How Many Pets Did Michael Jackson Have?

For reasons that perhaps someday scientists will have the answers for, massive success makes traditional pets seem pedestrian. If you become a wildly successful entertainer, why get a dog when you can get an ocelot? Why get a cat like everyone else when you can have a menagerie of exotic reptiles?

Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion famously had a zoo with animals like monkeys and exotic birds, and Elvis Presley— along with many, many other eccentricities — palled around with a pet chimpanzee named Scatter.

Michael Jackson is toward the top of the eccentric celebrity power rankings. There were rumors that he slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and that he attempted to buy the Elephant Man's skeleton. He also famously built his own amusement park on his Neverland Ranch property. That includes his choice of pets. He had a lot of them according to The Baltimore Sun, and some even attained a level of notoriety in their own right.

Michael Jackson's early pets

Michael Jackson was in the public eye from a very early age, and his affinity for animals started around that time as well. According to The Baltimore Sun, one of his earliest pets was tied to one of his personal favorite songs.

As a kid, Jackson had pets, but at first, they were just regular ones like most people have, such as dogs and reptiles. Michael was a member of the Jackson 5 along with his brothers, but in 1972 he put out his first solo song. It was written for a movie about a boy and his pet rat, and the name of the song — which was also the name of the movie — was "Ben." It sounds like it'd be a sweet story, but according to Songfacts, the movie was a sequel to another film, called "Willard," in which the title character trains rats to do his bidding.

Apparently, the film and the song helped a young Michael Jackson get comfortable around rats, as can be seen in a photo posted to Reddit, in which he has a few rats perched on his shoulder.

He loved spiders

For a lot of people, arachnophobia — the fear of spiders — is a crippling fear, but one thing is for sure: Michael Jackson didn't have it. The Baltimore Sun reported shortly after the pop star's 2009 death that he had a fascination with spiders, especially tarantulas. He reportedly had elaborate enclosures for his eight-legged specimens.

Jackson and spiders made headlines in 2002 when the singer claimed that he was feeling unwell after receiving a spider bite on his hand. Weeks later he hobbled into the same courtroom on crutches, claiming to have suffered a second spider bite. He told the court, "I love tarantulas, but not the little kind."

"It is a spider bite," he told reporters, per MTV. "It is real bad. If I showed it to you, you'd be shocked. It hurts very much right now as I speak."

What was unusual was that Jackson claimed the bite didn't come from one of his pet spiders, but that a small wild one bit him while he was walking around his property. He said the spider had been chased out of the bushes after routine fumigation.

The Neverland Zoo

Rats and spiders can be kept inside, but larger animals require more space. Michael Jackson was aware of this and had a private zoo at his Neverland Ranch.

The zoo housed some of Jackson's exotic animal collections. He had four giraffes, according to Celebrity Pets, named Rambo, Princess, Jabbar Jr., and Annie Sue. Thirteen Chilean flamingos also lived at Neverland Ranch, and so did an array of livestock including a ram, alpacas, and zebras. Jackson also had an elephant named Gypsy, which was given to him by actress Elizabeth Taylor as a thank you for letting her hold her wedding at Neverland.

Michael Jackson played favorites with his animals. He had a slew of exotic birds, but one parrot named Rikk was his favorite, and was allowed to live in Jackson's house instead of the aviary.

According to The Baltimore Sun, this zoo became highly controversial in 2006 after PETA filed a complaint, alleging that the animals were being mistreated. Around this time, Jackson had abandoned his home due to financial and legal issues, and this is what PETA claimed was the reason for the problems. Many of the animals were given to wildlife sanctuaries.

Bubbles the Chimp

You can't talk about Michael Jackson's pets without talking about his most famous primate companion: Bubbles the chimpanzee. Jackson had a few primates, including some orangutans and other chimpanzees, per Celebrity Pets, but none became as well known as Bubbles.

According to the Center for Great Apes, Bubbles was born in a cancer research facility. While still only an infant, he was given to a Hollywood animal trainer, who then gave the young chimpanzee to Jackson. The two were virtually inseparable for years, and Bubbles slept in a crib in Jackson's room and was permitted to use the singer's private bathroom. Jackson would dress Bubbles just like himself and the chimp would accompany him to award shows, recording studios, and even to a meeting with the mayor of Osaka, Japan (per the Michael Jackson Archives, posted on YouTube).

Bubbles became a celebrity in his own right. He learned how to do Jackson's signature moonwalk — kind of (also on YouTube)— and was featured in a collection of toys called "Michael's Pets," which were a line of stuffed animals introduced in 1986.

Bubbles today

Bubbles eventually did what all chimpanzees do: He grew. A baby chimpanzee is manageable, but a four-and-a-half foot tall, 185-pound ape is another story.

It's been reported that by the time Jackson's son Prince Michael II was born, Bubbles was getting aggressive even toward the newborn (via The Baltimore Sun). Bubbles was sent to a wildlife sanctuary before eventually moving to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida.

Sadly, it has been reported that Michael Jackson had at some points physically abused Bubbles. According to TMZ, famed primatologist Jane Goodall believed that Bubbles had been punched in the face and kicked in the stomach, and when she brought this up with Jackson, the singer became angry.

Bubbles is still alive and living at the Center for Great Apes, in his late 30s — late middle age, for a chimp, says 7 News. According to his page on their website, Bubbles is considered the dominant ape, given his size, and lives with other chimpanzees. His group of apes includes others named Ripley, Oopsie, Boma, and Jessie. The Center mentions that he enjoys "quiet moments and painting."