Top Dogs of the BNA | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Top Dogs of the British Newspaper Archive – Presenting a Selection of Our Favourite Canine Snaps

The British Newspaper Archive is a veritable visual treasure trove, and we have come across a selection of wonderful and historic doggy portraits which we can’t help but share.

The Sphere | 23 November 1938

So read on to discover our very special selection of canine photographs, from ‘Herbert’s Wonderful Dog’s to the ‘Most Wonderful Dog in the World,’ from Cruft’s contenders to Battersea rescues, our Archive features some of the best historical dog photography around.

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As soon as the camera was invented, people began taking pictures of their pets, and one of the earliest known examples was a daguerreotype entitled ‘Poodle,’ which was taken some time in the 1850s.

As the twentieth century dawned, there was a huge appetite for dog photography – and most especially photographs of dogs doing human things, whether that be dressed in human clothes, or undertaking human activities, such as riding, or reading newspapers. These slightly twee images may seem a little unusual to us now, but then this kind of Victorian sentimentality was evidence of a gentle type of humour from a bygone age, and a growing national obsession – dogs.

The Sketch | 24 April 1901

And this period also saw the rise of the dog show, as evidenced in our selection of photographs. The Kennel Club was formed in 1873 to coordinate rules for dog shows across the country, whilst perhaps the most famous dog show of them all was first held in 1891, organised by a Mr Charles Cruft, who would lend his name to the annual Cruft’s competition. Cruft’s would go from strength to strength, and is extremely well documented in the pages of our newspapers, which you can search here.

So, without further ado, here is our chronological countdown of the best dog photographs on the British Newspaper Archive!

1. Herbert’s Wonderful Dogs

The Sketch | 24 April 1901

Meet Herbert’s Wonderful Dogs, a troupe of performing hounds who were taking centre stage at London’s Hippodrome in 1901. One reviewer, writing for The Sketch, was floored by their antics, commenting how ‘They not only perform dexterous tricks which are simply amazing, but go through their work with an eagerness and zest that evoke appreciative laughter.’

Singled out for particular praise was Dink, who ‘is the greatest marvel. He is but a mongrel. But Dink throws somersaults, rolls a barrow, jumps through hoops, revels in droll cake-walks, and concludes with a high dive.’

In short, ‘if you want an afternoon’s or evening’s thoroughly agreeable relaxation, drop into the London Hippodrome and see Herbert’s dogs, including the accomplished little champion, Dink.’

2. Human Behaviour 

The Tatler | 3 August 1904

Photographed in The Tatler, 3 August 1904, is one dog riding in ‘American style,’ as well as one learned looking fellow, the caption reading ‘I always put on my glasses to read the evening papers.’ These dogs belonged to another performing troupe.

The Tatler | 3 August 1904

3. Turning The Tables

The Tatler | 5 October 1904

In this quite surreal and charming photograph, it is a dog who is both behind the camera and in front of it, the caption from The Tatler reading ‘Thank you; would you mind turning this way, if you please, just for a few moments?’

4. Dog Days At Crufts

The Tatler | 21 February 1912

By 1912, the annual dog show Cruft’s was garnering more and more attention, and the dogs featured here were not just curiosities, they were competitors, with some also becoming champions.

Pictured above are two such winners, both belonging to Miss E McCheane. On the left is Lad of Adel, who won the Skye terriers open class, and on the right is Adel Darby, winner of the open class for Clydesdale terriers.

Also on show at 1912 was this toy spaniel, whose arrival ‘attracted much attention.’

The Tatler | 21 February 1912

5. A Birmingham Dog Show

The Tatler | 5 February 1913

Here are two ‘fine old English sheepdogs,’ belonging to Mr Christian Young of Newark-on-Trent. The Tatler relates how ‘Mr Young recently swept the board at the Birmingham Dog Show’ with these two, and they are pictured with his young daughter. The Tatler goes on to describe how: ‘The three are deeply attached, and the dogs are very gentle when playing with their diminutive friend.’

6. The Shackleton Expedition

The Sphere | 9 November 1916

A delve into our Archive reveals how dogs were involved in some of the most historic events of the twentieth century. This is true of the 1914-1917 Shackleton Expedition, which represented an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Vital to this attempt were the dogs of the expedition, who are pictured above.

The Sphere gives the following account of how the dogs were treated and cared for on the expedition, and the above picture shows them being weighed, whilst Shackleton’s ship Endurance was stuck in the ice:

The greatest care and attention were paid to the dogs during the long winter months during which the ‘Endurance’ was gripped fast in the ice. They were safely housed in kennels built of snow and fed according to a regular scale. This picture, taken by flashlight during the Antarctic midwinter, shows the animals being weighed to see if they were losing or gaining flesh. One dog was suspended in the scales at the moment when the picture was taken.

  7. Dogs of War

The Bystander | 16 January 1918

As the First World War raged throughout Europe, dogs were employed to send messages, and to help with Red Cross work. This magnificent action photo from The Bystander shows a German dispatch dog  jumping into a support trench, whilst carrying a message.

You can find out more about the brave dogs of the First and Second World wars in our special blog.

8. Peace Time Portraits

‘A Prolonged Sitting’ | The Sketch | 15 October 19

As the Great War finally ended, publications like The Sketch reverted to their favourite sentimental pet portraits. In a recurring section entitled ‘Dog Studies and Dog Verses,’ a cute canine snapshot was included alongside some poetry. The accompanying lines to the above picture, composed by Joe Walker, run ‘Dear Missis, please don’t keep us here all day/Perched on the wall; we want to run and play.’

