Presidential Pet Museum, Maryland: Some Presidents Had Unusual Pets

Did you know President Howard Taft had a cow that grazed on the White House lawn? That John Adams raised silkworms? Or that William McKinley raised roosters and Herbert Hoover, an opossum?

Those were just a few of the surprises I found at the Presidential Pet Museum outside Washington, D.C., in Lothian, Maryland. This quirky little find, run by friendly Claire McLean, who's a professional dog groomer, breeder and judge, preserves more than 1,500 presidential pet artifacts and photos.

I was fascinated to learn that presidents have served as veritable zookeepers, owning nearly 400 animals, ranging from zebras, coyotes and badgers to alligators, lizards and raccoons.

Of course, there were plenty of lovable dogs over the years, too. I was wowed by a portrait of President Ronald Reagan's dog "Lucky", made from her own hair! And I didn't know that former Soviet Union Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev gave Caroline Kennedy a dog named "Pushinka".

The museum (1102 Wrighton Rd.) is about 20 miles east of downtown Washington, D.C. via State Highway 4 and about 20 miles south of Annapolis, Maryland, where Highway 4, Wrighton Road and State Highway 258 meet. It's open from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday from April through November, or by appointment.

For details, call 1-410-741-0904.

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