H is for Hamsters, Hounds and Horses
Our Presidents for today: George Washington (1789-1797), John Adams (1797-1801), Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), James K. Polk (1845-1849), Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), U. S. Grant (1869-1877), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), and Ronald Reagan (1981-1989).
President John F. Kennedy’s WH was the only one that recorded hamsters in residence. But, alas, they did not fare well. As anyone who has had the little creatures knows, they are notorious escape artists. Apparently one or more escaped and ended up in the President’s bathtub where one of them drowned. The two that we know by name, Debbie and Billy, had babies; Billy being an aggressive father killed his hamsterlings and Debbie, the protective mother, attacked Billy. They both died as a result of their injuries. (Representative photo.)
President George Washington loved his hounds and kept meticulous records of them. He named them (sources think) according to their personalities. Get a load of these names: Tipsy, Sweet Lips, Drunkard, Mopsey, Taster, Cloe, Tipler, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover, Vulcan, Searcher, Truelove, and Ragman. His records show that he owned French hounds, greyhounds, newfoundlands, briards, spaniels, terriers, a Dalmatian named Madame Moose, and toy breeds as well. The American Kennel Club credits President Washington to be the father of the American Foxhound as he bred his French and English hounds with his black and tan hounds and eventually developed the breed.
One recorded story from Washington is that his hound Vulcan was extra hungry one day, snuck into the kitchen, stole a whole ham off the table, dashed back to his kennel with servants chasing him the whole way and ate the whole thing. (Vintage illustrations.)
President Washington also kept a stable full of fine horses for hunting, pleasure riding, carriages and field work. We know at least three of their names: an Arabian stallion, Magnolia and his two war mounts Nelson and Blueskin. We’ll talk more about Nelson and Blueskin later in the month.
President John Adams had a favorite horse named Cleopatra. Adams also built the first WH stables. (Image from HBO’s series “John Adams.”)
President Andrew Jackson kept racing horses but under the name of his son-in-law, A. J. Donelson, in order to avoid criticism from his detractors. Two of his champion stallions were Truxton and Doublehead. While in the WH he had three racing fillies, Bolivia, Emily and Lady Nashville. Jackson also had a war horse that we will talk about later as well.
President James K. Polk was reputed to have learned to ride before he could walk and was an avid horseman but the names and breeds of his horses are lost to history. There weren’t any illustrations of Polk on horseback that I could find, so here is what he looked like.
President Abraham Lincoln had several horses during his (short) lifetime. His favorite horse, Robin, or, “Old Bob”, we’ll talk about him later; but the horse he rode while in office was known as Old Abe.
President Ulysses S. Grant’s favorite saddle horse was Cincinnatus; Egypt and St Louis were perfectly matched carriage horses. Julia was a buggy horse and a fast stepping racer; the President would disguise himself, take Julia out and challenge other buggy drivers to a race. The one time he lost, he lost to a delivery boy for a local butcher. Grant didn’t like losing so he bought that horse and named him Butcher’s Boy. From then on, when he wanted to race, it was him and Butcher’s Boy against everyone else!
Vintage photo of Cincinnatus
Vintage Photo of Egypt, Cincinnatura and St Louis
President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed riding and reportedly did so every day. In the WH stables he kept the horses Jocko Root, Renown, Yagenka, Wyoming, Roswell, Rusty, and Gray Dawn. But his favorite mount was said to have been Bleistein.
Vintage photo of TR on unknown horse.
President Herbert Hoover had a favorite horse named Billy.
President Hoover used this photo of him and Billy as part of a Christmas greeting.
First Lady Jackie Kennedy was an excellent horsewoman from early on. The President didn’t ride because of his allergies; but Jackie taught her children to ride. One day in 1962 the President of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, gave Mrs. Kennedy a jet black gelding named Sadar. She referred to Sadar as her “favorite treasure.”
Another famous horse associated with President Kennedy was named him Black Jack and was the riderless horse in the funeral procession of President Kennedy. And, because my mom loved horses as a child, it is the only part of the funeral (which was broadcast on tv) she remembers. Black Jack also served as the Riderless Horse at the funerals of Pres.’s Herbert Hoover and Lyndon B. Johnson and General Douglas MacArthur. Go to EquineInk for a very informative article about Black Jack. I did find a discrepancy in sources – one said Sadar was the Riderless Horse; others say it was Black Jack. After reading the above article, I’m leaning toward Black Jack and not Sadar.
25 Sep 1962, Middleburg, Virginia, USA — First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy holds the reins of a horse [Sadar], while the president of Pakistan, Mohammad Ayub Khan, strokes its muzzle. They stand on the grounds of the Kennedy country estate in Middleburg, Virginia, on September 25, 1962. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy loved riding and did so whenever they were at their ranch in California. No Strings, a quarter horse was the First Lady’s favorite and El Alamein, an Arabian, was the President favorite. They also had another quarter horse, Dormita; 3 more Arabians, Gwalianko, El Saraf and Catalina; and a Peruvian Paso named El Primero Tentiente. The horses free grazed on the ranch and were rarely stabled.
President Reagan with Queen Elizabeth
Riderless Horse, York, with President Reagan’s boots, in the President’s funeral procession.