Grizzly Bears Lived In The White House. Here's Why

The year was 1807 when Thomas Jefferson, then the third president of the United States, received a bizarre gift: a pair of grizzly bear cubs (via Mental Floss). According to the Presidential Pet Museum, it was Captain Zebulon Pike who had sent them. Pike was an explorer who was traversing through the uncharted west with Jefferson's financial backing. So of course, he sent him a little something as a thank-you. What could be a better gift than a male and female cub (per Monticello)?

Pike was said to have purchased them from a Native American and they were then carried by horseback to Washington D.C. Along with them came a letter from Pike, who stated that they were the "most ferocious animals of the continent." Per Histories of the National Mall, the bears were kept in an enclosure on the White House lawn. This gave Jefferson's opponents some fodder and they referred to it as his "bear-garden," an Elizabethan-era term whose connotation implied a disorderly and rowdy area.

The grizzly bears didn't stay long at the White House

According to Mental Floss, Jefferson did not want to keep the bears. He later wrote to his granddaughter, stating that the bears were too dangerous and troublesome. Jefferson decided to send them to his friend, Charles Peale (via Presidential Pet Museum). Peale was a painter who had opened a museum in Philadelphia that displayed curiosities, objects, and at times, living animals.

Although he had a previous difficult experience with a grizzly bear at his museum, Peale could not say no to his friend. Per Monticello, the bears were delivered to Peale in January 1808. He wrote to Jefferson of his hopes of breeding them and seeing their growth. This however, never happened. The bears outgrew their cages and became threatening. One of them broke out and had to be shot dead. Sadly, the other was also put down and they were both mounted and displayed.

Oddly enough, the grizzly bears might not be the strangest pets that have lived at the White House. Previous pets include a racoon named Rebecca, a swearing parrot, an alligator, and a dog named Satan (per Business Insider).