: many coonhounds and one greyhound; his two war mounts, Nelson and Blueskin; stallions Samson, Steady, and Leonidas; an Andalusian donkey from the King of Spain; and a parrot named Snipe.

Since then, this presidential tradition has mostly persisted with only two presidents, Polk and Trump, not bringing pets into the White House. Some notable presidential pets include President Madison’s Polly the parrot, who outlived both James and Dolley Madison; President Jackson’s Polly the parrot, who was removed from Jackson’s funeral due to its profanity; President Grant’s horse Butcher’s Boy, whom Grant purchased after losing a wager to it in a horse race; President Harrison’s two alligators; and Theodore Roosevelt’s bull terrier Pete, which was sent back to Long Island after biting too many people, among others.

Now that Biden is in office, the tradition has been restored following Trump’s petless administration. Biden has two German shepherds, Champ and Major. Champ was born in 2008 after Joe Biden promised his wife that he would buy his family a pet if Obama won. The Bidens then purchased Champ from a breeder in Pennsylvania. Major was born in 2018 and was rescued after being exposed to toxic materials in his previous owner’s home. Biden then adopted him. Throughout Major’s time in public, he has had three major incidents. On November 28, 2020, Joe Biden broke his ankle while playing with Major. On two separate occasions in March of 2021, Major also bit someone, once a security guard, another time a National Park Service employee.

Throughout US history, Presidents have utilized their pets to raise their popularity with the people. Animals in the white house, such as LBJ’s dogs, always manage to make their owners more popular despite their unpopular policies.


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