The Dogs of President James Buchanan

President James Buchanan, who served a single term beginning in 1857, owned one
of the largest dogs to ever grace the White House.

Lara, a Newfoundland, became a minor celebrity during Mr. Buchanan's term in
office.

While he didn't have a large quantity of pets compared to other Presidents, he did
have some of the most exotic - including a herd of elephants and an eagle!

Lara said to have weighed around 170 pounds, making it one of the largest dogs to ever share a President's time in office. There is very little information about the dog's personality, although Lara is said to have had a strange habit of spending hours lying down with a single eye open.

At the time, Newfoundland dogs were a relatively rare sight. The breed had only existed for around half a century and many people had never seen these large and impressive dogs before. This was before the era of cheap photography, so a hand drawn picture of Lara was published in a popular magazine to show the public what the dog looked like. This led to it becoming something of a celebrity amongst the American people.

As all Newfoundland dog owners know, the breed can make a great family pet but only if it's trained correctly. An unruly terrier or poodle is one thing, but when you own a 170 pound dog it's essential to have complete control at all times. In general, the breed has a very sweet and kind nature, and is also quite intelligent. This means the dogs can be trained to a high level, although their strong will and determination can make this a challenge. Training a Newfoundland requires dedication, a calm attitude and consistency.

Presidents often like to own masculine and sturdy dogs, so it's easy to see why Mr. Buchanan might have chosen Lara. The breed usually isn't aggressive, but can become very protective of its owner if it feels threatened. Unlike many other breeds, Newfoundland dogs are usually intelligent enough to understand the difference between a harmless stranger and one that is a threat.

James Buchanan didn't have a wife, so his niece Harriet became the unofficial First Lady instead. She was gifted a terrier called Punch by the US consul in England. Punch was a tiny dog, so the sight of him and Lara together must have been amusing. Newfoundland dogs are usually gentle with other dogs, but can become antisocial if they aren't properly socialized early in their lives. It's highly unlikely that Lara would have seen Punch as a threat.

Mr. Buchanan's most interesting pets were a herd of elephants. These were a somewhat extravagant present from the King of Siam. The President immediately asked the zoo to look after the herd, which was probably a wise move. The President is also said to have owned an eagle while in office, although it's not known whether it lived at the White House or it too was housed in a zoo.