A Look At History's Famous Pets
For many of us, pets are part of the family. Whether they have fur, feathers, fins or scales, it seems easy for humans to bond with other species. But you'd be surprised to learn the backstories of pets belonging to some of the most famous people throughout history.
Dogs, cats, elephants, lions and even alligators have gained prominence as animal companions. Read on to learn about the lives of remarkable pets that gained fame thanks to their distinguished owners.
Andrew Jackson's Parrot, Poll
Historians know that President Andrew Jackson was hot-tempered and fearless in his early years but seemed to mellow out later in life. That's why it was a shock to all attending his funeral when the president’s pet parrot, Poll, began spewing obscenities.
John Quincy Adams' Pet Alligator
Like all good guests, when the Marquis de Lafayette paid President John Quincy Adams a visit, he came bearing gifts. And while presents are normally a lovely gesture, one of his gifts just happened to be an alligator. The alligator had been one of many generous offerings the Marquis had received while traveling throughout the United States.
Queen Victoria's Pekingese, Looty
Looty was a Pekingese dog presented as a gift to Queen Victoria by Captain John Hart Dunne. The dog was one of five Pekingese discovered by the captain after the British raided the Chinese Old Summer Palace in 1860.
Japan's Most Loyal Dog, Hachiko
The most famous dog in Japan is surely Hachiko. Hachiko was an Akita that showed intense loyalty to his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Each day, Hachiko waited at the train station for Ueno to return.
Bill Clinton's Cat, Socks
Socks was probably America's most famous presidential pussycat. The stray tuxedo cat was adopted by the Clinton family in 1991 when he jumped into the arms of future First Daughter Chelsea Clinton on her way home from a piano lesson in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Richard Nixon's Dog, Checkers
Many dogs are famous for saving lives, but Richard Nixon’s Cocker Spaniel, Checkers, rescued Nixon's political career. In 1952, then-vice presidential hopeful Nixon was accused of using political donations for personal reasons.
Caligula's Horse, Incitatus
Incitatus was Roman Emperor Caligula’s favorite horse and possibly his favorite politician. Legend has it that to anger his political enemies, Caligula was set to make Incitatus a consul, the highest political position in the Roman Republic. While Caligula supposedly discussed the threat, historians of his time said the mad emperor never carried out the plan.
Michael Jackson's Chimpanzee, Bubbles
There’s probably no chimpanzee more famous than Michael Jackson’s pet, Bubbles. Acquired in 1988, Bubbles lived at both the Jackson family home in Encino, California, and Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Treated like an infant, the chimpanzee slept in a crib, used a toilet and ate candy.
Thomas Jefferson's Two Grizzly Cubs
During his second term in office, Thomas Jefferson was gifted two grizzly bears from explorer Captain Zebulon Pike. The male and female pair arrived around the same time as a letter from Pike detailing how the cubs had been purchased in the southern region near the Continental Divide.
Pope Leo X's Elephant
Hanno the Asian elephant was the prized pet of Pope Leo X. The animal was a gift from King Manuel I of Portugal at the pope’s coronation. Taken from India, the elephant was presented to the Pope in 1514. Hanno, who knew basic commands and tricks, was a hit with the papal court.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Starling
There was another musician in the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: his pet starling. Mozart is believed to have purchased the bird in 1784, and the two were thought to have been quite bonded until the starling passed away three years later.
Karl Lagerfeld's Cat, Choupette
Famed fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld had a friend who loves catwalks. She's a blue-cream tortie Birman cat named Choupette ("sweetie"). Given to Lagerfeld in 2011, the late German fashion icon was so smitten he once joked that he wanted to marry her.
Salvador Dali's Ocelot, Babou
Artist Salvador Dali had always loved cats, but his favorite was a Colombian ocelot named Babou. Dali acquired Babou in the 1960s, and the two remained nearly inseparable. The spoiled cat had jewel-encrusted collars.
Ivan the Terrible's Bears
While some have described Ivan the Terrible’s bears as pets, the animals probably served as executioners for the crazy czar. Ivan delighted in killing prisoners or those who angered him by throwing them to the bears, which were always kept hungry.
Charles Dickens' Cat, Bob
Author Charles Dickens had many pets, but the one who stole his heart was a cat named Bob. He loved Bob so much that when the cat died in 1862, Dickens decided to memorialize him by turning one of his paws into a letter opener.
