Although he became president in 1877 after losing the popular vote in one of the most contentious elections in American history, Rutherford B. Hayes is considered by many to be one of our nation’s most dignified leaders.
With eight dogs, three cats (including a couple of presidential Siamese cats), a goat, a mockingbird, three canaries, and a few cows, Hayes also is near the top of the list in terms of number of White House pets.
The Original First Family
Hayes and his wife, Lucy, were the parents of eight children, although three of them died in infancy. Hayes, his wife, and his daughter Fanny, who was 10 when her father entered the White House, loved animals.
The family — actually the first to be called the “first family” — made their animals part of their everyday lives in the presidential mansion.
President Hayes himself noted in a letter that the pets gave “a Robinson Crusoe touch to our mode of life.”
Rutherford Hayes’s Mastiff
One of the family’s favorites was Duke, an appropriately named English mastiff.
Large and powerful, yet gentle and loving, mastiffs require regular light exercise and little grooming. Mastiffs were not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1885, so Duke was probably the first mastiff many Americans had ever seen.
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True to his breed, Duke was undoubtedly very loyal to his family and provided some serious watchdog behavior over the Hayes children.