Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was also one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Born on 13 April 1743, Jefferson served as the state’s third President in the period from 1801 to 1809, previously being the Vice President under President John Adams. Thomas Jefferson was a fighter for freedom, a human rights activist and supporter of democracy.
He was a student of law who graduated from the College of William & Mary, and went on to work as a lawyer for a short period of time, mostly defending slaves in their pursuit of freedom.
Even though he was an educated man, Thomas Jefferson was also a land owner and a farmer, preoccupied with new agricultural techniques, new crops, and soil conditions. Although he had all kinds of vegetables, wheat, and animals on his farm, his main source of money was tobacco. The low prices put Jefferson through financial difficulties and he was always in debt. It is safe to say that he wasn’t as successful a farmer as he was a politician, but even when he became president, Thomas Jefferson remained loyal to his farming roots. Proof of that could be seen when he brought a herd of 40 sheep along with him when moving to the White House.
The herd was kept on the President’s Square, in front of the White House. They were Shetland sheep, a breed kept for meat and its excellent wool.
Among the 40 sheep, was a beautiful Shetland ram and Jefferson was proud to be the owner of such an animal. The ram was, however, also notoriously aggressive and attacked several people before a most shocking incident occurred, in which the ram killed a young boy.
The unusual ram was polycerate, having four horns instead of two. The real problem though was in its behavior. The animal was stubborn, territorial and threatening towards other sheep and people. Even though it was small in size, the ram attacked several people. One of the attacked men was trespassing through the President’s Square when he got rammed by the angry animal. The unfortunate man was so badly injured, that he wasn’t able to move for six weeks. Another incident is noted in the diary of President Jefferson’s friend Anna Maria Thornton, where she explains how the ram attacked and killed a small boy that was walking near the lawn. Even more strangely, was the fact that it is not certain if the President even knew about all the incidents, particularly the one involving the young boy, but it is sure that he knew about the bad temper of his ram.
Eventually, the President got sick of the animal’s behavior and had it sent to his property in Monticello, where the ram was kept separate from the other sheep. The final incident occurred when the notorious animal broke the fence between its own cage and the place where the others were held, and killed several of the other sheep, including his own lambs. This was the last straw that led to the Jefferson family finally having the animal killed.
Jefferson was not the only President to have brought unusual pets to the White House. Theodore Roosevelt was the President with the most pets, having made a small zoo in the yard of the White House where he kept a lion, a hyena, snakes, bears, and a badger, besides having dogs, cats, horses guinea pigs, and birds.
His successor Calvin Coolidge, also had a small zoo where he kept a bear, a hippo, a bobcat, raccoons and all kinds of dogs. James Buchanan kept a pet elephant, while John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover had alligators. However, besides Roosevelt’s badger biting a few people, no other presidential pets have ever harmed, nevermind killed anyone, unlike the angry ram of Thomas Jefferson.
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