Born into an artistic family (his siblings Anne, Sarah, and Samuel were all artists), William Huggins is best known for his paintings of animals (horses, cattle, poultry and other exotic animals like lions and tigers). He was said to enjoy visiting Wombwell's Travelling Menagerie, an animal circus, and the Liverpool Zological Gardens where he could observe and draw animals. He received his first instruction in drawing at the Liverpool Mechanics' Institution, where he won a prize aged 15 for ambitious biblical design. He drew from life using the classes at the Liverpool Academy of Arts or by sketching the animals in Liverpool's zoo. He first exhibited "Androcles and the Lion" at the Royal Academy (in 1842?) and exhibited there regularly until 1875. He became a member of the Liverpool Academy of Arts in 1850 but resigned in 1856 during the split over the Pre-Raphaelite controversy there.