From Washington’s Foxhounds to Obama’s famous Portuguese Water Dogs, presidential pups are as traditional as baseball and apple pie. Almost all of our presidents have shared the White House with a dog. These presidential pooches became as much a staple of the capitol as the rest of the First Family and “spoke” more than words ever could about the nature of our leaders.
In January 2021, Joe Biden’s two German Shepherd Dogs Champ and Major restored the tradition of presidential pups to the White House. To celebrate the return of First Pets, we take a look back at some of the most famous four-legged friends in American history.
George Washington, the father of our nation, is also the father of American Foxhounds. In 1770, Washington imported a number of hounds from England, and in 1785, the Marquis de Lafayette gave him some French hounds. Washington maintained and carefully bred these hounds, and they became the ancestors of today’s American Foxhound. More than 30 hounds were listed in Washington’s journals, including Sweet Lips, Drunkard, Tipler, and Tipsy. Washington didn’t invent American Foxhounds single-handedly, but he was a key player in the breed’s development.
Thomas Jefferson became interested in Briards while serving as minister to France. He purchased a pregnant female, named Buzzy, and started his breeding program. Lafayette also sent Jefferson two more Briards to help protect the sheep at Monticello. There is no record of them living at the White House.
Theodore Roosevelt owned a Saint Bernard named Rollo, a Pekingese named Manchu (belonging to the president’s daughter Alice), a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Sailor Boy, his son Kermit’s Manchester Terrier called Blackjack, and a Bull Terrier named Pete, who ripped the pants of a French ambassador.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish Terrier “Fala” reportedly received more fan mail than many presidents did. FDR also had a Bullmastiff named “Blaze,” two Irish Setters named “Jack” and “Jill,” a Bulldog named “Pal,” an English Setter named “Winks,” another Scottish Terrier named “Meggie,” a German Shepherd Dog named “Major,” and a Great Dane named “President,” which made things confusing in the White House.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower owned two Scottish Terriers named Caacie and Telek, and a Weimaraner named Heidi.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy owned a Welsh Terrier named Charlie, an Irish Wolfhound aptly named Wolf, a German Shepherd Dog named Clipper, and an English Cocker Spaniel named Shannon. Jackie had a Standard Poodle named Gaullie. The family also owned Pushinka, a mixed-breed dog which was a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
Gerald Ford owned a Golden Retriever named Liberty and her puppy, Misty.
Ronald Reagan owned a Bouvier des Flandres called Lucky, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex. He also had four other dogs that lived on his ranch. — a Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Belgian Sheepdog, and Siberian Husky.
George Bush owned an English Springer Spaniel named Millie, who is the author of a dogobiography called “Millie’s Book,” and Ranger, one of Millie’s pups.
Bill Clinton owned a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Buddy.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush owned an English Springer Spaniel named Spot (daughter to Millie), and two Scottish Terriers named Miss Beazley and Barney. (Barney died in 2013.)
Barack Obama welcomed two Portuguese Water Dogs into his family after his inauguration. They are named Bo and Sunny.
Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, restored the tradition of presidential pets to the White House on Jan. 20, 2021 with their two German Shepherd Dogs: Champ, 12, and Major, 2. Joe Biden promised Jill he would get a dog after the 2008 election if Barack Obama won. Jill Biden then attached pictures of different dogs to the seats of Biden’s campaign plane for him to see. He bought the puppy from a breeder in Pennsylvania, and it was named Champ (born October 2008) by his granddaughters. Major (born January 2018) is the first rescue dog to reside in the White House.