Here's Why Lyndon B Johnson Lifted His Beagles By The Ears

Lyndon Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, was not the first president to keep pets in the White House (that would be John Adams), nor was he the last (Joe Biden brought two dogs to the hallowed grounds and added a puppy later, per People). The list of White House pets includes some animals that may seem a bit ridiculous to 21st-century ears, including ponies and cows (according to the White House Historical Association), but they were important animals in the lives of many families in their day, so it makes sense that the would spend some time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

By the middle of the 20th century, most White House pets were of the more typical variety: dogs and cats. Lyndon Johnson was no exception. He had several dogs, as the LBJ Presidential Library reports. Unfortunately, Johnson was often seen picking up the animals by the ears. This "raised the ire" of animal lovers, according to Johnson's library. But is it bad practice and does it hurt the dogs?

Lyndon Johnson and His Dogs

Lyndon Johnson had at least three dogs while he lived in the White House, according to America Comes Alive. The two most famous were two beagles named Him and Her. He also adopted a stray, Yuki (pictured with him above), who was actually intended to be his daughter Luci's dog, but the pup preferred the company of the 36th president, and she remained part of the family after the Johnsons left Washington.

Johnson's chapter in the history of public animal cruelty was written in April 1964, according to the American Kennel Club. He was walking Him and Her across the White House grounds, visitors and press in tow, when he decided to encourage Him to bark for his guests, and he lifted the pooch up by the ears.

The reaction was swift and severe, and soon enough Johnson found himself hated by dog lovers everywhere. He later publicly apologized, but at the same time he was bewildered by the public response. Having been brought up around hunting dogs, it wasn't uncommon among their owners to tug at the animals' ears to make sure he was "in good voice." Johnson also said that as far as he was aware, Him liked it.

Don't lift animals by the ears!

Needless to say, lifting an animal by its ears is not best practice. Try it with a human, and you're going to tear their ears from their head; further, a tear remarkably easy, according to Winston Medical Center, as it only requires seven pounds of force to rip off a human ear. There's a reason mothers sometimes lead recalcitrant children about by the ear!

As for dog ears, that, too, is ill-advised. Writing in Just Answers, Jane Lefler, whose profile indicates she's been a dog behaviorist, says that lifting a dog by the ears is certainly going to be painful for the animal. "Imagine the total weight of the puppy being put on just the tissue that connects the ears to the head. This would be painful to the dog," she writes.

The American Kennel Club gives Johnson something of a pass. Though he treated Him in a way that is by no means best practice when it comes to handling animals, it's no secret that Johnson was a lifelong dog lover who had lived among them, and been attached to them, since his youth in Texas. "As with any true dog lover, LBJ was a pushover for anything with a wet nose and four legs," the organization writes.