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Famous Presidential Dogs in the White House

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White House of the United States on a green lawn with fountain in front

Presidential dogs have played an important role in history. The dogs in the White House offer a glimpse into the lives of the First Family of the United States. They have also been instrumental in shaping the presidential image and making presidents more relatable to the public.

Many US presidents since George Washington were animal lovers and dog owners. (In fact, Washington helped develop the modern American Foxhound.) With the help of photography and the media, images of presidents and their dogs have helped to shape their public image. 

Here are just a few of the famous presidential dogs who made a splash in history.

Skip, the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier

President Theodore Roosevelt was known for his love of animals. The Roosevelt family’s many pets included a lizard, guinea pigs, a blue macaw, a badger, a rooster, a barn owl, a pony, and many more. The pony, named Algonquin, even rode the elevator up to Archie Roosevelt’s room to visit him when he was sick.

Skip, one of several presidential dogs in the Roosevelt house, was an affectionate dog who was very attached to Archie Roosevelt and liked to sit in Teddy Roosevelt’s lap when the family was away. The other dogs in the White House included a Saint Bernard named Rollo and a Manchester Terrier named Jack. 

Skip is famous not just for being a Roosevelt, but also for inspiring what later became the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier breed. 

Fun fact: This breed wasn’t always known by its presidential name. The United Kennel Club officially recognized Teddy Roosevelt Terriers, formerly called Type B Rat Terriers, in 1999.

King Tut, the Belgian Malinois

A very important presidential dog, King Tut played a valuable role in Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign. In the press, Hoover came across as unapproachable, but his affection for King Tut was so evident that photos of the two of them together became popular. King Tut helped shape President Hoover’s public image and make him more relatable to the public.

Fun fact: A Belgian Malinois named Cairo was a member of SEAL Team Six

President Hoover also had a Norwegian Elkhound nicknamed Weegie. (His full name was Ronnie Av Glitre.) The New York Times published a newspaper article that announced Weegie’s arrival from Norway. Weegie joined the family after King Tut’s passing and stayed with the Hoovers throughout the presidency.

Fun fact: Norwegian Elkhounds are sometimes called “the dog of the Vikings.” They sailed with the Vikings and were featured in Norse mythology and art. 

Fala, the Scottish Terrier

Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, or Fala for short, was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s many presidential dogs. Like his fifth cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt was a dog lover. In addition to Fala, the Roosevelt family kept six more dogs in the White House.

Fala and President Roosevelt were inseparable. Fala traveled with the president and even accompanied him to meetings. Every morning, Fala got a bone that was brought up on the president’s breakfast tray.

Fala became a recognizable public figure. He was the subject of an MGM short film and the star of a World War II campaign, where he gave up his rubber toys to promote a rubber collection drive. Fala received his own fan mail and had his own secretary to help him answer these letters. He was not only beloved by the president, but also widely popular with the press and the public.

Fun fact: The Scottish Terrier has won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show a total of nine times. That’s more than any other breed, except for the Wire Fox Terrier.

Pushinka, the Cold War puppy

Pushinka was a fluffy, white, mixed-breed presidential dog who also played an important diplomatic role. Her mother, Strelka, was one of the first dogs to travel to space!

During the Cold War, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and US President John F. Kennedy wrote to each other even as tensions were high between the two countries. Khrushchev gave Pushinka (a name that means “fluffy” in Russian) to the Kennedys as a goodwill gesture between the two countries. 

Pushinka soon became a part of the Kennedy family. She and Charlie, another one of the Kennedys’ dogs, had a litter of puppies. President Kennedy called the puppies “pupniks.”

Fun fact: Pushinka was also the name of one of the domesticated foxes in a famous Russian experiment. The fox Pushinka was known for being very dog-like in her playfulness and her attachment to humans. Through this study, scientists learned a lot about how dogs were domesticated and how humans and dogs bond with each other.

Millie, the English Springer Spaniel

President George H. W. Bush’s presidential dog Millie was also an author. Millie’s Book, a children’s book that gave a behind-the-scenes look at life in the White House, became a bestseller. The proceeds from book sales were donated to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Fun fact: Some say that one of the dogs on the Mayflower was also an English Springer Spaniel. 

One of Millie’s puppies, named Spot, would later live in the White House with President George W. Bush. This President Bush also had two Scottish Terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley. They quickly became famous, had their own website, and hosted a series of holiday videos at the White House via the Barney Cam.

Bo and Sunny, the Portuguese Water Dogs

Bo, a male Portuguese Water Dog, was the first presidential dog in the White House during President Barack Obama’s administration. His registered name was Amigo’s New Hope. Bo was present at many official events, including state dinners and the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn. Just like Millie, Bo was the subject of a children’s book called Bo, America’s Commander in Leash.

A few years later, Sunny joined the family as Bo’s “little sister.” Bo and Sunny were so popular that they often had their own official schedules.

Fun fact: The first Portuguese Water Dogs arrived in the United States in 1958 from England, but the breed didn’t appear in a dog show until 1984. The Obamas chose Portuguese Water Dogs in consideration of Malia Obama’s allergies. Learn all about hypoallergenic dog breeds and the science behind dog allergies. 

 

Mimi Padmabandu Contributor

Mimi Padmabandu is a scientific writer and Senior Content Strategist at Embark Veterinary. Her career includes a decade of experience writing about science and genomics for leading biotechnology companies, including Illumina, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and more. She holds a bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in Early Modern English Literature from King’s College London.

Read more about Mimi Padmabandu

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