Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born on 30th November 1874. He is not only known as a great wartime leader, but a British Army officer, writer, historian and artist. What many people don’t know about Churchill is that he was also a great animal lover.
Animals as gifts
He owned a variety of animals from when he was young, right up until his death in 1965. Many were given to him as gifts, including: swans, a platypus, fish, a waterfowl, geese, sheep and pigs. An admirer of Churchills even gave him a lion, which was named ‘Rota’ and (sensibly) housed at London Zoo.
Fond of cats
Churchill was fond of cats, the smaller domesticated variety, and owned ‘Jock’, ‘Mickey’, ‘Tango’ and ‘Nelson’, Nelson was even allowed to sit in a chair next to Churchill, in both the dining rooms and the Cabinet. He also owned a budgie called ‘Toby’ and a macaw called ‘Charlie’ who, so the rumour goes, he then taught to swear, and make extremely rude remarks, about Hitler and the Nazis.
Churchill seemed to love dogs most of all, even making up a poem about his daughter’s Pug when it was ill. Although he is often associated with the Bulldog, he only ever owned one of these (a dog called ‘Dodo’ who he bought when he was 17). Surprisingly, it was Miniature Poodles that he preferred.
Rufus and Rufus ll
He owned two Poodles during his life, ‘Rufus’ and ‘Rufus II’. Sadly, the first Rufus died after being hit by car and although Churchill was offered a Bulldog to replace him, he chose another Poodle and named him Rufus II (although he was always referred to as just Rufus). Rufus was very spoilt and had his dinner in the dining room with the rest of the family. A cloth was laid out on the carpet, beside Churchill, and no one else ate until the butler had served Rufus’s meal.
It is also said that one evening at Chequers, whilst watching the film ‘Oliver Twist’, Churchill covered Rufus’s eyes just before the scene where Bill Sykes drowns his dog and said to him, “Don’t look now, dear. I’ll tell you about it afterwards.” So it sounds as though despite his ‘Bulldog-like’ tenacity, underneath he was as soppy as the rest of us when it came to his dog.