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Friday, April 16, 2021

Explained: The significance of presidential pets as Joe Biden’s dogs enter White House

Major and Champ are the Bidens' German Shephards who are being referred to as "First Dogs" and "DOTUS" by some users on social media.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 27, 2021 8:16:09 am
Joe Biden, Joe biden Pets, joe biden pets in White House, white house, US news, indian express explainedThis Nov. 16, 2018, photo, file provided by the Delaware Humane Association shows Joe Biden and his newly-adopted German shepherd Major, in Wilmington, Del. (AP File)

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden’s two dogs, Champ and Major became the first pets to stay at the White House since the Obama administration. Former president Donald Trump was the first president in over a century to not have a pet in office.

James K Polk (1845-1849) is known to have no pets during his tenure at the White House, even though it is said that he learned to ride horses before he could walk, according to the Presidential Pets Museum.

So, who are Major and Champ, Joe Biden’s dogs?

Major and Champ are the Bidens’ German Shephards who are being referred to as “First Dogs” and “DOTUS” by some users on social media, a play on the acronym “POTUS”, which stands for President of the United States. Major is two years old and Champ is 12 years old.

Major was adopted by the Bidens in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association and is the first rescue dog to live at the official residence of the president. On January 17, Major got an “Indoguration” ceremony on Zoom for charity.

As per some media reports, the Biden family may adopt a cat in the future.

Significance of presidential pets

Before Champ and Major, the White House announced the selection of Bo, a male Portugese water dog given to the Obamas by Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife. The Obamas adopted another dog Sunny, a female Portugese water dog in 2013 who was referred to as Bo’s “little sister”. The White House described Sunny as “full of energy and very affectionate”. Bo and Sunny were present at the State Dinner hosted for President Francois Hollande of France in 2014.

Other occupants of the White House include pet hamsters Debbie and Billie, who accompanied the family of John F. Kennedy, a canary Robin and ponies Macaroni and Tex.

According to the White House Historical Association, presidential pets since Theodore Roosevelt’s tenure have been in the public eye and have provided companionship or have humanised the president’s political image. For instance, president Herbert Hoover’s pet, a Belgian Malinois police dog called King Tut is known to have fixed Hoover’s image in the public, which was considered to lack charisma and personal warmth, as per the White House Historical Association.

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George Washington, the first president of the US kept at least five stallions, horses used during the American Revolution and a horse given to Washington by General Edward Braddock, the unsuccessful British commander in North America during the early stages of the French and Indian War.

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