President Calvin Coolidge Had An Unusual Woodland Pet

When we think of presidential pets, we typically think of furry dog friends, such as the Obamas' dog, Bo, or President Biden's dogs, Champ and Major. While this may be the case for modern presidents, past presidents sometimes had what we might think of as less traditional animals roaming the White House. Some of the strangest presidential pets included John Quincy Adam's alligator, Woodrow Wilson's flock of sheep, and Martin Van Buren's two tiger cubs (via Insider).

During Calvin Coolidge's time as president, he kept a wide variety of unique pets in the White House. According to History, Coolidge's collection of pets was so vast that press would often refer to the White House as the "Pennsylvania Avenue Zoo." During their stay at the White House, Coolidge and his wife, first lady Grace Coolidge, collected a number of pets. Both of them were known to be animal lovers, and often received additions to their collection as gifts. This included numerous dogs ("We always had more dogs that we could take care of," the president wrote later, per History), a bear, a pair of lion cubs, and more. On one occasion, Coolidge decided to adopt a raccoon, which he named Rebecca.

Rebecca was originally part of the Thanksgiving Day menu

While many of the White House pets during Calvin Coolidge's presidency were given as gifts, Rebecca the raccoon was not — at least, not given as a pet. The raccoon (above, held by Grace Coolidge) was sent from Mississippi, intended to be one of the dishes for Thanksgiving dinner in 1926. Coolidge quickly decided to take the raccoon off the menu and keep her as his own pet. Raccoon may seem like a bizarre choice for dinner now, but according to Smithsonian Magazine, it used to be a staple for settlers moving westward, along with other creatures like possums and squirrels.

Coolidge was known for being a cautious person, and had never tried raccoon meat. This may be one of the reasons he kept Rebecca as a pet. When asked if raccoon was edible, Coolidge responded that while it might be for some people, it was not for him. Rebecca became a close companion to Coolidge, walking on a leash with him outside during the day and snuggling up to him while he sat by the fireplace (via History).

Rebecca was not the only unique pet the Coolidges kept

In addition to Rebecca, Calvin Coolidge kept many other unique pets at the White House. Among Coolidge's pets included 13 dogs, several canaries, a goose, a mockingbird, two cats, a donkey, and a bobcat. Coolidge was also given other, more exotic, pets by dignitaries from other countries, including his two lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, a black bear, a pygmy hippopotamus, and a wallaby (via the Presidential Pet Museum).

According to History, the Coolidges adopted another raccoon, named Reuben, in 1928. However, the two raccoons did not get along. Rebecca began to show behavioral problems and started to frequently escape the White House grounds to run around the city. Rebecca was donated by the Coolidge family to the national zoo in Rock Creek Park. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will see any more raccoons or other exotic animals as presidential pets, because the District of Columbia now has strict rules as to what types of animals can be kept as pets (via DC Health), and raccoons are not allowed.