Lions, tigers and bears: the US presidents who took animal possession to extremes | Books


Barack Obama had two Portuguese water canines, Bo and Sunny. George W Bush had scottish terriers named Barney and Miss Beazley. Invoice Clinton had a cat referred to as Socks. John F Kennedy doted on his canary, Robin.

US presidents have at all times had home animals on the White Home, though the farther again we delve, the extra ferocious the menagerie tends to be, notably the place Republican presidents are involved. Calvin Coolidge owned a hippopotamus and two lions named Tax Discount and Price range Bureau. John Quincy Adams is alleged to have saved an alligator in a toilet. He supposedly discovered it amusing to shock visitors by sending them in there to conduct their enterprise, presumably inflicting them to take action previous to eradicating their pantaloons.

Theodore Roosevelt took animal possession to extremes. Throughout his tenure, a lion, a hyena referred to as Invoice, a coyote, a black bear named Jonathan Edwards and a zebra lived at varied instances on the White Home grounds. He additionally shot a reputed 11,397 creatures. Amongst them had been lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, elephants and endangered rhinoceroses.

I uncovered this curious energy dynamic whereas researching my new e-book, Mammoth. It started with Thomas Jefferson, who, in an try to overcompensate for emotions of US inadequacy, appropriated symbols of power from the animal kingdom to point out that America was the best nation on earth.

Jefferson’s nemesis was the French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, le Comte de Buffon. In quantity 5 of his 1781 e-book Pure Historical past, Basic and Specific, Buffon coined his Principle of American Degeneracy. In it, he claimed that animals within the US had been weaker, smaller and fewer in quantity than in the remainder of the world.

“There isn’t a comparability between the dimensions of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, the camelopard [giraffe], the camel, the lion, the tiger, &c. and the tapir, the cabiai, the ant-eater, the lama, the puma, the jaguar, &c., that are the most important quadrupeds of the New World,” he proclaimed. This upset lots of delicate new Individuals, none extra so than patriotic the younger Republican Jefferson.

As minister to France, Jefferson was decided to show America’s virility to the Europeans. On one journey he packed a big panther pores and skin with the concept of shaking it below Buffon’s nostril. Later he produced a moose. The French had been unimpressed. Determined for America to look larger and higher than everybody else – and to advertise US democracy because the superior type of authorities – Jefferson then employed a number of teams of hardy pioneers to safe him a mammoth.

He had heard rumours of enormous bones discovered by explorers in varied wilderness areas. He believed they belonged to a mastodon bigger than something that had ever existed in Europe, and he actively promoted the concept that such a beast may nonetheless roam the nation’s west.

“The bones of the Mammoth which have been present in America, are as massive as these discovered within the previous world. It might be requested, why I insert the Mammoth, as if it nonetheless existed? I ask in return, why I ought to omit it, as if it didn’t exist? Such is the economic system of nature, that no occasion could be produced of her having permitted anybody race of her animals to turn out to be extinct,” he wrote in 1781’s Notes on the State of Virginia.

Mammoth by Chris Flynn, out May 2020 through UQP



Chris Flynn’s new e-book Mammoth is the newest in Guardian Australia’s Unmissable collection

Jefferson’s gambit paid dividends. Mammoth bones had been unearthed from farmland and displayed by people such because the Philadelphia painter Charles Willson Peale. Mammoth fever gripped the nation. A 20lb vegetable grown in New York was proclaimed to be a mammoth radish. A Washington man ate 42 rooster eggs in 10 minutes and declared himself a mammoth eater. In Cheshire, Massachusetts, a Baptist pastor and ardent republican, John Leland, urged his congregation to provide a mammoth cheese weighing 1,235lb. It was gifted to Jefferson, who had it for lunch on New Yr’s Day, 1802.

Jefferson procured and assembled his bones, spending many evenings within the White Home poring over his treasures. His obsession led to accusations of negligence from colleagues and rivals alike. Little may they know that the legacy of a perceived inferiority complicated would embed itself deep within the American psyche and endure for a whole lot of years.

Fashionable presidents have, for probably the most half, softened their stance on trophies and the appropriation of highly effective animal symbols, selecting as an alternative to benefit from the companionship of canines, cats and horses. Democratic presidents have tended extra in the direction of cuddly critters. Along with his beloved canary, Kennedy had a rabbit referred to as Zsa Zsa. Lyndon B Johnson had hamsters. Jimmy Carter had an lovable Siamese cat referred to as Misty Malarky Ying Yang.

Donald Trump, for the document, is the primary president in historical past to haven’t any pets. None with 4 legs, at any fee.