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Wildlife in the White House

In celebration of President’s Day, let’s turn our heads not to the presidents of the United States, but to the pets that ruled the White House. Surprised? Don’t be! Wildlife has long entrenched its presence in the White House even before local and international fascination placed them in the spotlight. Below we’ll discuss some of the odder White House wildlife that eternally left their paw prints in the cemented steps of the executive palace.

Gifted Alligators

President John Quincy Adams had two—that’s right, two!—alligators that occupied the White House during his presidency. These alligators were said to have been a gift by the Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who had an allegiance to the United States and was a key player in the American Revolutionary War. Not much backstory was provided as to why the Marquis gifted President Adams the alligators, but the story goes that the president then decided to place them in the White House bathtub.

alligator bro

President Adam’s alligators might have offered the same invitation as above. Won’t you return the favor? [Image: http://weknowmemes.com/]

Much hilarity (and fright) must have ensued once guests asked to use the lavatory and—surprise, surprise—they were met by two alligators!

Ike and his Flock

Ike began ruling the White House when President Woodrow Wilson experienced growing administrative difficulties during the conflict sparked by World War I. Evidently, President Wilson decided that the best way to maximize manpower was to purchase a flock of sheep and let them perform the White House garden maintenance duties; this would free up the gardeners so they could make more important war contributions. The fleece was also auctioned off to buyers eager to contribute to war efforts, a useful financial benefit.

sheep in white house

A flock of sheep grazing the White House grounds. [Image: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/]

Ike was actually part of this flock and was by far the most renowned, if not for his stature then for his impressive temperament. Apparently, Ike was not shy. When he didn’t get his royal requests, he showed his displeasure through ram-like aggression.

angry-ram

This is not Ike, but it’s easy to imagine our old pal holding this kind of expression during one of his liminal outbursts. Just put a cigar in his mouth, and you’d have quite a historical picture! [Image: http://www.thehistoryblog.com/]

But possibly one of the more humorous things about Ike was that he had a particular fondness for chewing cigars. He chewed cigar butts whenever he made such a golden find. Such was his love of cigars that during his last breath in 1927, his caretaker reported that he died “peacefully munching” on the cigar that was last given to him! Old Ike must now be resting peacefully, hopefully in a cigar haven.

Lions or Taxes?

President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, was automatically inducted into presidency after the death of President Harding. He was well-known for his silence and for having, by all intents and purpose, a literal zoo in the White House.

Amazingly, Coolidge had 25 pets during his term; though most of these consisted of cats and dogs, there were some obscure additions to the pack, such as Enoch the goose; Rebecca and Reuben the raccoons; Ebenezer the donkey; a black bear; a wallaby; Billy the pygmy hippo; and Smoky the bobcat. However, the most impressive of the pack are the lion cubs given to him by the dignitaries of other nations, which he named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau.

taxreducbudgetber

Docile and tame? Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau were the lion cubs that Coolidge kept in the White House. [Image: http://i.imgur.com/]

The story goes that both of the lions’ names were inspired by Coolidge’s economic policies. While having pet lions may raise many eyebrows, they fit in quite well with the Coolidge family.

Pauline Wayne, At Your Service

The last one on our list is the “Queen of the Capital Cows” and also the last cow that ever grazed in the White House, Pauline Wayne. She was actually a successor of Mooly Wooly, the first bovine pet of President William Howard Taft.

pauline-taft-pet-cow

Pauline Wayne, 1911: “The Royal Cow.” She stood at about four feet tall and was a sturdy spotted bovine. [Image: http://i1.wp.com/]

If there was ever a celebrity animal in the White House, one of the strongest contenders is probably Pauline Wayne. Transported from Kenosha, Wisconsin by train, Pauline was a gift from Senator Isaac Stephenson. Her job was to provide milk and butter for the First Family.

Sound odd? Not as odd as it seems, actually! Pauline was a proficient milk and butter provider. In fact, her celebrity status was such that many media outlets sought to cover this majestic girl. She was also frequently invited to cow shows and even to guest star as a traveling cow in a musical, all declined by President Taft, of course. Other stories circulated about Pauline Wayne, including a mistaken identity case that almost got her sent to the slaughterhouse as well as a purported robbery of Pauline Wayne’s milk by a visiting professor right on the White House lawn.

Two years after her arrival at the White House and at the end of President Taft’s term, Pauline’s health started to decline. She was eventually sent back to a local Wisconsin farm to live the rest of her days as a regular cow. She served the president well during those days, not only acting as a pet but as a charitable provider to the First Family.

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