Best in show: top dogs from our collections

To celebrate our most faithful of friends, we've blown a dog whistle and gathered together some of the most popular pooches and cuddly canines from our museums and galleries. It's time for walkies through National Museums Liverpool's collections and displays.

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Table d'Hote at a Dogs' Home by John Charles Dollman

This humorous picture captures a dog's life at meal time. Dollman (1851-1934) was an English painter of imaginative subjects and often included animals in his amusing compositions. At a trough, eating, growling and begging are dogs of various breeds and sizes eager to get started on dinner. This painting, which is not currently on display, is from the Walker Art Gallery's collection.

Peter, the Piermaster's dog

This little dog is from a collection of photographs taken by David E Smith, who specialised in atmospheric images of Liverpool's docks and especially the last remaining tall ships on the Mersey. This image and many other appears in the book 'Tall Ships on Camera', published in 1992, two years after his death in 1990. The Archives Centre at the Maritime Museum holds some prints and the negatives of his images.

Netsuke dog

This is a netsuke of a Pekinese-type dog. A netsuke is a small, carved toggle that was commonly used in Japan from the 17th to 19th centuries at a time when traditional clothing had no pockets. Everyday items, such as money, tobacco and medicine, were carried around in pouches attached to a belt by a netsuke. This netsuke dog is part of World Museum's ethnology collections. It isn't currently on display but you can see other examples of netsuke in the World Cultures gallery at World Museum.

Sarah Rodbard (and her dog) by George Romney

formal portrait of a young woman with her arms round a small fluffy dog on a tall plinth

This portrait is considered to be one of the masterpieces of British artist George Romney's later years. However perhaps the most impressive aspect is that Sarah's small dog stayed still long enough to be incliuded in this portrait. What a very good dog they were.

You can find Sarah Rodbard by George Romney at the Lady Lever Art Gallery.


Very early on in Egyptian history the jackal was an animal associated with death and cemeteries. This may be because people were seeking magical protection against jackals which fed on the dead at night. To ease their minds, the jackal became associated with Anubis, a guardian of the cemetery rather than a scavenger. As the god of mummification and protector of the dead, Anubis was an important god and images of him frequently feature in Egyptian art.

You can see several depictions of Anubis in the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum - and see if you can avoid him to collect ancient Egyptian treasures in our game Escape the Tomb of Anubis.

The Speke dog skeleton

In the late 1970s repair work was carried out in the Billiard Room of Speke Hall and the opportunity was taken to carry out an archaeological excavation under the floor. Amongst the archaeological finds there was the skeleton of a medieval dog, dating from around 1550. Sadly, the dog had no head and only three legs. The circumstances of the lost body parts are something of a mystery. We cannot tell whether these horrible injuries occurred before or after the dog died, and if after death, whether before or after burial. One theory is that they may have been lost during later alterations to the house.

The remains of the skeleton are now on display in the History Detectives gallery at the Museum of Liverpool.

Dog with a Slipper by Edwin Henry Landseer

This black retriever belongs to a painting from the Sudley House collection. It is shown holding a green slipper in its mouth while waiting patiently at the cottage door to be let in. Landseer has captured the wonderful effect of the dog's fluffy fur by using broad coarse brush strokes and small specks of white to create texture and tone.

Boxer dog-shaped pipe

This pipe bowl, in the shape of a boxer dog’s head, is part of a collection of personal items that belonged to John Henry Hesketh, Junior 2nd Engineer on board RMS Titanic. He was from Kirkdale and joined Liverpool’s White Star Line as an apprentice aged 14. He served aboard several ships and when he joined Titanic in 1912 he was 33 years old. Hesketh was in Boiler Room 6 when Titanic collided with the iceberg, and scrambled through the doorway of the passage into Boiler Room 5 before the watertight door closed. Sadly he died in the sinking, and his body was never recovered.

The pipe and other personal items were donated to the Maritime Museum by his great-niece, Mrs Barbara M Beagan. It is currently on display in Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story.


This depiction of the Cerberus, the three-headed dog, is part of a statuette of the god Serapis. The object is one of the 400 items from the collections of Henry Blundell donated to World Museum in 1959.  Cerberus was the monstrous hound that guarded the entrance to the Underworld and he is a companion of the Greek god of the underworld Hades. Serapis, or Sarapis, is a god made up during Ptolemaic Egypt combining Greek and Egyptian gods.

This statuette is on display in the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum.

Fidelity by Briton Rivière

Fidelity shows a poacher and his faithful dog awaiting trial in prison. The laws against poaching in the Victorian era were administered with great but declining severity. Rivière took the opportunity in this painting to combine two of his favourite subjects, the poacher, and the dog as a companion in hardship. The Art Journal critic particularly admired the dog, describing how it was "very admirable for the expression of sympathy and pity he bestows upon his master."

This painting from the Lady Lever Art Gallery is not currently on display but prints are available from our online shop.

We hope you enjoyed our roundup of our best canines! Did you have a favourite? Let us know!