7 Badass Animals Presidents Have Kept As Pets
The last thing the White House needs is another dog, damn it. That's been the animal of choice for the last several presidents. And so, as Barack Obama harbors Portuguese water dogs, we remember a time when the leader of the free world kept a pet that refused to be tamed--and was often perfectly capable of devouring a human.
Josiah the Badger
For most Americans, when the president comes to town they dress up in their best red, white and blue, wave a miniature stars and stripes and hope the most powerful leader in the western world will give 'em a smile.
But in 1903, one little girl--perhaps the most awesome little girl ever born--decided to throw a badger.
That's not a metaphor. She threw an actual badger at President Theodore Roosevelt. On one hand, you wonder how she survived the encounter--this was Teddy Roosevelt, after all. Then again, you realize that in Roosevelt's world, a thrown badger was probably a common form of greeting.
Still, badgers are fierce little bastards and one wonders how the little girl was able to even get a hold of one, let alone hurl it at a passing Theodore Roosevelt as his train pulled out of some backwater train station in Kansas. She even managed to yell the critter's name. And so, little Josiah the badger passed from Kansas flatland to White House opulence.
The first family bottle-fed Josiah until he cut his teeth, at which point the badger would zip along White House floors, nipping and biting at the heels of passers-by. It should be noted that getting your heels bitten by a wild badger was the least-violent greeting one could hope for when passing through the Roosevelt White House .
Old Whiskers the Goat
If there was ever a creature that hated spending time at the White House more than George W. Bush, it was Old Whiskers.
You might suspect that Old Whiskers was a nickname for the 23rd president, a stodgy ol' coot with more than a passing resemblance to Obi Wan Kenobi...
... but it was in fact the name of the goat he shared an address with, which was given to Ben's grandchildren by the ol' coot himself.
If only Harrison had been as wise as Obi Wan (or any Jedi for that matter, 'cause how cool would it be to have a Jedi as the leader of the free world), he would've thought twice about adding the animal to the stable of pets the first family had already amassed. Upon moving in at 1600 Pennsylvania, Old Whiskers got busy thinking of a way to make the president look like a dumbass.
Why was the goat so bitter? Well, the grandkids used Old Whiskers as a work horse, tying a harness and miniature stagecoach to the goat who would then pull the kids around the lawn of the White House.
"Wait for it. Waaiitt for it..."
Finally, Old Whiskers decided he'd towed the bratty grandkids for the last fucking time. He took his shot and bolted out the White House gates (Apparently at that time, the White House gates were just sort of left open, just in case one of the neighbors wanted to wander on in and borrow something from the Lincoln bedroom).
What ensued was a wild goat chase down Pennsylvania Avenue, involving the grandchildren and the president himself, clutching his top hat and holding his cane as his constituents pointed and laughed. We have to assume that the whole affair took place in fast-motion while somebody played "Yakety Sax" in the background.
The animal was finally caught and returned to the White House lawn, and everyone shook their head, smiled and thought about what an amusing story it would make for future comedy websites.
Pauline Wayne the Cow
Taft was the fattest president to ever grace the White House. Tipping the scales at a weighty 300+ pounds, it seems only fitting the 27th president of the United States would have a cow as his first pet.
Pauline Wayne was quite the heifer herself, although how the Holstein got the name Pauline Wayne is unknown. She was a gift from a Wisconsin senator who presumably thought the always hungry president would slaughter the cow and invite him over for steaks on the grill.
Instead, Taft let the cow graze--and presumably shit profusely on--the White House lawn. In turn, she provided raw milk (and possibly crippling diarrhea) to the first family for the last three years of Taft's presidency.
Although we couldn't find a source on this, it's likely Pauline supplied the gallon of butter that Taft and six White House aides needed to free the president from the White House bathtub every morning.
After a buttery-soft Taft left office, Pauline--the last cow ever to call the White House home--was shipped back to Wisconsin. The steaks were excellent.
Related: The Matrix Is Real, If You Are A Cow
Billy the Pygmy Hippo
Billy the Pygmy Hippo found his way to the White House via Liberia after he was captured there by Harvey Firestone, maker of Firestone tires. There's a certain irony to capturing and enslaving an animal from a country that was founded by freed slaves from the United States, but we digress...
Firestone believed the pygmy hippo would make a wonderful gift for President Coolidge, already a collector of strange and exotic pets. By the time Billy arrived, Coolidge had amassed an assortment of dogs, birds, a wallaby and a domesticated raccoon named Rebecca, a filthy but favorite pet of the first lady.
Just look at how happy that raccoon makes Grace.
But it turned out "pygmy hippo" was a misleading term (no doubt coined by the crooked hippo pet industry) and Billy eventually grew too big to stay at the White House. At this point begins a string of events that would lead Billy to become more influential in the hippo world than Coolidge was among the humans.
First, the Coolidge clan turned him over to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. He had developed a reputation as being "frisky" and, with zookeepers eager to get their hands on some pygmy hippo baby-batter, he was paired with another hippo, Hannah. The two made lousy parents, culminating in the death of their third child when Hannah rolled over and crushed it.
