Our research has revealed the true extent of the British love affair with our animals – with 90 per cent of pet-owners admitting that they think of their pet as part of the family. We also found how a third claim to prefer their animals to real life members of their family.
1 in 6 consider their pet more important than their cousin and 6 per cent of owners even like their pet more than their own partner.
Dog owners are the most keen to make their pet a bona fide family member, with 16 per cent choosing to include their 4 legged friend in the 2011 Census. A number of these even listed their dog as their ‘son’ on the official form.
Yet this animal infatuation is by no means a 21st century phenomenon with pets also listed in the 1911 Census. Arthur and Elizabeth Delve from Smethwick recorded the existence of their ‘faithful Irish terrier Biddy’. Biddy, was a ‘magnificent watch and a demon on cats and vermin.’
Another canine in the 1911 Census is ‘Roger the Watchdog’ in Dulwich. Here, his journalist owner James Little listed his age at 5 and a rather fitting profession of & ‘looking after the house’.
Paintings of pets were particularly popular in Victorian Britain when wealthy women sat for pictures with perfectly groomed lap dogs. Interestingly, this trend still persists today with one in 20 of owners confessing they have commissioned a professional portrait of their animal.
As the desire for pets grew, so did the trend for pampering our pooches, which continues today. Historic pet related professions that appeared throughout the 19th and 20th centuries include:
- Animal trainers– Men like George Armstrong from Devon and Charles Kyte from Bridgewater could be employed to ensure that your puppy was perfectly behaved. Both are listed as dog trainers in the 1911 Census
- Dog biscuit maker– Alongside wife Lucy, John Atton from Burton on Trent made sure that no hounds went hungry. He lists his profession as dog biscuit maker in the 1911 Census
- Animal artists – A picture of you and your beloved pet was considered a staple of any Victorian drawing room. Many specialised artists are listed in the census records including artist animal painter John Calow from Glasgow in 1851
Emma Pulman is a Social Media and digital Marketing Executive for Ancestry.co.uk. Based in Ancestry's London office in Hammersmith, Emma regularly tweets and posts on Ancestry's Facebook page.