Theodore Roosevelt loved his horses, but he had a lot of other pets as well – some of whom made headlines. Pete was one such notorious pet.
Pete was reportedly a bull terrier, although he’s also been listed as a Boston Bull terrier and a bulldog, respectively. It should be noted that in a letter to his son Kermit, Theodore Roosevelt labeled Pete as a “bulldog.” However, as there has always been a bit of confusion and mis-labeling when it comes to bull terriers of all kinds and bulldogs, it remains unclear just what Pete’s actual breed was for certain.
Whatever his breed, Pete was much loved by the family, even when he did things that they didn’t necessarily enjoy. In a letter dated 4-7-1907, Roosevelt told son Kermit that “We have had rather a tragedy about Pete. He has killed four squirrels. Dr. Rixey, who is a philosopher, insists that it is all right and proper as it shows that the squirrels were getting so careless that something was sure to kill them anyhow; but it makes both Mother and me rather melancholy. On the other hand, Pete loves us so and is such a ridiculously affectionate, fighting bulldog that we have not the heart to get rid of him.”
Unfortunately, the Roosevelts were eventually forced to change their views. Pete didn’t just enjoy catching squirrels, he was also prone to nipping or biting people who displeased him. At first, when Pete took a bite out of some naval officers and cabinet ministers, “Roosevelt waved the incidents off as ‘the nature of the breed’ or ‘his attitudes towards their political stances,’” says Stanley Coren in The Pawprints of History: Dogs in the Course of Human Events. Pete went on to bite several others including policemen and diplomats.
Pete’s final straw was the biting of French Ambassador Jules Jusserand. According to Coren, Pete chased Jusserand “down a White House corridor, ultimately catching up with him and then tearing the bottom out of his pants.” This incident made the news in a major way, as Pete had a history of this type of behavior but also because the French government formally complained about the incident.
It was at this point that Pete was exiled. From an archived news clipping, it appears that Pete was first exiled to a local doctor’s home, to live in the back yard. Presumably so that he could be near the family and yet all visiting dignitaries could maintain their dignity. However, Pete struck again when he took a bite out of a lineman who had stopped by to do some work at the doctor’s home. It is at this point that it appears that Pete was exiled to the family’s Sagamore Hill home.