Human Interaction

Top 10 Weird Exotic Pet Stories Fatal Attractions

3 / 11
Read more Read less
President Gone Wild
AP Photo (4) | iStockphoto/Thinkstock (2) | Hemera/Thinkstock | Courtesy of Melanie Typaldos | AP Photo/Lennox McLendon | AP Photo/Louie Traub | DCL |

Pets have always had a place at the White House, and while canines might be the favored companions of most first families, there have been some rather unusual pets who've called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home. For example, John Adams reportedly kept an alligator in a bathroom and Martin Van Buren was gifted two tiger cubs, which he reluctantly donated to a zoo at the urging of Congress. But of all the pet-loving presidents, there's one who stands out for his love of exotic creatures.

President Calvin Coolidge kept such a variety of pets that some considered the White House a zoo during his time in office. Among the regular dogs, cats and birds lived two raccoons, which first lady Grace Coolidge reportedly walked around the White House lawn on leashes. They also had a donkey and a bobcat named Smokey, and they received many exotic animals as gifts, including lion cubs, a wallaby and a bear. But the most famous Coolidge pet was a pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Billy arrived at the White House by way of tire tycoon Harvey Firestone in 1927. Firestone acquired the hippo while on a trip to Liberia and brought it back to Coolidge as a gift. Like most of the exotics that arrived at the White House, Coolidge donated Billy to the Smithsonian National Zoo but reportedly visited him on occasion. Billy was especially important, because there were very few pygmy hippos living in the United States at the time. He soon enjoyed the spotlight at the 1939 New York World's Fair and eventually sired 23 hippos during his lifetime. In fact, many of the pygmy hippos living in the United States today are most likely descendents of this presidential pet.

About the blog:
More on
Fatal Attractions