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George Washington's Pets

Mount Vernon [Facebook]

Many of those who have led our country from the highest office through good times and also difficult ones have had great support from some furry sources.  Presidential pets have often been in the news, but it all began with our very first president!


Throughout the history of our country, more than 400 pets have lived in the White House, easily outnumbering the 45 presidents. Bill Clinton had a cat named Socks. George W. Bush had several dogs, including Spot and Barney. Barack Obama had Bo. And of course, Richard Nixon had his dog, Checkers.

The first president of the United States, George Washington, never lived in the White House. He was born February 22, 1732 – 288 years ago today. He was a military general, a Founding Father, a statesman, a political leader, and like so many of his successors, an animal lover.

He had a number of dogs, including three Staghounds named Vulcan, Scentwell and Sweet Lips. A Staghound is a large dog resembling the Greyhound and the Scottish Deerhound. He also had several Black and Tan Hounds with names like Tipsy, Tipler, Taster and Drunkard. He had a Dalmatian named Madame Moose, and a Poodle named Pilot which he took along when he went duck hunting.

George Washington also had donkeys, mules and horses, including Blueskin and his favorite horse, Nelson. He was astride Nelson when he accepted the British surrender at Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War. It is said that he never rode Nelson again after the war, letting him retire in comfort at Mount Vernon.

Today visitors to Mount Vernon can see the animals who still live there, including breeds that were raised on the property during George Washington’s lifetime. Guests are also invited to bring along their canine friends, on a leash, and enjoy a walking tour specially designed for dog lovers. Go to for more information. 

Here on George Washington’s birthday, it’s a good time to remember that compassion for animals, and enjoyment of their company, is part of our American history and tradition, dating all the way back to the very founding of our country, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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