Unlikely Wildlife Companions Throughout History

About a month ago, the small town of Thousand Oaks, California was haunted by the ghost of a cobra – an albino monacled cobra, to be specific. For four days, this snake, believed to be kept as a pet before being released into the wild, slithered his way through the neighborhood, terrorizing the populace by mostly hiding in the brush. While the cobra was eventually caught, the lesson is clear: wildlife are not meant to be pets.

But Thousand Oaks is not the first community to see an unusual animal being treated as a pet. Tippi Hedren and her daughter Melanie Griffith had a pet lion who featured in a documentary called Roar – and they aren’t the only ones to hear the call of the wild in their home. Throughout the ages, historical figures have counted some weird creatures as their animal companions. Here’s a look at 4 unlikely wildlife companions and the people who loved them:

Tycho Brahe’s Party Elk

Noted 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe lived an interesting life, to say the least. From the duel that cost him part of his nose to the rumor that he was poisoned for having an affair with the queen of Denmark, Brahe’s claims to fame are numerous and odd. Among his unique life choices is his decision to have a pet elk, which he prized and routinely showed off to all visitors. Unfortunately, the elk met an untimely and bizarre end when Brahe sent it to a nobleman’s house as his representative, it got drunk on beer, and fell down the stairs. The party elk was no more, but the lesson lives on: Elk are not pets, and you shouldn’t get wildlife drunk.

Bull Elk
Bull Elk. Photo Credit Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

(not pictured: the party)

Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidential Menagerie

The president who caused the invention of the teddy bear was a known animal lover, so it’s no surprise that during his time in the White House he had a variety of unusual pets. Roosevelt’s personal zoo included a parrot, bears, a lion, a coyote, a zebra, and a one-legged rooster. Roosevelt also passed along his love of wildlife to his kids – his daughter had a garter snake named Emily Spinach and his sons were very fond of the family pony, which they brought into the White House on at least one notable occasion. (Which just goes to show you – kids, keep asking your parents for that pony! Teddy Roosevelt had one and he was president.)

Garter snake by Paul Marsh
Garter snake, photo by Paul Marsh

Salvador Dali’s Crazy Cat Lady Tendencies

Salvador Dali was so in love with his pet ocelot, Babou, that he insisted on taking him everywhere. Babou was fully decked out with a leash and a studded collar and traveled in style with Dali, getting his own silk setee, cruising on a luxury liner, and even going to restaurants with Dali – something which terrified another patron so much that Dali quipped that Babou was a normal cat that he “painted over in an op art design”. And people judge me for trying to take my cat on walks.

Ocelot. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Leanne Sullivan.

Lord Byron’s Protest Bear

Lord Byron, noted 19th century Romantic poet, attended Trinity College. Much like any other freshman who didn’t read the move-in manual, Byron was dismayed when he found out he couldn’t keep his beloved pet dog on campus. Being a reasonable human being, he did the only thing he could: he got a bear instead. Technically, Trinity’s “no pets” policy only extended to canine companions, so Byron got to keep his (reportedly well-behaved) bear and, in a letter to his sister, he stated intent to get it a fellowship. Bear college doesn’t come cheap.

Black Bear cub (photo: Noah Katz)
Black Bear cub (photo: Noah Katz)

While you can’t have a bear for a pet, you can symbolically adopt one over at our Adoption Center!

AdoptNow-150x26-Green You can help protect wildlife (in the wild where they’re happiest), and still bring home a cute critter with a symbolic adoption!

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Published: October 27, 2014