Dog History: All the President's Dogs - Washington to Monroe

President Barack Obama and his dog Bo, playing on the
White House Lawn. Bo is a Portugese Water Dog.
There's no doubt about it, Americans love dogs!

There are millions of pet dogs in the United States, and more all over the world. Dog fans love to see "dogs of influence", like the pets of the actors they like, pets of royalty, animal TV and movie stars, and especially, the pets of the Presidents.

Good news, dog lovers! There have been dogs in the White House for as long as there have been Presidents in the White House. Although not every President has had a dog, many furry friends have accompanied many Presidents through their years of service as President of the United States (POTUS).

Since we love to explore canine history and, lets face it, put our two cents in on just about everything we write, we're going to break this article down into several parts. That way, we can better explore the Presidents and their canine pals, with a few little anecdotes thrown in for good measure. With 44 POTUS so far, there is a lot of ground to cover. Part one of this series will cover the first 5 Presidents and their dogs (or lack thereof).

We will start, as you might expect, at the beginning, with the very first POTUS: a certain Mr. George Washington.

George Washington: the father of American Foxhounds?
President from 1789 to 1797, Washington loved to ride, and hunt on horseback, and most likely owned the dogs he chose for that very reason. President Washington is said to have bred Foxhounds during his Presidency and his life outside the office, and the American Kennel Club has gone so far as to call him "the father of American Foxhounds". Some of the hounds he bred in his quest for the "perfect hound" were gifts from his good friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. Washington probably have owned many more than the dogs we are going to list, but we don't know the total number and we haven't been able to find out if he had them all named.

He owned Staghounds and Coonhounds, dogs that are often used for hunting and tracking, over the course of his Presidency. Some of the names of his Staghounds were Vulcan (who became infamous after making off with Martha Washington's ham at a dinner party), Scentwell, and Sweetlips (who seems to have been his favorite dog). Tipsy, Drunkard, Taster, and Tipler were all Coonhounds. Sources say there were several other pooches in the first Commander-in-Chief's menagerie, and they included dogs with a long litany of great names, such as: Countess, Doxey, Droner, Dublin, Dutchess, Forrester, Hearkwell, Jupiter, Lady, Mopsey, Music, Pluto, Ragman, Ringwood, Rober, Rockwood, Rover, Searcher, Shingas, Singer, Truelove, and Venus!

The Washington menagerie probably came from a variety of breeds, from lap dogs to herders, but President Washington seems to have had the most interest in his hounds. Hound breeds are great scent-dogs and hunters, and were Washington's hunting companions. They may also have helped keep any scavengers away on the estate where he lived, called Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is actually where George Washington spent most of his Presidency living, since the White House was not under construction until the end of his Presidency, between 1792 and 1800.

There seems to be little doubt that President George Washington adored dogs. He even built a kennel with a stream running through it at Mount Vernon, and is purported to have inspected it on a daily basis!

Next in line is the second POTUS, Mr. John Adams. He was the first to live in the White House, with his wife Abigail, during the later years of his Presidency. John Adams was the President from 1797 to 1801. Mr. Adams has been reported to have owned three dogs. They were of an unknown breed, probably what would be considered mutts or mixed breed dogs. His three canine companions were named Juno, Mark, and lastly...Satan! Apparently, President Adams not only had a dog with a devilish streak, but also possessed very interesting pet-naming habits.

President Adams ordered construction of the White House stables, where he housed his favorite horse, Cleopatra. His dogs would have been the very first to run about and play on the White House lawn, a tradition carried on to this day. The First Lady, Abigail, seems to have truly loved her dogs. In a letter to her grand-daughter Caroline , dated 26 February 1811, she wrote:
"As if you love me, proverbially, you must love my dog, you will be glad to learn that Juno yet lives, although like her mistress she is gray with age. She appears to enjoy life and to be grateful for the attention paid her. She wags her tail and announces a visiter (sic) whenever one appears."
A Briard dog, like the pair Jefferson would have owned.
POTUS number three was Thomas Jefferson. He had run against John Adams in the prior election and lost, but he moved into the White House as President in 1801 and stayed until 1809. Besides the extensive decorating and planning of the White House he performed while running the United States, he also owned two dogs of the Briard breed. The Briard is a large, furry herding and guarding dog that originated in ancient France, a country which Jefferson had been minister to in earlier times. His admiration of the Briard dogs is said to have led Marquis de Lafayette to send him some, ostensibly to protect his livestock. Given the hounds he had previously sent to President Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette seems to have quite enjoyed sending French dogs to American leaders.

One of Jefferson's Briards was named Buzzy and the other was not. In fact, no one seems to have been able to suss out the name of his second dog, who must have received less public attention than ol' Buzzy. Interestingly, Jefferson has been said to have also owned two bear cubs and a mockingbird during his Presidency. The bear cubs must not have been enough to scare off unwanted intruders, so he decided to have some Briards for extra protection!

An interesting footnote: in previous correspondence, Jefferson had expressed contempt for dogs, even calling for extermination of the whole species. This is mostly attributed to overstatement and hyperbole, as at the same time he wrote these words, he was keeping Sheep Dogs to protect his livestock on his estate, and "responded favorably when his correspondents asked for their offspring."

The fourth POTUS, James Madison, must not have had time for a canine companion. He is only known to have had a parrot, of the Macaw variety. He could have at least trained it to bark when it spoke, to feel like a dog was around and scare off any unwanted intruders. So the White House seems to have been devoid of dogs during the ten years Mr. Madison was the President, from 1809 to 1819.

James Monroe owned several dogs.
President number five (and the last of the Presidents we'll talk about today) was James Monroe. Monroe was in office from 1819 till 1825. He had the first Spaniel to live in the White House (unless the unknown breed of dogs owned by John Adams happens to have been Spaniels). We're not certain what type of Spaniel it was, but he seems to have been named Buddy, a popular dog name even today. Monroe probably kept the Spaniel as a companion animal and hunting dog.

He also owned a Siberian Husky named Sebastian. Considering how much energy Huskies have, we wonder what activities he used to keep Sebastian busy? They probably didn't go skijoring together, at any rate. Sebastian, Buddy, and any other dogs Monroe owned (some sources indicate that he had several Sheepdogs, as well) probably got plenty of exercise in the considerable grounds surrounding the White House. Huskies and Spaniels both make great companions, and probably kept each other company while President Monroe was busy running the country.

This seems like a good place to wrap up the first part of our All the Presidents Dogs series. Make sure to come back for Part Two!

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