Teddy Roosevelt's White House Was a Real Zoo

Teddy Roosevelt and dogs CROP FOR SOCIAL. Library of Congress/YouTube

The tradition of pets in the White House, especially dogs, is well-established. President Barack Obama had Bo, a Portuguese water dog. President George W. Bush had Barney, a Scottish terrier. In fact, President Donald Trump is the first U.S. president in more than 100 years not to have a pet.

But no former American president had more animals than Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. From 1901 to 1909, he took the idea of animals in the White House to another level — he pretty much had a zoo.


His menagerie included more than eight horses, including his personal favorite, Bleistein, and at least two ponies, General Grant and Algonquin, for his children.


Three of Theodore Roosevelt's dogs with two men in 1903.
Three of Theodore Roosevelt's dogs with two men in 1903. Library of Congress

There were pups a plenty in this dog-loving family, including the president's favorite: a bull terrier named Pete "who sank his teeth into so many legs that he had to be exiled to the Roosevelt home in Long Island," according to the National Park Service (NPS). Sailor Boy the Chesapeake retriever, Rollo the Saint Bernard (pictured at the top of this page), Jack the terrier, Skip the mongrel and a small black Pekingese named Manchu that could reportedly dance on its hind legs.

Cats and a Rabbit

Slippers and Tom Quartz were the cats, and then there was Peter Rabbit. (What else would one name a rabbit?) But not all the animals in the zoo were so fuzzy and lovable.


Alice Roosevelt, the president's oldest child, had a pet snake named Emily Spinach ("because it was as green as spinach and as thin as my Aunt Emily," according to NPS). Quentin, the president's youngest son, also had four snakes — but only for a short time. NPS shares the reason why:

Quentin once stopped in a pet store and bought four snakes. He then went to show them to his father in the Oval Office, where the President was holding an important meeting. Senators and party officials smiled tolerantly when the boy barged in and hugged his father. But when Quentin dropped the snakes on the table, the officials scrambled for safety. The snakes were eventually captured and promptly sent back to the pet shop.

Guinea Pigs and Other Rodents

The Roosevelts had at least five guinea pigs, which Theodore Roosevelt liked because "their highly unemotional nature fits them for companionship with adoring but over-enthusiastic young masters and mistresses," he once said. The five were named Admiral Dewey, Dr. Johnson, Bob Evans, Bishop Doan and Father O’Grady.

Also in the rodent family were two kangaroo rats, a flying squirrel, and Jonathan, a piebald rat the president described as being “of most friendly and affectionate nature.”

Theodore Roosevelt's pet one-legged rooster.
Theodore Roosevelt's pet one-legged rooster. Library of Congress


Winged pets also were in abundance. Eli Yale, a Hyacinth macaw, belonged to Quentin Roosevelt. Theodore is said to have commented that the bright blue bird, which lived in the White House greenhouse, "looked as if he came out of 'Alice in Wonderland.'" Two parrots, a barn owl, a one-legged rooster and a hen rounded out the feathered friends.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., holds Eli Yale.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. holds Eli Yale. Frances Benjamin Johnston [public domain]/Wikimedia Commons

Wild Animals

At age 9, Theodore's son Archie was given a pet badger named Josiah, "whose temper was short but whose nature was fundamentally friendly," according to NPS. The boy carried him with his arms "clasped firmly around what would have been his waist."

As if all that weren't enough, the Roosevelts also had wild animals, including five bears, a lion, a hyena, a wildcat, a coyote, a zebra, a lizard, a pig and a raccoon.

And you think you're an animal lover?