Whilst the below image, again with an accompanying verse by Joe Walker, shows some expectant pooches watching their master as he makes his way home.

 ‘Under Observation’ | The Sketch | 15 October 1924

9. On the Silver Screen

Myrna Loye, Leila Hyams and Rin Tin Tin | The Tatler | 24 August 1927

The 1920s were the beginning of Hollywood’s golden age, and it wasn’t just the men and the women of the silver screen who were becoming global stars. The Tatler writes in 1927 ‘It is hardly necessary to introduce Rin Tin Tin to his world public,’ as the publication pictures the famous dog with two emerging human stars, Myrna Loye and Leila Hyams.

Rin Tin Tin had been rescued from a First World War battlefield by American soldier Lee Duncan. Duncan trained his new pet, and found silent film work for him. Rin Tin Tin was a sensation; he starred in 27 Hollywood films during the course of his career.

Meanwhile, The Tatler goes on to describe how Rin Tin Tin is ‘incidentally the most popular film actor in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America – and also elsewhere,’ and how ‘Such a wonderfully-trained dog has never been seen on or off the stage.’

Rin Tin Tin is pictured below with his ‘wife,’ Nanette.

Rin Tin Tin and Nanette | The Tatler | 24 August 1927

10. The Biggest Dog in the World

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News | 12 May 1928

Weighing over 210lb, Chief the Irish wolfhound was claimed to be the ‘biggest dog in the world’ in 1928. Owned by Madame Madeleine van der Leeuw of the Netherlands, Chief, by name and by nature, is pictured with Mr R Montagu Scott in the Illustration Sporting and Dramatic News. Mr Montagu Scott, himself an Irish Wolfhound breeder, stood at over six foot high, so it is possible to imagine just how big Chief was!

11. Dogs of Spirit

‘A great fellow with his pipe’ | The Sphere | 18 November 1936

As the 1930s rolled on, pet portraits did not go out of fashion, no indeed, as this spread in The Sphere shows. Above is a characterful shot of a ‘great fellow with his pipe,’ and indeed this particular pooch does appear to be almost human.

The same spread featured this below ‘Box of Mischief,’ namely a ‘bright little’ Pekingese.

The Sphere | 18 November 1936

12. Stars and Dog Stars

Joan Crawford and Puppchen | The Tatler | 2 December 1936

Not only were dogs taking the silver screen by storm, they were also becoming the preferred counterparts of their human co-stars.

The Tatler presents a spread of photographs of actors with their pooches, including the above study of Joan Crawford and her pet Puppchen, whilst musing philosophically how:

 In Hollywood, the home of ballyhoo and artificiality, the best of all companions even more than here, must be a dog. To whom false values do not exist, to whom there is no Deity to save one, to whom rising or falling fortunes are vain as rise and fall the tide.

13. Dogs at Home

The Sketch | 27 July 1938

Technological advances throughout the early twentieth century meant that photography was no longer the preserve of a professional in their studio. So the amateur photographer at home was now at liberty to roam with their camera, and it is no surprise that their pets became a subject of choice.

The Sketch in 1938 ran a special photography competition ‘presenting pet dogs,’ and the above entry is a study of one poor pooch at bath-time. Entitled ‘The Ordeal,’ it was taken by Mr Stephen F. Harris.

The below competition entry has a slightly more jolly subject matter. Here, Mr W.M. Hunter takes a picture of his pet, ‘Ready For His Holiday.’

The Sketch | 27 July 1938

14. Canine Competitors

The Sphere | 6 December 1952 

After the Second World War, where dogs had once again proved their bravery on the front and at home, Cruft’s and other dog shows continued to go from strength to strength.

Held at Olympia, London, the Ladies’ Kennel Association Show saw a record entry of 7,000, including the above two King Charles spaniels. Owned by Mrs Wood, of Stratford-on-Avon, Emma and Piper arrived at Olympia ‘complete in their winter woollies.’

Meanwhile, this ‘canine aristocrat‘ arriving for Cruft’s 1953 was also wrapped up for the cold. Patrols Khanabad Jungi, an Afghan hound owned by Mrs Yates-Bradley, was dressed in a corduroy suit, as seen below.

The Sphere | 14 February 1953

1960 was another record breaking year in the dog show world, with a record number of entries seen at Cruft’s. 30,000 people attended the show, which was again held at Olympia. One of the over 7,000 dogs on show was this Basset Hound with a ‘sad expression,’ Rossingham Damask.

The Sphere | 13 February 1960

15. Rescued and Reunited

Illustrated London News | 15 October 1960

In 1960, Battersea Dog’s Home celebrated its 100th anniversary. First situated at Holloway, North London, the premises was opened on 2 October 1860, led by Mrs Mary Tealby. After ten years, the operation removed to Battersea, where it remains to this day. The Illustrated London News records how two million dogs had passed through the Home since its opening one hundred years before.

The above picture shows a keeper with an armful of new arrivals, ‘who had collected them from police stations.’ These dogs would go on to find new homes, or if they were lucky enough, they might be reunited with their owners. The below photograph shows one of these happy reunions.

Illustrated London News | 15 October 1960

We hope you enjoyed our rundown of our favourite dog pictures on The Archive. We’d love to hear about your pet finds from our newspapers, so don’t forget to Tweet us with your discoveries (not limited to dogs, of course!).


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