Tag Archives: Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Animals and Stamps

Animals have featured on British stamps at least once a year since 1960; either as the main focus of the issue or to symbolise cultural traditions. The recurrence of animals on stamps reveals their varied importance; as pets, as the focus of preservation campaigns, as sporting and working companions, in art and literature, in folklore, and as symbols of national values.

Depictions of animals on stamps from 1911 until the 1960s were often symbolic promotions of the strength of the Empire. In 1924 a lion represented the British Empire’s power; in 1929 a horse alluded to medieval chivalry; in 1946 a dove represented peace; and in 1948 a cart horse signified a perceived return to a pastoral ideal in liberated Jersey.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

Channel Island Liberation, 1948.

The 1960s saw a continuation of animal symbolisation, for example a squirrel happily embodied the message of a 1961 Post Office Savings Bank stamp. This decade also saw the first instance of animals as a stamp issue’s central theme with National Nature Week in 1963.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

Post Office Savings Bank, 1961.

In the late 1970s a yearly animal routine was established, with British Wildlife 1977, Horses 1978 and Dogs 1979 issued successively, and this pattern has only increased in subsequent years, accompanied by the development of a number of themes.

Animal companionship is emphasised in issues such as the endearing Cats and Dogs 2001, Cats 1995, Dogs 1981 and Dogs 1979.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Cats and Dogs, 2001.

Conservation is advocated in issues such as Action for Species 2007 – 2010, World Wildlife Fund 2011, and the 1998 Endangered Species issue. The diversity of British species was explored in Sea Life 2007, Insects 2008 and Woodland Creatures 2004. The importance of animal welfare was championed in RSPCA 1990 and Battersea Dogs and Cats 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, 2010.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

World Wildlife Fund, 2011.

Working Animals were the focus of issues such as All the Queen’s Horses 1997, Farm Animals 2005, and feature on the forthcoming Working Horses issue.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Farm Animals, 2005.

Birds of Prey 2003 featured astounding images of a barn owl and kestrel mid-flight, demonstrating wildlife photography techniques.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Birds of Prey, 2003.

Animals’ connection with folklore was explored in Folklore 1981, which depicted love birds for Valentine’s Day and animal heads atop Medieval Mummers. Animals’ connection with superstition was explored in Good Luck 1991, which featured a magpie (spotting one, according to superstition, signifies impending sorrow, while seeing two means joy), a kingfisher (said to be able to forecast the weather) and a black cat (signifying good or bad luck, depending on who you ask). Cats and dogs rain from the sky in the 2001 issue Weather, in a nod to the traditional adage.

Weather, 2001.

Weather, 2001.

Images of birds symbolised migration in the 1999 Settlers’ Tale issue, and hope in the 1992 Protection of the Environment issue.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

Settlers’ Tale, 1999.

The prevalence of animals in British art, literature and theatre is demonstrated in issues such as Animal Tales 2006, Just So Stories 2002, Edward Lear 1988, Shakespeare Festival 1964 and British Paintings 1967.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

Shakespeare Festival, 1964.

This frequent return to animals in stamp design demonstrates the variety of ways in which we interact with animals and their varied role in cultural traditions.

 There are many, many more depictions of animals on stamps. Which is your favourite?

Joanna Espin, Philatelic Assistant

150 Years of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Britain is said to be a nation of animal lovers, so it’s no surprise to see the 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home celebrated on a new set of commemoratives released by Royal Mail today. 

Established in 1860 by Mary Tealby as the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs, in Holloway, north London, the charity moved to its present home in Battersea in 1871, and in 1883 started taking in cats. Its motto is simple – “We aim never to turn away a dog or cat in need of our help” – and every year 12,000 animals are taken in by the Home’s three centres in London, Kent and Berkshire.

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home stamps

The 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home stamps

The dogs and cats featured on the new stamps were all abandoned by their owners, but later re-homed by the charity. They were beautifully photographed by Steve Hoskins, and sit proudly amongst the many previous stamp issues featuring dogs and cats.

Constable's painting The Hay Wain as it appeared on a stamp in 1968

The Hay Wain by Constable on a 1968 stamp

The first dogs and cats on British stamps were incidental figures, in the backgrounds of scenes. The earliest example we could find is a dog which can be seen in the background of rural Suffolk scene in Constable’s painting The Hay Wain, featured on a stamp as part of the British Paintings issue, 1968. The dog is a little hard to see, but you can zoom in on the painting to see it at the website of the National Gallery, who own the painting.

Early produce fairs stamp, from the British Fairs issue 1983

Early produce fairs stamp, 1983

The first cat on a British stamp that we could find can be seen in the background of a stamp on Early Produce Fairs, released in 1983 as part of the British Fairs series. The cat, visible as a purple silhouette only, observes the other animals, and the fruits and vegetables, which are on sale. The British Fairs issue was designed by Andrew Restall, and some of Restall’s original sketches for this issue are held by the Aldrich Collection, University of Brighton.

Dogs stamp issue, 1979

Dogs stamp issue, 1979

The first British stamp issue dedicated to Dogs was released in 1979 and features painting of four different breeds of dog by artist Peter Barrett. Barrett is best known for his watercolours and illustrations of wildlife and the countryside.

Kitten stamp from RSPCA 150th Anniversary stamps, 1990

Kitten stamp from RSPCA 150th Anniversary issue, 1990

A kitten appeared on a stamp released as part of the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 1990.

And a further set of dogs stamps was released in 1991, celebrating the work of painter George Stubbs (perhaps better known for his paintings of horses). One of the paintings used, A Couple of Foxhounds, is on display at the Tate Gallery. Two of the others, A Rough Dog and Fino and Tiny are part of the Royal Collection. Fino and Tiny belonged to the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, and the painting is presumed to have been painted for him.

Dogs stamp issue, 1991

Dogs stamp issue, 1991

Cats finally got their own set of stamps in 1995. The stamps featured five paintings by the noted Scottish artist Elizabeth Blackadder.

The Cats stamp issue, 1995

The Cats stamp issue, 1995

A series of artistic black and white photographs by a number of photographers appeared on the 2001 issue Cats and Dogs.

The Cats & Dogs First Day Cover, 2001

The Cats & Dogs First Day Cover, 2001

There were two special first day of issue postmarks for the Cats and Dogs issue, one with a cats claw print and one with a dogs paw print. This idea is repeated for the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home issue.

First day of issue postmarks for the 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home issue.

First day of issue postmarks for the 150th Anniversary of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home issue.

Border Collie stamp from Farm Animals issue, 2005

Border Collie stamp, 2005

Finally, how could we forget the Border Collie included in the 2005 Farm Animals issue? Border Collies are working dogs, often used on farms to herd livestock. The illustrations on the Farm Animals stamps were by Chris Wormell, well known for his lino cuts, engravings and children’s book illustrations.