Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s third president, kept two Briards, shaggy herding dog originally bred in France. The dogs, a gift from France’s General Marquis de Lafayette, reveal Jefferson’s close ties with that country: He was minister to France between 1785 and 1789.
Jefferson also kept a mockingbird, but perhaps the most unusual animals to come into his possession were the members of a small menagerie sent to him by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent that winter at Fort Mandan, in what is now North Dakota. Before they continued their expedition toward the Pacific, they sent Jefferson a shipment containing a grouse, four magpies and a prairie dog — all alive. It’s not clear what happened to the grouse, but according to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the president sent the prairie dog and at least one magpie to the Peale Museum, a gallery of natural history and art in Philadelphia.