6 Historical Figures with Quirky Animal Companions

RealClear Staff


Today in the US, it is estimated that 82.5 million or 68% of American households are now pet owners, and the pet industry in the United Kingdom is worth over 6.5 billion dollars!

However, having pets is not just a modern trend— Animal companions have been around for thousands of years. Famous people in history, particularly the wealthy ones, have owned a myriad of exotic and strange pets. 

From alligators to talking parrots to regular dogs, here are some of the quirkiest historical figures and the animals they chose as companions.

6. Tycho Brahe’s Moose

Astronomer Tycho Brahe had a tamed moose as a his loyal house pet.

It is reported that the moose would walk alongside Brahe's carriage, and follow him around like a dog. 

Unfortunately, the moose also really loved to get rip-roaring drunk. Yes, the moose LOVED the taste of beer, and would regularly get buzzed on Danish beer to entertain the guests Brahe's home.


5. Gérard de Nerval's Lobster

French poet, Gérard de Nerval, had a pet lobster called Thibault.

Thibault lived in an aquarium, but was also walked around the public gardens of Paris on the end of a blue silken leash. 

The quirky de Nerval himself said, "Lobsters are peaceful, serious creatures, who know the secrets of the sea and don’t bark!”

4. Audrey Hepburn’s Deer

The only woman on this list is Miss Audrey Hepburn. In 1959, Audrey Hepburn got a role in a film called Green Mansions, where she lived in the forest.  

A deer named Pippin was given to the actress in order to establish a believable bond. 

The bond continued off-screen, when Hepburn adopted the deer and built it a bed in a bathtub in her home.

3. Quintus Hortensius' Eel

Ancien Roman orator Quintus Hortensius, who lived in the 1st century BCE, was said to have an eel as a beloved pet.

Yes, a slimy and ugly moray eel WITH TEETH was kept in his garden pond as his companion.

2. Nero's Tigeress

Roman Emperor Nero counted a tigress as his most favorite creature. Legends say that he saw the tigress fight in the Colosseum and took her as his personal companion. 

Nero named her Phoebe, built her a golden cage, and she also joined the emperor at the dinner table. 

1. Lord Byron's Menagerie

The aristocrat and famed poet Lord Byron is definitely the most eccentric pet owner from history— he basically kept a zoo (or menagerie, as it was known back then) as his pets.

Byron's animal entourage included:

- A half-tamed wolf called Lyon 
- A fully-grown bear that he brought to Cambridge University. 
- A black and white Newfoundland dog named Boatswain
- 10 horses
- 8 dogs
- 3 monkeys
- 5 cats
- 5 peacocks
- An eagle
- A falcon
- An Egyptian crane

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