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World leaders and their pets

Patricia Grimshaw

Anyone who has ever owned a pet–a cat, dog, iguana, guinea pig, you name it–knows that their unconditional love and companionship can make any stressful day seem less so. And perhaps those in the high profile and high stress political roles know this more than most.

So here are just some of the well-known political leaders in recent history and their beloved pets, in no particular order:

Winston Churchill giving his famous ‘V for victory’ sign, May 1943.

Winston Churchill giving his famous ‘V for victory’ sign, May 1943.

Sir Winston Churchill. This somber wartime British prime minister had a great love of animals. He had several pet dogs, including Dodo and Rufus (both I and II), as well as pigs, fish, butterflies, a pair of black swans, and a parrot. He was even given a lion named Rota in 1943, but sensibly gave her to the London Zoo to be looked after.

Churchill petting Monty’s dog, Rommel.

Churchill petting Monty’s dog, Rommel.

His best-known cat was named after the famous British naval hero Horatio Nelson. Nelson (the cat) lived at 10 Downing Street–the official residence of the prime minister in Great Britain.

Winston Churchill and pet dog. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Winston Churchill and pet dog. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Another cat, Jock, traveled between Churchill’s London residence after he was prime minister and his country estate, Chartwell. As he was a “marmalade” or ginger cat, and so loved by the Churchill family, the National Trust keeps a marmalade cat named Jock at Chartwell to this day.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another wartime politician, Roosevelt had a famous pet, a Scottish Terrier named Fala. He was often mentioned in the media, and accompanied Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor frequently.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in the White House study (December 20, 1941).

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in the White House study (December 20, 1941).

A statue of Fala sits at the feet of the president at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and he is buried near his beloved owner. In 1944, Fala was allegedly left behind during a trip to the Aleutian Islands by mistake. Republican opponents to the president in Congress stated that a U.S. Navy destroyer was sent to pick him at, and the taxpayers’ expense.

Eleanor Roosevelt walking Fala (1947)

Eleanor Roosevelt walking Fala (1947)

Roosevelt vehemently denied this, and defended his dog, in what became known as the “Fala Speech.” The idea of the speech came from Orson Welles.

President Ronald Reagan. The U.S. president and his wife, Nancy, were confirmed animal lovers. Their large Bouvier des Flandres, Lucky, joined them in the White House in 1984 and grew from a tiny pup to “the size of a pony,” according to Mrs. Reagan.

Rex with the Reagans at Christmas

Rex with the Reagans at Christmas

Lucky was excitable and was known to run through the corridors of the White House, as well as all over Camp David. He was never particularly good on a leash, and photos exist of him pulling Reagan during an official visit from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher–herself a lover of animals.

Great U.S. Presidents quotes

However, as he was a little too energetic for the White House, Lucky moved to Reagan’s ranch in California in 1985 where he lived out the rest of his 10 years. He was the inspiration for the Presidential Pet Museum.

President George H. W. Bush. The 41st president of the United States and his wife, Barbara, were very much “dog people” and owned “the most famous dog in White House history”–Millie.

President Bush walks with his dogs, Millie and Ranger.

President Bush walks with his dogs, Millie and Ranger.

An English Springer Spaniel, Millie reportedly dictated her own book to Mrs. Bush, Millie’s Book, which was number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 1990.

She also gave birth to six pups the previous year, including Spot, who later lived in the White House with his owner, President George W. Bush.

President and Mrs Bush walk with Millie at Camp David September 19, 1992.

President and Mrs Bush walk with Millie at Camp David September 19, 1992.

Millie was famously portrayed on several popular television shows at the time, including Murphy Brown, Wings, and The Simpsons. She lived to the very respectable age of 12.

President Barack Obama. Shortly after becoming president of the United States, Obama and his family were given a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo as a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy. He was joined a few years later by another dog of the same breed, named Sunny.

Barack Obama plays with Sunny,

Barack Obama plays with Sunny,

Obama was not a “dog person,” and Bo was his first canine pet. He had made a promise to his daughters as he campaigned to be president that if he was successful, they could have a dog.

The Obamas walking with Bo.

The Obamas walking with Bo.

The two Obama dogs were well known as they had a regular agenda of appearances, and would visit hospitals at Christmas. They even regularly received fan mail from children.

President Emmanuel Macron. The president of France recently welcomed a new addition to his family in the form of Nemo–a black lab-griffon cross. Adopted from a rescue shelter, Nemo was named after the hero in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea–one of Macron’s favorite novels.

Since the 1970s, all French presidents have owned Labradors. Hilariously, during a meeting with three of Macron’s junior ministers, Nemo was filmed relieving himself on the fireplace in the room.

However, since former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s dogs caused thousands of euros of damage by chewing on antique furniture, a little puddle doesn’t seem too bad.


Patricia Grimshaw is a self-professed museum nerd, with an equal interest in both medieval and military history. She received a BA (Hons) from Queen’s University in Medieval History, and an MA in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada, and completed a Master of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto before beginning her museum career. She has lived and traveled all over Canada and Europe.