President Martin van Buren took office in 1837, upon the departure of Andrew Jackson. Interestingly, although he had strong Dutch origins, van Buren was the first President to be considered an “American” as all Presidents before him had been born before the Declaration of Independence was penned.
While not as passionate about horses as Jackson, van Buren did enjoy riding and maintained the stables during his term in office. But Van Buren’s most notable pets had paws instead of hooves. Early in his Presidency, Van Buren received a gift from Kabul al Said, the Sultan of Oman – a pair of tiger cubs. He was delighted with the pair, and began making adjustments to add them to his household.
Congress, however, had something to say about his new pets – that he couldn’t keep them. Van Buren wanted to keep the tigers with him at the White House, and argued vehemently with Congress to be allowed to do so. Congress claimed that the cubs had started their journey while Jackson was still President, making them the property of the United States. Van Buren countered that the cubs had been sent “to the President”, which he now was. In the end, despite Van Buren’s efforts, the cubs were confiscated by Congress and sent to the local zoo.