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From cave art to twentieth-century family portraits, tamed and domestic animals have often been found in art. At home, dogs, cats and songbirds are most common, whether used for work, companionship or entertainment. Animals often also had symbolic meanings in paintings: dogs for faithfulness, cats for promiscuity, and birds for caged beauty.

For the upper classes, the most prominent domestic animals in art have been hunting dogs, found in every period and culture. Horses are also prominent and were important status symbols in portraits. Horseracing produced its own genre of horse portraits, and of course many favourite pets, especially cats and dogs, have themselves been the subjects of portraits.