Exhibitions of exotic animals were always guaranteed to draw large crowds during the Georgian period and became a surprisingly familiar feature of the growing urban landscape. In London, exotic animals – both alive and dead – had been exhibited at public meeting places for centuries, mainly in taverns and coffee houses. The Tower of London had also boasted a permanent display of Lions since medieval times, which later grew into the famous Royal Menagerie by the 18th century, including ostriches, leopards and monkeys.

By the 1760s however a distinct trade in animals sold for private exhibition purposes was in full swing in London, based mainly along the Strand and in Piccadilly. Numerous private exhibition halls opened to satisfy the curiosity of sightseers, such as the world famous Exeter Change menagerie which for 50 years offered visitors a glimpse of lions, tigers and monkeys housed in iron cages. When visiting these private collections in 1805 one American visitor noted how he was able to observe in just one day a leopard, orang-utan, rhinoceros and an elephant (among many other species), all within a relatively small area of the West End.