Everyone needs a hobby to help them unwind from the stresses of life – and that goes for U.S. presidents too. It’s well known that many of America’s former leaders were partial to a little golf, but some also pursued pastimes that we might generously describe as “unorthodox.” One, for instance, was known to indulge in a little nude swimming, while another had a knack for cheerleading. These are just the tip of the iceberg, so read on to learn about some of the crazy things that presidents used to get up to in their spare time.
George Washington was of the opinion that mules were fine work animals. After all, he reasoned, they were strong creatures, but they didn’t need as much food to function as horses did. So he decided to start breeding them for himself – and he ended up with a lot of them.
Washington’s mule farm could be traced back to a donkey that he received as a present from Spain’s King Charles III. Aptly named Royal Gift, this donkey mated with a horse and the beginnings of Washington’s mule herd were established. Within 15 years, he owned almost 60 of the equine hybrids.
George Washington is known for a lot of things, but not many of us think of him as a top dancer. By all accounts, though, the first president was something of a groovy mover in his day. Washington was adept at the minuet, a haughty sort of dance popular among the upper classes of the time.
Cathy Hellier, a specialist in etiquette from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, has laid out the significance of the minuet. Quoted on the Mount Vernon website, she explained, “Mastery of the minuet was important because this dance began every dance event… It was an exhibition, stepped one couple at a time, in order of social rank – that is, with the highest-ranking gentleman and lady dancing first, and so on down the line. Everyone else watched and commented, often recording their impressions in their diaries.”