Lions, apes and bears! Here are 12 non-traditional TV pets

These exotic animals were prominent characters themselves. Would you rather own an ocelot or an alligator?

Image: The Everett Collection

No family sitcom is complete without an adorable dog. Of course, some television characters are cat people, which has led to some memorable felines on television. For one brief episode, the Bradys had both.

Yet, if you're creating a show about a cool, eccentric detective, or one about a rural child and his beloved tame beast, a more exotic animal is required. Any cop can adopt a bloodhound, but beware the private eye who lives with a South American ocelot. 

We rounded up some of our favorite non-traditional pets from TV history. If this list proves anything, it's that it was a zoo out there in the network lineups of the 1960s and '70s.

1. Arnold the pig on 'Green Acres'

Petticoat Junction had its cute dog (played by Benji!) but this other sitcom set in fictional Hooterville stuck to its farm roots with one pampered pig. Arnold enjoyed watching Westerns on television and attended the local school.

Image: MGM Television

2. Bear on 'B.J. and the Bear'

In the late '70s, we were mad for truckers and their loyal simians. Clint Eastwood teamed with a orangutan in Every Which Way but Loose, while roaming trucker Billie Joe McCay partnered with his chimp, Bear, who was named for the famed Alabama Crimson Tide football coach. Sadly, Sam the chimp, the actor ape who played Bear, died of liver cancer not long after the series ended. Shout out to the chimps Karanja and Oopsie, who acted as Sam's stunt doubles.

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution

3. Ben the bear on 'Gentle Ben'

Young Clint Howard got cuddly and cozy with a 700-pound-ish black bear in this beloved show. Bruno the bear actor also appeared on an episode of Gunsmoke ("Tatum") and in several films. The series, which aired from 1967–69, was produced by Ivan Tors, who became the king of the family animal show. We'll get to more of his creations below.

Image: IMDB

4. Bingo the Chimp on 'The Abbot and Costello Show'

First of all, he was a she. The nippy chimpanzee, who would dress up in outfits to match Costello, was fired for biting Costello. Don't bite the hand that feeds you, indeed.

5. Bruce the ocelot in 'Honey West'

Anne Francis played the hip title investigator in this stylish 1965–66 series. A mere housecat would not suffice for the deeply cool Honey, one of the first female detectives on television. She'd rather snuggle up with a larger South American cat. Bruce himself enjoyed animal shows. He liked to watch Daktari, as we learn in "The Fun-Fun Killer." Honey asks the ocelot, "Oh Bruce, why do we always have to watch your show?"

6. Clarence the lion on 'Daktari'

Speaking of Daktari, the family series about veterinarians in Africa, another Ivan Tors production, was based on the film Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion. Clarence had his chimp pal, Judy, too. Judy the chimp also popped up on Lost in Space in the episode "Debbie the Bloop."

Image: MGM / Warner Bros. Television

7. Elvis the alligator on 'Miami Vice'

A guard alligator — what better way to protect all those expensive white blazers? Crockett got his toothy pet from his alma mater, the University of Florida, where the animal was retired after taking a snap at a Bama wide receiver. (He would not get along with Bear the chimp.) The gator lived on Crockett's boat, St. Vitus Dance, and can be seen best in the episode "Stone's War."

8. Flipper the dolphin on 'Flipper'

"Faster than lightning"! So the theme song proclaimed. (We bet that tune is stuck in your head now.) That is one fast dolphin! Flipper was portrayed by a group of females, including Kathy, Susie, Patty and Squirt. Oh, and sorry to ruin it, but the sound of the dolphin's voice was apparently a modified kookaburra call, not a dolphin.

Image: MGM / Orion Television

9. Fred the cockatoo on 'Baretta'

Lala, the cockatoo star so often seen on Robert Blake's shoulder, has a fascinating backstory. The bird came from Hong Kong, and was smuggled into America with a bunch of chickens. The animal's first language was Chinese, though ace trainer Ray Berwick gave the cockatoo English lessons. Lala also had stunt doubles.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. Mister Ed the horse on 'Mister Ed'

What is it with farm animals and sunglasses?

Image: MGM Television

11. Salty the seal on 'Salty'

This more obscure take on the familiar Flipper formula was aired in syndication in the 1970s. Salty is the companian to two boys living in the Bahamas.

Image: Ivan Tors Productions

12. Spot the dragon and Igor the bat on 'The Munsters'

The Munsters had a handful of appropiately spooky pets, best featured in the episode "Bats of a Feather," when Eddie wants to bring an animal to the school pet fair. Here we see the fire-breathing Spot, who has hidden under the stairs, though Igor the bat gets far more screentime. Along with Kitty, the cat with a lion's roar, the Munsters also kept a raven named Charlie in their cuckoo clock.

Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution

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