The Victorian period established the modern conception of the dog as an acceptable domestic pet. At the time this poster for a performing-dog show was produced, it would still have been quite uncommon to see many dogs outside of a farming or hunting environment. Bill Sykes’s bulldog Bullseye from Oliver Twist (1828) would have been a novelty in London not just because of his breed, but by the sheer fact of him being led through the streets by his master.
Performing animal shows were very popular during the mid-Victorian period, when they featured in music halls, circuses, magic acts and even scientific demonstrations. The more exotic the animal – or in the case of dogs, the more exotic the breed – the better. The extent of Britain’s empire allowed circus entrepreneurs in particular to import lions, tigers, elephants and seals to Britain, where native audiences would simply have never seen their like before.