Last word on America’s first pets

The last in the series of articles about America’s First Pets.

Remember the pigmy hippo we teased you with at the beginning of our articles? Well, President Calvin Coolidge of Rebecca the Raccoon fame was the owner of Billy, the pigmy hippo, given to him by Mr. Firestone of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. For being a “pigmy,” Billy was six feet long and weighed 600 pounds.

Billy the Pigmy Hippo

Billy spent his years at the National Zoological Park (his first house was with the lion!), and made one trip to the 1939 New York World’s fair. He had 23 offspring, many named Gumdrop (Gumdrop I, Gumdrop II, and on to Gumdrop XVIII) because a little girl had once remarked that one of the baby hippos looked like a big licorice gumdrop.

All of the Gumdrops were traded to other zoos for exotic animals, such as yaks, cockatoos, and marsupials. Because of this, Billy is the direct ancestor of nearly all the pygmy hippos in American zoos.

Still hungry for more about America’s pets? Here are two fun ones to end with:

Brush Once Daily

George Washington, the first U.S. president who famously had no teeth (he had one molar) and wore dentures (they weren’t wooden), had his horses’ teeth brushed before he would ride them.

Mocking Bird Mocks

Thomas Jefferson, the third U.S. president, and his mockingbird, Dick, would play a duet, President Jefferson on the violin and Dicky whistling. Dick could imitate any sound, including a barking dog. He would hop up the stairs to bed after President Jefferson.

President Jefferson had four mockingbirds over the years, but Dick was his favorite

Author: Kathleen Vincenz