How LBJ's Dog's Ears Became A National Concern In 1964

By | September 24, 2019

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LBJ Library photo by Cecil Stoughton

In 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson lifted a beagle by its ears in front of reporters, he enraged animal lovers and animal rights groups. Johnson, a Texan and dog lover, pulled the stunt to make the dog yelp before some visiting businessmen, according to Life magazine, and said "It does them good to let them yelp." He claimed he didn't think he was hurting the dog, but Humane Society spokespeople begged to differ, and Johnson caught heat from activists' public statements and newspaper editorial pages. It was a public bickering match that the President wasn't going to win. Today, the photo and the botched response stands as one of the most memorable presidential gaffes of all time.

Johnson Had Bigger Problems Than His Dogs

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LBJ walking with Him and Her. Source: (

Following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Johnson took over as President and was just five months in the office when, on April 27, 1964, he lifted a beagle named Him by the ears on the White House lawn. 1964 was a year of turmoil, from the Vietnam War to the battles over Civil Rights -- but this one photo-op gone awry captured the attention of the nation for a brief time, overshadowing some of the more pressing news of the time.

According to The Pawprints of History, Johnson's quote in the moment was:

Ya see, pulling their ears is good for a hound. Everybody who knows dogs knows that little yelp you heard just means the dog is paying attention.

Dog lovers wrote the White House to express their disappointment, and spokespeople from animal rights organizations made statements or gave interviews. As a representative of the New York ASPCA put it, "If someone picked you up by the ears, you’d yelp, too."