Throughout history people have longed for something different than a cat, dog, or bird. They wanted pets that awed, pets that shocked, and pets that if given half the chance would happily devour their idiot owner.
Back in the day it seems it wasn’t enough for a world leader to illustrate his immense power. He also had to showcase his colossal insanity by trying to put a leash on an animal that’s more or less a walking wood-chipper, but for human flesh. Ivan the Terrible kept two pet bears that he would use to maul people who displeased him (when reportedly not just releasing them on the streets for giggles). Both Thomas Jefferson and Calvin Coolidge had pet bear cubs, though the cubs apparently grew frustrated with the divisiveness of politics and inability to pass any laws allowing them to rub provocatively against trees in public. And King Ptolemy II of Egypt had a white bear he made sure led every parade and that some scholars believe was actually a polar bear, despite the fact that Egypt is not exactly known for its ready supply of fresh seal meat.
White House Alligators
Long before the hosts’ actions on “Gator Boys” indicated it was only a matter of time before the series was renamed “Gator Boy” and then “Look At All Those Gators,” alligators were already spending quality time with not just regular folk but also Presidents of the United States. (And, to a lesser extent, the cabinet members who ran screaming in terror every time the pet whipped around the corner). The Marquis of Lafayette left his pet gator with John Quincy Adams (specifically, in the East Room bathtub) when he toured the U.S., thereby proving that guests should always stay at nearby hotels instead. And Herbert Hoover’s son Allan had two pet alligators that freely roamed the White House lawn as Secret Service watched and bet whether Allan was going to grow up to be a serial killer or a Batman villain.
We all know of the monkey who was found left behind in an Ikea wearing a winter coat that was far too fashionable for someone considering a Billy bookcase. But primates have always been considered the ideal pet for those who have a give-or-take approach to their own facial features. Mother of three French kings Catherine de' Medici had a monkey who no doubt wondered when it would be his turn to rule (which could have resulted in a much smaller version of “Planet of the Apes” in which only the Eiffel Tower survives). The wife of England’s King Charles I also had a monkey, because why should France have been the only country of the verge of being ruled by shrieks and flung feces. And, of course, The Man with the Yellow Hat adopted Curious George, a monkey who for some reason didn’t have a tail (which might have been explained in a prequel children’s book that was deemed far too graphic for younger readers and so never printed).
By now it should be clear that rich and powerful people like to have exotic pets not only to symbolize their wealth but also to show they possess so much political clout that they can proclaim, “Let’s ride the pachyderms into battle!” without anyone saying, “Haha, good one.” Pope Leo X had a pet elephant named Hanno who could only understand Portuguese commands and sadly passed away because apparently people back then thought you could cure constipation with gold. Like Pope Leo X, Emperor Charlemagne also received his pet elephant—Abul Abbas—as a gift, although historical records conflict over whether it was an albino, died in battle or from pneumonia, existed at all, or perhaps was just two guys who got stuck inside a Halloween costume.
Peter The Wild Boy
In 1725 a small boy with no family was found naked, walking on all fours, eating grass, and grunting. Of course, “found” is a very nice way of saying he was actually hunted down, chased up a tree, and then captured after the tree was chopped down. The boy—who was unable to speak and had never been indoors—came to the attention of King George I, who was looking for a pet that wouldn’t result in high vet bills and yet still help maintain the royal crown’s reputation as “stone cold cruel bastards.” George I took the boy back to his castle, dressed him up in expensive clothes, and made him do tricks for royal visitors (when not having him beaten). Eventually, the royal family grew tired of Peter and actually had him sent off to a farm. King George I died of a stroke, but hopefully only after being run over by sixteen carriages and a war elephant.
A Unicorn. Because At This Point Why The Hell Not.
Now, the first thing you should know is that this piece is based on a very recent news report—out of North Korea, the nation that told its citizens all the animals of the world openly sobbed upon hearing of the death of their leader Kim Jong-il (who was also praised for always bowling a perfect game). Second, this proof of a supposed former pet of King Tongmyong is based on the discovery late last year of an old rock featuring the words “Unicorn Lair.” Which of course means hundreds of years from now when archeologists unearth the remains of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, people will be left wondering how humanity lost both its magical powers and the recipe to butterbeer. (It should also be noted that North Korea went on to say that they always knew the unicorn was real because they always said it was real, a commitment to fact-checking that led the regime to actually believe an Onion news article saying their leader was voted “Sexiest Man Alive.”)
Why do you like to stare at your dog until it bends its knee in acknowledgement of your power? Let us know in the comments!