Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s Peculiar Pals: The Wild and Whimsical World of Ernest Hemingway’s Pets

When we think of the legendary American author Ernest Hemingway, we may conjure up images of his rugged adventures, his larger-than-life personality, and his passion for the written word. However, there was another side to Hemingway that is often overlooked: his profound love for animals. Known to have a soft spot for furry and feathered creatures, Hemingway’s life was filled with a fascinating array of pets. From polydactyl cats to boxing kangaroos, his menagerie was as colorful as the characters in his novels.

Paws with a Twist: Hemingway’s Six-Toed Cats

Hemingway’s most famous pets were undoubtedly his cats, especially those with a genetic quirk known as polydactylism. These cats, known as “Hemingway cats,” have an extra toe on each paw, giving them a distinctive appearance. The story of Hemingway’s love affair with these unique felines began in the 1930s when a sea captain gifted him a six-toed cat named Snow White.

At the time, Hemingway was living in Key West, Florida, and Snow White quickly became part of the family. As Snow White produced kittens with the same unusual trait, Hemingway found himself with a growing brood of polydactyl cats. Even today, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is home to around 50 descendants of Snow White, still roaming the property and enchanting visitors from around the world.

The Avian Adventures: Hemingway’s Feathered Friends

In addition to his famous cats, Hemingway was also known to have a penchant for birds. Among his many avian companions were a pair of lovebirds named Ada and Rex, and a mischievous raven named Charlie. Hemingway often wrote about his birds, including Ada, who appeared in his novel “Islands in the Stream.”

Perhaps the most unusual of his feathered friends was a pigeon named F.P.1, short for Flying Pigeon Number 1. Hemingway acquired F.P.1 in Paris during the 1920s and was so taken with the bird that he even allowed it to sleep in his bed. When it came time for the author to leave Paris, he couldn’t bear to part with F.P.1, so he smuggled the pigeon back to the United States in his overcoat.

Jumping Jehoshaphat: Hemingway’s Boxing Kangaroo

It wasn’t just cats and birds that captured Hemingway’s heart – his eccentric collection of pets also included a boxing kangaroo named Jehoshaphat. The author had a well-known fascination with the sport of boxing, and when he discovered that kangaroos were capable of boxing, he couldn’t resist acquiring one.

Jehoshaphat was a fixture at Hemingway’s Cuban estate, Finca Vigía, where the author lived for more than two decades. The kangaroo was often seen hopping around the property, and Hemingway would sometimes stage boxing matches between Jehoshaphat and his friends.

Canine Companions: The Dogs of Hemingway

Of course, no menagerie would be complete without man’s best friend, and Hemingway’s life was filled with beloved dogs. Among the many dogs he owned, some of his favorites included a black Labrador named Black Dog, a white German Shepherd named Simba, and a small mixed breed named Bumby. Hemingway’s dogs were his constant companions, joining him on his adventures and providing comfort during difficult times.

A Love for All Creatures Great and Small

Ernest Hemingway’s love for animals extended beyond just his pets. He was also known to have a deep respect for wildlife and often incorporated his experiences with animals into his writing. For example, his novella “The Old Man and the Sea” tells the story of a fisherman’s struggle with a massive marlin, and his nonfiction work “Green Hills of Africa” chronicles a hunting expedition on the African continent.

Despite his love for hunting, Hemingway had a complex relationship with the natural world. While he admired the strength and beauty of wild animals, he also recognized the importance of conservation. He often spoke out against the indiscriminate killing of animals and worked to promote sustainable hunting practices.

The Legacy of Hemingway’s Pets

Ernest Hemingway’s passion for animals was not just a quirky aspect of his life; it influenced his work and helped shape his unique literary voice. His love for animals is evident in the vivid descriptions and colorful characters that populate his stories. They also provided him with inspiration, solace, and companionship throughout his tumultuous life.

Today, Hemingway’s pets continue to captivate the imagination and serve as a testament to the author’s love for all living creatures. Whether it’s the six-toed cats that still roam his former home in Key West, the tales of his boxing kangaroo, or his enduring relationships with his dogs, Hemingway’s affinity for animals remains a fascinating and endearing part of his legacy.

As we delve into the wild and whimsical world of Ernest Hemingway’s pets, we not only uncover a lesser-known side of the celebrated author but also gain a greater appreciation for the connection between humans and animals. Hemingway’s pets remind us that our love for animals can inspire creativity, provide comfort, and teach us valuable lessons about compassion and respect for the natural world.