Before pocket-sized puppies became the norm amongst the rich and famous, alligators and drunken deer could be found mingling at gatherings of noblemen and politicians. These strange pets were quirky sidekicks rather than illegal domestic beasts, providing unlikely friendship to some of history’s most influential figures. And that tradition isn’t entirely in the past — even now, celebrities will occasionally defy the teacup-poodle norm to join the ranks of our bizarre pet-owning forefathers (and raise their Los Angeles neighbors’ eyebrows in the process). Check out some lions, tigers, and bears after the jump.
Tycho Brahe’s moose
Aside from having a stellar mustache, 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe had a pet moose. But this wasn’t just any old moose — it was known to roam free during parties and consume more alcohol than its human counterparts. One evening, the animal allegedly drank too much beer with dinner, fell down the stairs, and died. Moral of the story – kids, don’t let your pet moose upstairs.
Audrey Hepburn’s deer
In 1959, Audrey Hepburn landed a role as a forest girl in the film Green Mansions. With this job came a baby deer named Pippin, given to the actress in order to establish a bond that would translate onscreen. Hepburn kept the deer post-production, creating its bed out of a bathtub and letting it roam about her estate. Mostly, Pippin just followed Hepburn’s every footstep. You know, because Audrey didn’t already resemble an adorable Disney heroine…
Lord Byron’s bear
Lord Byron, one of the 19th-century Romantic Movement’s most famous poets, played owner to a number of unusual species in his lifetime. The strangest, however, served as his roommate at Cambridge’s Trinity College. When the university forbade pet dogs on its premises, Byron stuck it to The Man, made sure that only canines were prohibited by the school’s laws, and found himself a pet bear. Because Trinity officials similarly found no rules restricting bears, Byron and his large, furry friend lived happily ever after. Seriously.
George Clooney’s pig
If you’ve ever wondered who has received the most kisses from notorious heartbreaker George Clooney, we have a hunch that “Max, the star” holds the record. Clooney shared a bond with his beloved potbellied pig that lasted from 1988 until Max’s death in 2006, perhaps the longest relationship in the bachelor’s notorious history of short-term commitments. Take note, suitors: Clooney likes ’em two feet tall, 300 pounds, partially blind, and arthritis-ridden. Preferably at state fairs.
John Quincy Adams’ alligator
In 1826, the Marquis de Lafayette gave John Quincy Adams an alligator. Like any modern-day presidential pet, the Adams’ alligator was allowed to live in the White House with the First Family. It is unclear whether the ‘gator was confined or let free in the house, but it’s safe to say that John Q. never saw an episode of Swamp People.
Salvador Dalí’s ocelot
Salvador Dali’s pet ocelot, Babou, saw more of the world than most of us humans see in a lifetime. The painter took Babou everywhere – even aboard luxury cruises. In recent years, this traveling wild cat has served as inspiration for a pet of the same name and species on the TV show Archer.
Steven Tyler’s pet raccoon
We’re not surprised that Steven Tyler had a pet raccoon as a child, because, well, how could that guy not have a raccoon? During an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, Tyler elaborated on his relationship with the critter, admitting, “I put it on my shoulder and went fishing with it every day.” Are we alone in thinking that Steven Tyler’s childhood sounds like a Mark Twain novel?
Teddy Roosevelt’s White House zoo
Theodore Roosevelt takes the cake for the most unusual presidential pets, with more than twenty animals in the White House at any given time. A crowd favorite was Roosevelt’s one-legged rooster, photographed above. This crippled farm animal was joined by countless dogs, cats, and guinea pigs in the White House, while a zebra, hyena, lions, and bears could be found at the Roosevelt’s Long Island summer house.
Michael Jackson’s monkey
Who can forget Bubbles, the world’s favorite tea-loving chimpanzee? Adopted in the early ’80s, Bubbles slept in a crib in Michael Jackson’s room, used his toilet, and even toured Japan with his King of Pop, perhaps inspiring these chimp-loving Japanese game shows. Honorable mention: Louie the llama.
King George I’s “human pet”
This is a strange one. In 1725, Great Britain’s King George I found an abandoned child living in German woods. Given the name “Peter the Wild Boy,” the child couldn’t be taught to speak and walked on all fours. The fascinated king brought Peter to Kensington Palace, where he remained for the rest of his life known as George I’s “human pet.”