Presidential Pets: Herbert Hoover’s Dogs

President Hoover and his wife enjoyed having dogs in the White House. They had some trouble keeping pets in the busy executive mansion, however.

Hoover’s favorite dog was a Belgian shepherd named King Tut. King Tut met the future US President while Hoover was on assignment in Belgium for President Wilson. Hoover adopted the dog and brought him back to the US.

When Hoover ran for president in 1928, his political advisors looked for a way to soften the public servant’s stiff image. Hoover fished wearing a full suit, so his advisors had their work cut out for them. Their solution was to photograph Hoover with King Tut. In the photograph, a smiling Hoover holds up the dog’s front paws, as if he were begging for votes. After Hoover autographed the photo, it was sent to thousands of voters. King Tut and his master became more popular as a result. The New York Times called it “one of the happiest photos ever made” of Hoover. With the help of man’s best friend, Hoover was elected president.


Herbert Hoover with his dog King Tut before the 1928 election

After he arrived at the White House, King Tut took on the responsibility of guarding both the president and the grounds around his new home. The White House security chief considered Tut “a sergeant, not merely a sentry” as Tut made his rounds each night.

Unfortunately, being on guard 24/7 started to stress the dog out. Tut sulked and stopped eating. Hoover sent him to a quieter residence in the hope that King Tut would improve, but he died in late 1929.

Hoover didn’t make the dog’s death public for several months. The stock market had already crashed and people were feeling the effects of what would be called the Great Depression. Under those circumstances, Hoover didn’t think it was appropriate to grieve publicly over a dog.

Like her husband, First Lady Lou Hoover also liked dogs. She received an Irish wolfhound from a breeder and school friend when she moved into the White House. The friend thought the dog’s enormous size would make him a good guard dog for the president and his family. Sadly, the dog, whose name was Patrick, passed away from an infection shortly after his arrival.

To compensate for this loss, Mrs. Hoover’s friend sent another Irish wolfhound named Patrick II. A contemporary newspaper reported that Patrick was “sensitive, shy, and shaggy.” Mrs. Hoover decided the dog was too shy for the busy White House and traded him for Shamrock, another Irish wolfhound. Shamrock was definitely not shy, but he wasn’t friendly, either. He bit one of the Marine guards at Camp Rapidan. The Hoovers eventually gave Shamrock to a colonel.

Ultimately, neither President Hoover or his dogs stayed long at the White House. In 1932, Hoover ran for reelection without King Tut and lost to fellow dog lover Franklin Roosevelt.


Discoveries in King Tut’s Tomb

On January 3, 1924, Howard Carter discovered the sarcophagus [a coffin made of stone] of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen. He had uncovered the pharaoh’s tomb two years before, but there were many different chambers inside. Carter’s team cleared these chambers, stuffed with furniture, clothing, and other items, before they entered the actual burial chamber. In the first few chambers, Carter said he found “strange animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the glint of gold.” So many items filled the tomb that it took Carter ten years to record everything inside.

The sarcophagus was considered the most spectacular discovery of Carter’s excavation. Finding a burial chamber of an Egyptian pharaoh still intact was a rarity already in the 1920s. Tomb robbers often tore coffins open because dead Egyptian rulers wore valuable jewelry under the mummy wrappings. Fortunately, Tutankhamen’s tomb remained hidden by debris from the excavation of another nearby tomb. Robbers didn’t have the chance to get this far into the tomb.


Howard Carter opening mummy of King Tut, 1925

Howard Carter opening mummy of King Tut


Inside the stone sarcophagus lay three smaller coffins. The first two were wooden but covered in gold. The final coffin, made of solid gold, held the body of the pharaoh. Its worth is estimated at over a million dollars. Inside this coffin lay the body of the pharaoh with his face covered in the now famous golden mask. Carter wrote, “The contents [of the coffin] were completely covered with linen shrouds. As the last shroud was removed a gasp of wonderment escaped our lips, so gorgeous was the sight that met our eyes; a golden effigy of the boy-king of most magnificent workmanship.”

Unfortunately, Tutankhamen’s body was in poor condition because of the ancient practice of pouring perfumes and oils over the mummy during the embalming process. Over time, the oils caused the pharaoh’s body to stick to the inside of the coffin. The golden mask covering King Tut’s face was also glued down; however, once Carter freed the mask with hot knives, he discovered that the mask had protected the pharaoh’s face.

Thanks to this preservation, later scientists successfully performed an autopsy. The test suggested that the pharaoh died at age eighteen, perhaps of a head injury. Exactly how he died is still debated among Egyptologists. Theories range from murder to an accidental wound which doctors at the time could not heal.