5 Insanely Weird Pets Of Famous Historical Figures

Nothing signifies your status as an uber-wealthy celebrity like having a stable of bullshit pets. In celebrity households, Planet Earth airs with a phone number scrolling on the bottom where Drake can call someone to have that dancing jungle bird overnighted to him. 

From Michael Jackson forcing a chimpanzee to sign NDAs before stepping foot at Neverland to Rob Dyrdek giving mini-horses rollerblade horseshoes, influential people are never satisfied with merely owning basic ass dogs and cats. But, this isn't confined to modern celebs; it's been going on a lot longer than you may have realized ...

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5
Tycho Brahe's Drunken Moose

Have you ever been up close with a moose? It doesn't even have to be a moose. It could be a horse or even an extra-large Great Dane. I'm talking about any four-legged beast that you physically look up to and know, in your heart, that if you so much as give that monster the stink eye, they can smash your head like a jack-o-lantern. Now imagine getting one of them drunk as hell and let it loose in your house. That's what legendary astronomer Tycho Brahe liked to do. 

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A man who was already basically an eccentric side mission quest giver in a roleplaying game, Brahe really flaunted his oddness with his love for exotic pets. None of which were more absurd than his beer-loving moose.

 

Tycho Brahe portrait
Eduard Ender
To be fair, he 100% looks like the type of guy to own a moose.
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Brahe's moose was more like a dog. It followed his carriage around town and even lived inside of his castle with him. Somewhere along the way, it got super into chugging beer as well. It's hard not to point the finger at the owner when a pet adopts a bad, out-of-character habit. Monkeys don't smoke cigarettes in the heart of the jungle, parrots don't start dropping F-bombs without hearing them first (which we'll get to), and your friend's Golden Retriever didn't start a cock-fighting ring until it saw him playing Pokemon

Brahe loved to flaunt his sloppy, bumbling moose all over town and even lent him out to parties at nearby castles. One night, after sending his moose over to a friend's place, the moose wandered upstairs in the castle, drank a fratload of beer, and tumbled down the stairs to its death. Brahe did the impossible in taming a proud, beautiful, stoic, wild creature only to turn it into the equivalent of that one uncle who gets liquored up every year at the holidays and swears he was the original choice for Reginald VelJohnson's role in Die Hard before he pees his pants, slips on the puddle, and crashes headfirst into the green bean casserole. Brahe's moose becoming Uncle Piss 'N Slide and is reminder number 35621 that humans ruin everything.

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4
Andrew Jackson's Foul-Mouthed Parrot

There's something especially sadistic about being super into bird ownership. With every pet, there's a tinge of implicit imprisonment. A sense of taking away a freedom that's innate to their very being and breaking it to suit your will. With birds, you're blowing right by all of that and just saying, "Screw it. I want to take away every ability and freedom and cool thing this animal can do, throw it in that cage over there, and kill it with via the unending braying laughter of me binging Community." 

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Owning an exotic bird only to take away its ability to fly and throw it in a cell is like having Gordon Ramsey as your personal chef and forcing him to make you fish sticks for dinner every night. Notoriously horrific president, Andrew Jackson, was all about that kind of pet ownership and brought a parrot into the White House. 

Initially, a gift for his wife, Poll the parrot became Jackson's problem when she died, and the poor bird became his responsibility. It's believed that all of this time around Old Hickory led Poll to develop one hell of a vile vocabulary in the process. I guess any presidential pet will start to pick up on their owner's interests. Any of the dogs from recent presidencies are probably fully capable of manning a drone strike on its own, but Jackson's parrot was simply doing the last thing you want a political parrot to do: cuss like a stepdad who just stubbed his toe in the garage. 

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Most famously, Poll put its vocabulary on display at the best of all places: Jackson's funeral.  According to the reverend presiding over the funeral, "Before the sermon and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people." Poll was eventually removed from the funeral, undoubtedly cursing the whole way out like drunk being shoved into the street by a bouncer.

3
Thomas Jefferson's Grizzly Gift

Think back on the worst gift you ever received. Maybe socks at Christmas? A copy of Bible Kombat, from your grandma, for a system you don't even own ("SAVE HIM! Flawless Divinity!")?  It's usually crap like that. Boring, annoying, but rarely dangerous. Thomas Jefferson may have been better off being pen pals with the Unabomber rather than opening up the gift he received via mail from his explorer buddy/Star Wars character Zebulon Pike. For on that visit to the mailbox, Jefferson found a pair of goddamn grizzly bears waiting on top of the Verizon bill. 