Like most teenage parents, the two eventually figured out what to do with the kids: let someone else deal with them. In this case, it was zookeepers from across the country. Over the course of the next 25 years, Billy got busy getting busy with Hannah. In all, she gave birth to 15 of his children. While she spent her days being pregnant, Billy continued to sew his wild oats with another hippo gal pal, Matilda, who popped out an additional eight kids.
Above: A hippo, probably fucking something.
Zookeepers were able to breed them and breed them some more, to the point that the majority of pygmy hippos in captivity today are direct descendants of Billy. So, not only did he spread his seed across a large chunk of the globe, but he lived until 1955... outliving Coolidge by 23 years. If hippos had high schools, they'd name one after Billy.
Old Ike the Ram
The 28th President of the United States was narrowly re-elected to a second term in 1916, running on a campaign of, "Hey, I kept us out of the war!" Of course, he never actually promised to stay out of the war and in April of 1917, American boys were headed overseas to fight the Kaiser.
In order to do his part for the war effort at home, Wilson brought in a flock sheep to graze the White House lawn which allowed the administration to do away with the groundskeeper and his crew, quite possibly the first migrant workers who were actually removed from a menial job no one else wanted to do.
Among the flock was Old Ike, an ornery ol' ram with a penchant for tobacco. Who exactly supplied the ram with the cigarette butts and black lumps of chewing tobacco is up for discussion, but at a time when the stuff was being handed out to kids on Halloween, it couldn't have been too hard to come by.
Anyway, he went about his business on the White House lawn, boinking the sheep until there were 18 of 'em, munching away at the grass and supplying wool which was auctioned off to help the Salvation Army, a group whose beliefs prevented members from drinking and smoking. Old Ike was not a member.
And so, Old Ike kept watch over his flock and swallowed copious amounts of tobacco. Finally he had the mother of all a nicotine fits which ultimately claimed his life. Now we're not promoting either tobacco use or promiscuous sex, but you have to admit that Ike the Ram was cool before the country even knew what cool was.
Jefferson's Grizzly Bears
The grizzly bear, now affectionately known as nature's surprisingly agile killing machine, was discovered by the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; two men with balls of steel, who were ordered by then president, Thomas Jefferson, to head west to find out just what the hell was out there.
In a grammatically incorrect expedition journal entry, Clark described the first encounter:
"In the evening we saw a Brown or Grisley beare on a sand beech, I went out with one man Geo Drewyer & Killed the bear, which was verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill... This animal is the largest of the carnivorous kind I ever saw..."
A keen observation from a serious explorer who can't spell worth shit: This was an animal not to be trifled with. The memo, however, was not sent to Captain Zebulon Pike who headed his own expedition later. The Brent Spiner lookalike...
... was able to acquire a couple of grizzly bear cubs which he promptly sent to President Jefferson as either a gift or an assassination attempt.
Well aware of the animal's temperament, Jefferson decided to keep the cubs anyway, describing them as "perfectly gentle" with a taste for "Indian bread" and possibly Indians, too. As all good bear cubs do, they grew too big and Jefferson decided to have them shipped to a museum in Philadelphia, storing them in cages on the White House lawn for several months until all the arrangements could be made.
Needless to say, the bears were good and pissed off upon arrival. One broke free and managed to corner the museum owner in the kitchen, upon which the animal was promptly shot dead. They shot the other one dead, too, since once you get into the bear-shooting groove it's actually really hard to stop. They then stuffed both corpses and threw them up for display, probably to serve as an example and a warning to all other bears.
The Adams Alligators
John Quincy Adams
Marquis de Lafayette, the famous French military officer who served as a general for the colonies during the Revolutionary War, returned to America later in life to pay a visit to President John Quincy Adams. Adams was a surly man that few in Congress admired and who enjoyed swimming naked in the Potomac in the wee hours of the morning, earning him the nickname "shrinky-dink" .
"I WAS IN THE POOL!"
Lafayette brought with him that day a gift for President Adams: two alligators. It's unknown what possessed Lafayette to hand deliver the gators but it can be surmised there was a lost in translation moment somewhere along the way, resulting in a pair of real alligators instead of, say, alligator shoes.
Whatever the case, Adams certainly knew just what to do with the reptiles: He put them in the White House bathtub, then invited government officials to his place. Hilarity ensued when members of Congress and others asked to be excused to use the lavatory.
We like to imagine Adams leaning to a trusted adviser and asking, "Why do you suppose I am so despised in the Congress?" only to have the adviser's answer cut off by a Congressman running from the bathroom, his pants around his knees and shrieking, "AAAAHHHRRRGGHH!! AN ALLIGATOR HAS JUST TRIED TO EAT MY NOBLE SCROTUM!"
At which point, Adams leaned back with a nice, hearty laugh.
If that wasn't enough to convince you we've put some pretty great men in the White House, then check out The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time. Or find out about some adorable animals that can totally kick your ass in The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You.
And visit Cracked.com's Top Picks because we have pet alligators, too.