Pet History

Pet history comes to life.
Pet history comes to life in the image of the hunting dog excited with the wild boar being carried by these two men.

This timeline gives you an idea of the historical value placed on pets and the keeping of animals as friends, playmates and life-enhancers. It’s a bit of pet history for you.


8,000 B.C. – Archeological historians believe that dogs were domesticated some 10,000 years ago. It is thought that dogs were first used while hunting to help the hunters in tracking prey. As well as used for hunting, dogs were trained for guard duty.


3,000 B.C. – Dog breeds known to be around 5,000 years ago were mastiffs, wolf-type dogs, greyhounds, pointers and shepherding dogs.

An ancient Egyptian law made killing a greyhound an offence punishable by death. The ancient Egyptians also believed that cats were demigods and the property of the divine. Cats were to be rescued from fire before humans.


500 B.C. – Ancient Romans kept dogs, birds, cats and horses. Cats were kept to control vermin. The Romans and Gauls used dogs in battle.

After the decline of the Roman empire dogs were not so widely domesticated and roamed in packs, sometimes stealing animals and frightening people in villages.


500 A.D. – Dogs have links with Christianity from very early times. Although Jesus is not mentioned as keeping pets, Saint Roche is known to have had a dog who helped heal people from plague by licking their wounds.


700 A.D. – Saint Hubert was dog breeder in the 8th century and is credited with starting the bloodhound breed.

In medieval Britain cats were sometimes considered to be the property of witches.


1100 A.D. – The French are said to have taken large grey dogs with them on the second crusade to the Middle East and later in the 15th century dogs were with the Spanish troops in battle.


1500 A.D. – Margaret More, the famously well educated daughter of Sir Thomas More was known to keep a monkey, chickens and a rabbit as pets. The picture shows Catherine of Aragon with a monkey.


1600 A.D. – When the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth with the first Pilgrims they took a spaniel and a mastiff.


1700 A.D. – George Washington himself was a dog breeder. Washington is known as the founding father of American fox hunting and is said to have kept 36 hounds and 123 horses for this purpose.

Dogs were used widely in controlling farm animals and also as entertainment in bars and taverns.

Dogs became increasingly popular among the wealthy classes as they were brought out to accompany the hunt. Smaller dogs were kept as pets in the house.


1800 A.D. – Dog breeds became formally recognised in 1576 but the first dog show wasn’t until 1859.

Later in the 19th century, as the industrial revolution meant more families had incomes more animals were kept as pets.

Song birds were kept for their musicality and pigeons were kept and raced by many working men.

The first specially made dog food was sold in England around 1860 but canned dog food didn’t appear until after World War 1.


1900 A.D. – In 1927 a blind American became the first guide dog owner, although the dog had been trained in Switzerland.

In 1928 the first American guide dog training centre was opened.

Dogs were used in law enforcement from the early 1900s and became a common sight working for the Police service and also for customs and excise.

After the invention of central heating people in the United States and in Europe began to keep more exotic animals like snakes and other reptiles.


2000 A.D. – Nowadays all sorts of animals are kept as pets; reptiles, amphibians and mammals. People even keep goats, pigs and chickens as pets.

Pigs, before they were domesticated were hunted and then used to find truffles. They’ve been used to clear forested land for centuries and were even harnessed for driving.

Dogs have been widely used as rescue animals. Perhaps the most famous are the St Bernard’s who are used to find people lost on snowy mountains. Dogs are also used to find narcotics, weapons, explosives and even hidden graves.

For us though, and for the millions of dog and cat lovers in the UK, our pets are beloved friends and receive our love and attention almost as equals.

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