Josephine Baker's Pet Cheetah
Josephine Baker was a star during the Jazz Age, but she also gained fame for owning a pet cheetah that appeared in many of her shows. A big animal lover, Baker was ecstatic when a club owner gave her Chiquita, who became part of the renowned entertainer’s dance routine.
Lord Byron's Bear Goes to College
Lord Byron gained fame as one of Britain’s most talented romantic poets, but he also held celebrity status during his student years at Trinity College for owning a pet there. In 1805, Byron was angered that the college’s rules prohibited students from bringing their pet dogs to school, so he protested by buying a bear.
Josephine Bonaparte's Orangutan, Rose
When an orangutan was gifted to Napoleon’s wife, Empress Josephine took the animal in and treated it as a child rather than a pet. The orangutan was christened Rose and was known to wear infant-sized dresses. She learned how to eat with silverware and allegedly slept in the couple’s bed.
Ramses II’s Lion, Anhur
Cats were much-admired animals in ancient Egypt, but ruler Ramses II took that love to a different level by keeping a lion as his pet. More than a companion, the lion signified Ramses' royal status, power and strength. The beasts were thought to have been descendants of the Egyptian god Maahes.
Nero's Tigress, Phoebe
Emperor Nero may have been known for his cruel and tyrannical behavior, but he had nothing but love when it came to the tigress he called Phoebe. Nero admired Phoebe’s ferocity during a fight in the Coliseum and decided to spare her life.
Walter Moore's Beautiful Joe
Beautiful Joe was a Canadian dog whose family may not have been famous, but the sweet pup’s story spawned the modern-day animal-protection movement. Beautiful Joe was rescued by Walter Moore, who took him from a man so cruel, he had even cut off the dog’s ears.
Marie Antoinette's Dog, Mops
Marie Antoinette was known for excesses, but one she couldn’t live without was Mops. The tawny-colored pug traveled with the 15-year-old archduchess as she made her way from Vienna to her new home in France to marry the king's eldest son, Louis XVI.
Mary, Queen of Scots' Maltese
History may remember Mary, Queen of Scots mostly for the turbulent relationship she had with her cousin, England’s Elizabeth I. According to historians, Mary had been raised with dogs from her infancy to her death. Her favorite breed was the Maltese.
Nicolas Cage's Octopuses
Over the years, Nicolas Cage has made headlines for making some pretty over-the-top purchases, so it should come as no surprise that the famous actor plunked down his hard-earned cash to purchase octopuses for his elaborate saltwater fish tanks.
Edwin Hubble's Cat, Nicolas Copernicus
The name Edwin Hubble typically brings to mind huge telescopes, but several photos of the famed astronomer show him with his beloved cat, Nicolas Copernicus. After acquiring the black Persian mix as a kitten in 1946, the two became inseparable.
Elvis Presley's Chimpanzee, Scatter
Elvis Presley was known for being a huge animal lover, but few people knew that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll rescued a chimpanzee named Scatter. Scatter had been the sidekick for Cap’n Bill Killebrew, a children’s television show host. Kids loved watching the pair's antics.
King Kamehameha's Dog, Evelaina
English mastiff Evelaina was the close companion of Hawaiian King Kamehameha III. Presented to the ruler as a gift, the two were so close that when her owner passed away in 1854, the grief-stricken dog spent several weeks watching over the king’s tomb. She only left briefly to eat before returning to resume her guard.
Calvin Coolidge's Pygmy Hippopotamus, Billy
In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge was notified that he was receiving an unusual gift from his friend, tire magnate Harvey Firestone: a pygmy hippopotamus. The animal had been captured on one of Firestone’s large Liberian plantations.
Hugh Hefner's Llama, Lambert
Bunnies weren’t the only party animals at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion. The larger-than-life magazine publisher had a menagerie at his estate that featured several exotic animals, including a llama he named Lambert.
Alexander the Great's Horse, Bucephalus
According to the Greek biographer Plutarch, Alexander the Great’s greatest animal companion was a horse named Bucephalus ("ox head"). A horse trader tried selling the massive animal to Alexander’s father, Philip II, who refused to pay the exorbitant price for the untrainable horse. But Alexander’s gentle demeanor with the fearful animal made such an impression on Philip that the horse was given to the boy.