Dogs may have always had their days, but in Europe they didn’t always live in the lap of luxury. Granted, there is plenty of evidence that ancient civilizations and Asian cultures loved their pets, but by and large, dogs in England in the centuries before the Victorian era were sporting, hunting, or working animals.
The very names of the breeds spoke to their purpose. That’s why some of the earliest were pointers, setters, retrievers—all gun dogs. Foxhounds hunted foxes, shepherds herded sheep, bulldogs baited bulls. Turnspit dogs literally turned spits in kitchens by walking inside a wheel connected to the spit (some believe that this breed was akin to the Welsh corgi).
That’s not to say that pets did not exist earlier in England. It is not difficult to find early paintings of pugs portrayed with their adoring masters and mistresses, and King Charles II is often depicted with his favorite spaniels. But despite the impression that the existence of this artwork might create, until the Victorian age, keeping dogs as pets was a largely aristocratic luxury.
That changed, in part, because of Queen Victoria herself, with her love of Dash, her King Charles spaniel. She and the royal family had a number of pets, including several dogs of varying breeds. Victoria was single-handedly responsible for popularizing the smaller Pomeranian; she even bred a number of them in her own breeding kennel.
Victorian times also saw the rise of the middle class to dominance, and how better to show off this newfound success than to have pets of their own to coddle and spoil? It is probably not coincidental that the rise of dogs being kept as pets occurred alongside the establishment and growing influence of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, founded in 1824. The first dog show occurred in 1859, and the Kennel Club was founded in 1873. By the time the Victorian age ended, dogs as pets were a well-established and treasured part of daily life.
About PROJECT DUCHESS
From New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries comes a sparkling new series about an oft-widowed mother’s grown children, who blaze through society in their quest for the truth about their fathers and in the process find that love just might conquer all…
A series of stepfathers and a difficult childhood have left Fletcher “Grey” Pryde, 5th Duke of Greycourt, with a guarded heart, enviable wealth, and the undeserved reputation of a rogue. Grey’s focus on expanding his dukedom allows him little time to find a wife. But when his mother is widowed yet again and he meets the charmingly unconventional woman managing his stepfather’s funeral, he’s shocked to discover how much they have in common. Still, Grey isn’t interested in love, no matter how pretty, or delightfully outspoken, the lady.
Beatrice Wolfe gave up on romance long ago, and the arrogant Duke of Greycourt with his rakish reputation isn’t exactly changing her mind. Then Grey agrees to assist his grief-stricken mother with her latest “project”: schooling spirited, unfashionable Beatrice for her debut. Now that Beatrice is seeing through Grey’s charms to his wounded heart, she’s having trouble keeping him at arm’s length. But once Grey starts digging into her family’s secrets, she must decide whether her loyalties lie with her family or with the man whose lessons capture her heart.
Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times best-selling author of more than 50 novels and works of short fiction (some works written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin or Deborah Nicholas). With more than 9 million books in print in more than twenty languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fiction. Visit Sabrina at or on the social media platforms below.