top of page

Weird & Wonderful Pets From History - Part 1

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

April is National Pet month in the UK and to celebrate, we’ve put together a list of famous pets from history. From the bizarre to the brave, the outlandish to the alarming, the faithful to the ferocious, we’ve got everything in part 1 of this list of history’s best and most treasured domesticated creatures.

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Alligators In The Tub:

John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States of America between 1825 and 1829. He famously received a number of exciting gifts from Marquis de Lafayette, a French military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Amongst these gifts was a pet alligator!

President Quincy Adams is said to have kept the alligator in a bathroom in the White House for a time. Why? Well, it was probably the safest place to house the alligator so it didn’t nibble on anyone. But the president claimed he kept it there so he could scare his guests with it!

A portrait of Unsinkable Sam himself! What a handsome chap!

Who Says Cats Hate Water?:

This black and white feline, originally called Oscar, had his name changed to “Unsinkable Sam”. Why? He survived the sinking of not one, not two, but three ships during World War 2!

The three ships all sank within the same year (talk about rotten luck!). The German battleship Bismarck sank in May 1941, the British destroyer Cossack sank in October 1941 and British Aircraft Carrier HMS Ark Royal sank in November 1941.

And the most impressive part of the story? Unsinkable Sam survived the demise of all three ships without a single injury. Though I bet he was pretty grumpy about the whole thing. Especially as it must have left him with just six lives left out of his original nine.

Fancy trying to pop a necklace on this bad boy? No? Me neither!

Hot On His ‘Eels:

Lucius Licinius Crassus (try saying that name 5 times fast!) was a Roman lawyer and politician. And like many of those featured on this list, he had a liking for unusual pets. Crassus liked eels. In fact, he didn’t just like them, he LOVED them. Crassus is said to have kept a pet eel in a fish pond and would occasionally decorate the eel with necklaces and earrings.

Crassus was so distraught when his pet eel died that he held a funeral service for the deceased fish. And for those of you who were wondering (I was), an eel is a fish, not some sort of creepy swimming snake. Who knew? I also learned that electric eels aren’t actually considered to be a real type of eel (how eel-itist! Get it? Elitist? Eel-itist? Okay, nevermind).

What’s really mind-blowing is that Crassus wasn’t the only Roman to own a pet eel! Although he was probably the only one to adorn his eel with jewellery.

Here's a portrait of Laika the spacedog on a stamp. Yep, she's pet royalty now!

It’s A Space Race, And This Dog’s Gone And Won:

Laika was a good dog. A very good dog. Laika was originally a stray dog off the streets of Moscow in Russia. But she soon found herself a new home, and a new purpose, at the Soviet spaceflight program. Here she trained up to be a real life “spacedog” (this is not an official term, I just thought it sounded adorable!).

On November 3, 1957 Laika became the first living creature to be launched into orbit around planet Earth. She was sent into space on the artificial satellite Sputnik 2.

Unfortunately, Laika didn’t survive the flight, but she will always be remembered for being the bravest pooch, both on and off the planet.

The Lion Battle of Ramses II by Karl Oderich - can you spot the Pharaoh's lions in battle?

There’s No “Lion” Around When You’re The Pharaoh:

Pharaoh Rameses the Great thought of himself as the strongest and richest man in Egypt (and probably the world!). He was rather big-headed and wanted to show off to his enemies. Well, who wouldn’t if you were the Pharaoh of Egypt? But rather than buy himself a big fancy golden hat like most people would in this situation (I have at least five big fancy gold hats, just so you know), he went a step further. He bought himself a pet lion!

Rumour has it that this lion even fought by his side during the Battle of Kadesh. Imagine that! Fighting a battle with a lion! It would be even more awesome if he rode the lion like a horse. And the lion could breathe fire when it roared. And he also had a whole army riding on fire-breathing lions behind him. Is it just me or do you really want a pet lion now?


Did you love this list of weird and wonderful pets from throughout history? Well, here's some good news for you - there's a part two to this fabulous list! You can read it right here!


bottom of page