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This entire scenario raises too many questions to begin with. How do you mail grizzlies in the early 19th century? What was the thinking behind one grizzly not being sufficient enough of a gift and doubling the order? Did Zebulon die on Jabba's barge?

 

Two grizzly bear cubs.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
"Are you the kind that eats jars of honey or picnic baskets?" 
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Anyway, Jefferson opened up the mail that day to find a male and female grizzly cub and probably said the same thing we all do when we see the yellow pages waiting there, "What am I supposed to do with this?" Jefferson's case is particularly interesting because it's the only one in here where a celeb wasn't actively seeking to capture and imprison a beautiful beast. Rather, they were so powerful and important that when someone ELSE managed to do it, they figured they'd send it their way. 

Jefferson decided he'd have to re-gift his grizzlies. But before he could ship them back through BearMail to his buddy's museum, arrangements had to be made. Jefferson set up a temporary bear enclosure on the front lawn of his home, which his political rivals dubbed the "bear garden." Eventually, the bears made their way to his friend, Charles Wilson Peale's museum. Unfortunately, Peale was more Tiger King than Dr. Doolittle; the bears broke out of their cages, proceeded to do bear shit, and ended up shot and mounted on a wall.

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2
The Coolidge's Raccoon

It seems that sending presidents poorly thought out gifts wasn't a one-time thing, however, because that's precisely what Calvin and Grace Coolidge got for Thanksgiving in 1926. Yet again, we have evidence that the postal service used to be completely lawless as someone sent the president a live raccoon to slaughter and eat for Thanksgiving. This one is, perhaps, even more ridiculously ill-advised than sending someone a bear cub. At least a bear cub is an incredibly unique and unforgettable gift, whereas sending a dumpster panda, for a future holiday dinner, almost seems like an insult. The Coolidge's weren't in the mood for raccoon, so they decided to pardon the feral creature and take it in as their pet.

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Grace Coolidge with her pet raccoon.
Never before or since has a raccoon owner looked so posh.
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Here's the thing ... raccoons are buck wild. They're best known for running around eating trash and generally behaving like the animal kingdom's shiftiest Floridians. The Coolidge's soon found that inviting the methiest of all animals into the White House might be a bit difficult. Though they fell in love with their new pet, it was undeniably out of control at the same time. Clawing, scratching, and escaping just about every opportunity it got, Rebecca the Raccoon probably made the whole job of running the free world thing harder than it needed to be. 

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And so, the Coolidges did as presidents with shitty pets that they have no business owning have done before them: pawned that maniac raccoon off to a zoo and washed their hands completely of the responsibility. Forget access to Area 51; it seems like the most incredible power you receive on day one as president is being able to get the most irresponsible pet for a few days, then send it off to go live with some rando zookeeper when it starts ripping cabinet members' faces off.

1
Lord Byron's Personal Pixar Movie

Service animals have become something of a worn-out punchline. There's no doubt that people have abused these regulations that do genuinely help a lot of people. Every once in a while, you'll see a picture of an iguana on a leash during a Southwest flight to Tucson, but it's really not that big of a deal. Eccentric British poet Lord Byron, however, might be the OG when it comes to bending the service pet rules. 

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A lover of all kinds of animals, allegedly owning everything from peacocks to crocodiles, it was his pet dogs that Byron most loved. So when he went to attend Trinity College in Cambridge with his pup in tow, he was stunned to learn you can't have Ye Olde Air Bud sitting in British Literature 200 next to you. But Byron, much like the service pet scammers of today, found a way around this.

Realizing that he wasn't going to win the battle on having a pet dog in the classroom, he grabbed a different type of animal, one that wasn't explicitly mentioned in the university's rulebook: a whole ass bear. (Was he bros with Zebulon Pike too?)  Byron casually scooped up a bear cub, threw that furry mayhem machine on a chain, and walked it around campus like it was no big deal. The university couldn't, and didn't, do anything about it, as Intro To Russian Lit TAs aren't paid to deal with random acts of bear. 

Byron simply continued with his education, and pet bear, in what should be a lesson to colleges today: just let every student have a dog with them at all times. It'd be a much more tolerable way to spend four blissful years before graduating, and realizing that you're going to die with $90,000 of student loan debt and a concrete slab of dining hall food in your stomach that will never fully digest.

Top Image: Grand Teton/Flickr

 

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