Nearly a century ago, a stray cat wandered into the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan and decided to stick around. Hamlet might not have been the first animal ambassador, but he was certainly one of the earliest. The hotel has had cats ever since (seven male Hamlets and three female Matildas).
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts launched a canine ambassador program in 2001, and since then, more and more properties – from luxury hotels to museums to airports – have been adding animals to their staff to create a sense of homeyness and promote guest enjoyment.
Take a look at some of the world’s most endearing animal ambassadors.
Dude, an orange tabby cat, is on staff at the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington, where he clocks into work each day with the museum’s director of facilities, Chris Hayden. Dude was rescued from the museum grounds in 2008 and has since become part of the museum family.
He has his own Facebook page, and the museum staff throw him a big birthday bash each March.
Book a room at Sunset at the Palms in Negril, Jamaica, and you’re likely to meet Betty. This lovable goat joined the hotel team in May 2017 as part of an exchange with a local farmer, where the kitchen would send scraps to feed the pigs in exchange for this goat.
Betty helps with the groundskeeping, loves belly rubs and spends time with her boyfriend, another goat named Royal Brown.
Lu – Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Lucifer, or Lu for short, is believed to be the oldest hippo in the country (he turned 60 in January). He was born at the San Diego Zoo in 1960 and has been living in Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Crystal River, Florida since he was four years old. Watermelon and alfalfa are his favorite foods.
Staff at the Divi Little Bay Beach Resort on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten call their red and green macaw their Divi Diva. Gizmo has been the mascot at the resort for more than 28 years, where she loves to hang out at her namesake Gizmo’s Bar & Grill.
Norman serves as the smiling “Lambassador” for the Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont. Visitors to this outdoor history museum and fully operational dairy farm can learn about the state’s rural heritage while visiting with Norman and his dairy cow, draft horse and sheep friends.
The tradition of keeping ducks at The Peabody Memphis dates back to the 1930s, when General Manager Frank Schutt and a friend brought back some live duck decoys from a hunting trip and placed them in the Peabody fountain. Guests loved it, and a tradition was born.
Nowadays, the ducks visit the lobby fountain at 11 am and 5 pm each day.
Esperanza, a loggerhead sea turtle, serves as the ambassador for the sea turtle conservation efforts at Xcaret Park near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She came to the hospital in 2007 after having been attacked by dogs. Both her front flippers had to be amputated, making it unsafe for her to return to the wild.
Visit North Carolina recently hired Mo as the official Dog Travel Agent for the state. Mo’s site, DogTravelAgent.com, offers resources for finding the best pet-friendly hotels, parks, trails, restaurants and campgrounds for families and their furry friends. Mo calls Charlotte home.
Denver International Airport operates the largest airport therapy animal program in the USA, called CATS. While 99 of the 100 animal squad are dogs, there is one therapy cat, a four-legged volunteer named Xeli. This domestic shorthair was born in 2012 and has been receiving pets at DEN since 2017.
Winston & Churchill – The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills
The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills has two official mascots, a pair of English bulldogs appropriately named Winston and Churchill. Guests can meet the lovable pair at their hangout in Hampton Court, or spot them lounging by the rooftop pool.
Fearrington Farm has been a part of the North Carolina landscape for two centuries. A favorite farm animal among visitors are the black and white belted cows, or Belties for short. They’re a rare breed of beef cattle from Scotland, introduced to the U.S. in the 1950s.
The cows share the farm with black and white goats and black and white Columbian Wyandotte chickens.
Photo courtesy of iStock / bearacreative
Swimming pigs – Big Major Cay
No one knows for sure how pigs made their way to the uninhabited Big Major Cay in the Bahamas (they’re not native to the island), but a group of 20 or so pigs and piglets have become the island’s official greeters.