The Strange Pets of Famous People in History

Many famous historical figures have had well-known animal companions. President Franklin Roosevelt’s dog Fala was so important to him that there is a statue of him at his Washington, D.C. memorial. Many of us know about the current Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis. The Roman Emperor Caligula loved his horse, Incitatus, so much that he may have tried to have him appointed to political office. These animals were famous, but at least they were typical pets. Some historical figures had pets that most of us would not consider to be suitable domestic pets. Here are just a few of the more outlandish pets in history.

John Quincy Adams’ Alligator

America’s fifth president received this unusual pet as a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero. Instead of finding a suitable home for the animal, Adams decided to keep the alligator in an unfinished area of the White House. Sometimes, the reptile would hang out in a bathtub. Adams was quite proud of his strange pet, and enjoyed showing him off to visitors. After several months, though, the gator was moved out of the White House.

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Lucius Licinius Crassus’ Eel

 This famous Roman orator and statesman kept a beloved pet eel. He reportedly adorned this strange pet with earrings and necklaces, and trained it to respond to its name. When the eel died, he had a funeral for it, where he wept openly.

Babou, Salvador Dali’s Ocelot

Dali was known for being an eccentric artist, but one of the strangest things he did was to keep an ocelot, a wild cat, as a pet. He took the animal everywhere, including high-end restaurants and luxury cruises. The cat lived in an atmosphere of opulence, reclining on silk cushions and wearing elaborate stone-studded collars. But Babou may not have been happy, as he once escaped while Dali was staying at the sumptuous Hotel Meurice in Paris, frightening many guests in his attempt to flee.

Josephine Bonaparte’s Orangutan

Napoleon’s first wife had many exotic pets, but one of her favorites was Rose, her pet orangutan. The ape would often join Josephine at the table for meals, and reportedly loved to eat turnips. Rose was said to be very well-behaved and was even well-dressed: she was usually dressed in a fine white cotton chemise. Unfortunately, the poor animal had difficulty physically adjusting to life in a French palace. She developed a severe intestinal within a year of her arrival in France, and the illness ultimately killed her. The mourning Empress donated the orangutan’s body to science.

King George I’s Controversial Pet

Although not an animal, England’s King George I kept a feral child as a pet. The child was found living alone in the woods in Germany, living off whatever he could forage. He was sent to Kensington Palace, where the king initially tried to treat him as a guest. The boy, now called “Peter the Wild Boy,” embarrassed King George with his lack of table manners, and was thereafter treated more like a pet. Peter never learned to speak, and he always walked on all fours. When the king tired of him, his daughter-in-law took him in for a time. He died at 72, after being retired to a farm with a royal pension. Though he was said to be treated well, it is fortunate that the idea of keeping a human as a pet is abhorrent to us today.

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