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A Brief History of Presidential Pets: Champ and Major Biden

Left: Major, right: Champ; photo courtesy of ABC News

Joe Biden’s presidency has already brought many changes. Along with President Biden being the United States’ oldest sitting president and Kamala Harris being the first woman and woman of color vice president, the first shelter dog has just taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Bidens’ two German Shepherds, Champ and shelter puppy Major, join a long tradition of presidential pets. For example, the Biden dogs were preceded in the White House by the Obamas’ Portuguese water dogs Sunny and Bo. President Biden and Dr. Biden got Champ from a breeder and have owned him since 2008. Major, on the other hand, was born in 2018 and adopted by the Biden family from the Delaware Humane Association. On Jan. 17, 2021, the association performed an “Indoguration Ceremony” for Major to celebrate his transition to life in the White House. A $10 donation to the Delaware Humane Association was required for dogs around the world and their humans to virtually attend the event.

The tradition of dogs in the White House began with George Washington, whose pets included three coonhounds named Drunkard, Taster and Tipsy, an Andalusian donkey named Royal Gift and Cornwallis the greyhound. James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump are the only presidents in American history who served without a pet in the White House. Many dogs of former U.S. presidents, such as George W. Bush’s Australian Shepherd mix Freddy, took to Instagram to congratulate Champ and Major on their newfound status. They moved in on Sunday, Jan. 24.

Both Biden dogs have a social media presence on Twitter and Instagram. They appeared in a holiday-themed video released Dec. 24, 2020, on YouTube, and the “Oval Pawffice” Twitter account is dedicated to bringing attention to overcrowded animal shelters across the country.

By Claire Heins, Staff Writer

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