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Pawprints in History Part 4 - Abraham Lincoln and The Presidential Dogs

Updated on June 19, 2013

Abraham Lincoln - Kind to All Animals

The 16th President of the United States is a monumental figure in American history. He is known for freeing the slaves and guiding our country at a very divisive time during the Civil War. In addition to the great contribution he made to our country, he was a well known animal lover, kind, sensitive and caring towards all creatures. .

When Abe Lincoln was a young boy, he and his sister, Sarah, had a yellow dog named, Honey.

As a schoolboy, Lincoln wrote an essay, speaking against cruelty to animals. It was a voluntary writing because he was incensed by some other school boys who would place hot coals on terrapins they would catch. Lincoln, even at a young age, valued the life of all creatures.

There are stories of Lincoln as a young man, rescuing a pig stuck in the mud, he caught two birds that got blown out of their nest. He searched for the nest and returned the birds to their home. He saved an ox and was known to be sensitive towards all animals.

When Lincoln became a lawyer, his partner, William Herndon thought the dogs and cats that were Lincoln’s pets were very therapeutic for him to help ease his depression that sometimes would stop Lincoln from being able to work. Herndon noticed the dogs and cats would bring Lincoln out of his depression.

Fido was Lincoln's Dog

Fido was the first Presidential dog to be photographed.
Fido was the first Presidential dog to be photographed. | Source
Photography was just beginning when Fido was photographed.
Photography was just beginning when Fido was photographed. | Source

Fido - Lincoln's Dog Before He Became President

The Lincoln family loved dogs and many animals. They had many family pets before and during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency. Fido was Lincoln’s best known dog. Lincoln felt great compassion for his pets. He had his dog, Fido when he became President, but did not bring Fido with him to the White House because he thought it would cause the elderly dog stress to move.
Fido tended to be a skittish type of dog. He did not like loud noises and was scared of strangers. Lincoln thought Fido would not do well in the White House environment, and was also concerned about the long train ride and how it might stress Fido. He left Fido with his neighbors, John Eddy Roll and his family, in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

Lincoln left a detailed list about how to care his dog when he left him with his new caretakers. Lincoln did not want the new owners to yell at Fido if he tracked mud through their home and they could never tie him up in the yard. If the dog scratched at the door, he wanted reassurance that they would let the dog in. He had them promise that his dog would eat supper with them in the dining room every night. No one knows for sure what type of dog Fido was. Lincoln also gave the Roll family his horsehair sofa, which was Fido’s favorite piece of furniture.

Although his breed is unknown, he has been described as a dog with a rough, yellow colored coat, with floppy ears. Lincoln had Fido for five years before he became President, and he had a close bond with his dog. Fido spent a lot of time with Lincoln and many people of Springfield would often see Lincoln and his dog walk down the street together. Lincoln was very attached to Fido.

Pawprints in History

Read about dogs in history from ancient times to modern history:

Pawprints in History Part 1 - dogs and ancient history

Pawprints in History Part 2 - dogs in the old world

Pawprints in History Part 3 - George Washington and his dogs

Fido Goes Down in History

When the family was about to move to Washington D.C., Lincoln’s sons Tad and Willy were upset to leave Fido behind. He took his sons and Fido to F.W. Ingmire's Photographic Studio. Fido became the first presidential dog to be photographed.

Although photography was just beginning, Lincoln had the dog photographed while his sons watched. He gave the developed pictures to his children in hopes that it would help them feel like they took Fido with them. Tad and Willy were still disappointed, but Fido made history. Newspapers printed up copies of the photo of Fido, and before long, the most popular name for a dog became Fido.

After Lincoln became President, a dog named Jet wandered into the White House and adopted the first family. It was the middle of October in 1861. Mary Lincoln and the President went to Alexandria Virginia to present flags to the volunteers who were there. As they were driven on the way back to Washington, D.C., a large black hunting dog, a sleek pointer, followed their carriage all the way into the White House, even following Lincoln as he walked through the front doors.

The Lincoln children were delighted to have a dog in the White House, and Jet made himself comfortable among the family. When army surgeon George Suckley read in the newspaper Lincoln was reluctant to give up the dog. but eventually agreed to return the pointer when Dr. Suckley told Lincoln he would give Lincoln one of Jet’s puppies. Lincoln insisted Jet stay with him for the few weeks until the puppy would be delivered. By December, Dr. Suckley returned the White house with the puppy. But Jet had run away, probably looking for the doctor, and so Suckley refused to give the President the new puppy.

Jip - The Presidential Dog

While in office, Lincoln had a few dog.stories. Lincoln had another dog, named Jip. He was a mixed breed, but it is not known what breeds his ancestry was. Jip was a small dog and Lincoln liked to describe him as “a cunning fellow”. President Lincoln would often eat lunch with Jip. Jip was affectionate and playful, and Lincoln would let the little dog sit on his lap, caressing and petting the dog throughout his luncheon. He would even let Jip eat at the dinner table and allowed him to run wherever he chose around the White House.

There were many other pets that were part of the Lincoln family, pets, goats, horses. Mary, his wife was not as fond of the animals as Lincoln was, and they sometimes argued about how much affection he showed them. There are many stories about Lincoln rescuing animals during his presidency.


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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Hi Kathi, Glad you liked the history of Lincoln's dogs.

    • Fossillady profile image


      5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      A doggone good story!! Sad how they had to leave fido behind and interesting to learn how the name originated to its fame.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Yes, Bill, Lincoln was certainly an interesting person in our history. I am saddened by the tragic life he had, it would seem he deserved better.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm trying to imagine Lincoln being unkind to any living being and I can't do it. No surprise that he loved animals too. What an incredible human being he was; wouldn't you have loved to have sat down with him and picked his marvelous brain?


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