Owning exotic pets has been fashionable and attractive since olden times, when only leaders and rich men afforded to have strange animals from different lands brought to them. It was, just like jewelry or castles, a way of showing to what extent your power reached, of showing your superiority and uniqueness and it made the people believe that their kings and emperors were anointed by the gods. The Egyptian pharaohs understood that very well, which is why kings like Ramses II and Ptolemy II owned a lion and respectively, a bear, with which they are depicted in battles and at ceremonies as well.
Other high ranking men that owned exotic pets were the Roman Consul Licinius Muraena who reportedly owned some 6000 Moray Eels or the despised Emperor Nero who owned a tiger called Phoebe. The Tigress would sit at the table with Nero and his guests and would share his dinners. Not even the popes thought themselves above this, so we have Pope Leo who received a white elephant from King Manuel I of Portugal at his coronation. Ivan the Terrible owned bears as well, but he maltreated them and kept them unfed so he could throw his enemies in their cages to be ripped apart.
Josephine Bonaparte had an orangutan that she loved very much, but she also owned other exotic pets such as kangaroos, birds and emus. Mozart himself owned a starling which amused him with its ability to mimic music, even some of his own works. Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, owned an ocelot which he had named Babou; these are wild and savage animals as well and could have easily injured their masters.
These are just a few examples of important historical figures that have owned exotic pets, but there were many other as well. Like mentioned above, high ranking figures and rich people usually managed to get their hands on exotic pets, usually through illegal means. Nowadays owning exotic pets is still a trend, but for the most part this has become illegal. It is ruthless to own a pet that was not made to live in your climate and that you can’t offer the same conditions that their natural habitat does. Among the more “common” exotic pets that people get are monkeys, usually Capuchin monkeys because they are smaller and thus easier to maintain, but also because of their similarities with humans. Other common exotic pets are reptiles, eagles, rodents, amphibians, spiders or birds, such as parrots.