Hippos in the White House

Much is being made lately of President Obama’s choice of a new pet for the White House. It’s definitely going to be a dog, but what breed? Thirtieth president Calvin Coolidge had no such decisions. He simply collected all sorts of animals, assembling a menagerie of two lion cubs, a bobcat, a goose, a donkey, an antelope, and a wallaby, along with the more plebian cat and six dogs. The star attraction in his personal zoo, though, was a Liberian pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Billy was given to President Coolidge as a gift from tire mogul Harvey Firestone, who may have wanted to rid himself of the 6-foot-long, 600-pound portly pygmy.

Coolidge finished out his life at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, where he found work as a stud, siring 23 little hippos, many of whom live on in zoos around the country.