Theodore Roosevelt and family had many pets during their lifetimes and were well known to be great animal lovers. Snakes, guinea pigs, and the more traditional dog and cat could be seen at any time during the Roosevelts’ tenure in the White House. As the world learned about the family’s love of animals, diplomatic leaders began to send exotic animals as gifts. Among them was a hyena named Bill.
Bill was a gift to President Roosevelt from Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. According to a report in the NY Times on March 13th, 1904, the captain of the vessel that brought Bill to the U.S. stated that Bill “laughed all the time” and conceded that Roosevelt would certainly have his hands full.
However, Roosevelt was not overly fond of hyenas, more than once expressing his opinion that the animals were cowardly at best. Some sources say that Roosevelt did grow fond of this particular hyena and allowed him to live in the White House for a time, begging for scraps from the dinner table and even teaching Bill tricks. In the end though, Bill was sent along with Joe the lion to the National Zoo to live out the remainder of his days.