You can know a man by the pets he keeps.
That really isn't a famous saying. It's just something I made up.
But the kind of pets we keep do tell something about us.
This column will deal with the pets of two of our past presidents. Since we have just recognized Presidents Day honoring Abraham Lincoln and also George Washington, I've decided to zero in on their pets.
Washington, the first president of the United States, had varied pets, including hound dogs. He had three long-legged Staghounds named Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan. Other hounds were Drunkard, Mopsy, Taster, Cloe, Tipsy, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover and Searcher. Four of his black and tans were raccoon hunting dogs.
Though he loved dogs, President Washington also loved horses. He was an avid horseman. When he died, he owned 21 horses.
He owned stallions named Samson, Steady, Leonidas, Traveller, Magnolia and other horses. Washington also owned two war horses named Nelson and Blueskin. He was so attached to them that after the Revolutionary War he brought both of them to Mt. Vernon to live out their days.
He also owned a horse given to him by General Braddock.
One of President Washington's stepdaughters, Nellie Custis, owned a horse named Rozinante.
A royal gift was Washington's donkey. The donkey was a gift from the King of Spain. Another stud donkey, dubbed the Knight of Malta, was a gift from the Marquis de LaFayette.
Washington was a great man who to this day symbolizes freedom and the foundation of the United States.
Animals were an important part of his life and so is his heritage as well.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States.
A playmate of Abe Lincoln remembered the Lincoln family dog as Honey. It's speculated that the dog was a yellowish dog about the same color as honey.
Fido was the family pet when Lincoln and his wife Mary lived in Springfield, Ill.
Fido was a medium-sized tawny yellow dog of unknown mix. His fur was short and rough, his ears long, tail short.
The Lincolns left the dog in Springfield when they moved to the White House. The dog was given to John Roll, who had boys the same age as Willie and Tad.
The Lincolns replaced Fido with a little dog named Jip. Jip was described as "a very cunning little fellow who could stand up straight on his hind feet."
President Lincoln owned several horses, though not all at once. They included Tom, Belle, Old Buck, a reddish-brown horse named Robin (who was also called Old Bob).
Lincoln rode Old Bob when on the circuit as a lawyer.
Lincoln left Old Bob in Springfield when he went to Washington, D.C. There, he got a new horse named "Old Abe." There is a photo of Old Bob in full regalia taken on the day of Lincoln's funeral in 1865. The reins are held by the Rev. H. Brown, a Negro.
Lincoln's sons, Willie and Tad, had ponies at the White House. Willie insisted on riding his pony every day.
On Tad's 10th birthday, April 4, 1863 (after Willie had died), a new pony arrived at the White House. The Lincolns still had Willie's pony, but this new pony became Tad's. The Lincoln's oldest son, Robert, was away at college during most of Lincoln's presidency.
Gifts received at the White House were two goats, Nanko and Nannie. They had the run of the White House.
Abe Lincoln was always a champion for animal rights.
While in Crawford's school, he spoke and wrote against cruelty to animals. He was annoyed and pained by the school boys who frequently caught terrapins and put hot coals on their backs.
He would chide the boys, tell them their actions were wrong and would write about it.
He contended that "an ant's life was as sweet to it as ours to us."
Two documented stories are written about Lincoln's rescue, in adulthood, of two different animals at differing times.
Lincoln went out of his way to rescue a frightened abandoned dog that was terrified of fording an ice crusted stream. At another time he witnessed a pig stuck helplessly in mud. Though Lincoln was dressed in a nice suit, he backtracked to help the pig escape its muddy trap.
Perhaps President Lincoln was destined to free men entrapped by slavery.
The Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately end slavery for most slaves, but it did pave the way for ending slavery with Amendment 13 to the Constitution in December 1863.
President Lincoln championed for the rights of animals and slaves in bondage.