The First “Friend” Pets Page

Pets page

We know our readers love their pets, so back in 2015 we introduced a pets page to the “Friend” – our first-ever pets page . . . or so we thought!

We should have known better.

Our Friend, The Dog

On one of our regular visits to our Archives Department during this 150th anniversary year, guess what I found?

Only the actual first pets page in the “Friend” (probably). And it dates all the way back to 1881. Love of pets amongst our readers goes back a very long way!

It was a series specifically about dogs. Cats, rabbits and other furry and feathery friends had a while to wait for their regular slot.

Introducing the writer, Dr Gordon Stables, the editor told readers:

“Under the title of ‘Our Friend, The Dog’, Dr Stables will write a series of papers most useful and valuable to all who keep dogs and desire information connected with them. […]

“The series of papers he is to supply to the ‘Friend’ will, he tells us, be the most complete that has ever been written on the canine race, embracing in all about seventy-nine different breeds, and giving not only their points, but their characteristics, and stating the work that each is adapted for.

“Also, full instructions how to treat dogs properly in health and during sickness, with hints as to the most successful method of breeding them for pleasure, show or profit – thus providing the most accurate and comprehensive information on a subject in which nearly every one is interested.”

In fact, all that was missing from that comprehensive-sounding series were some pictures.

That first article, published in the Friend in January 1881, covered several columns of small type. You can see the very first page below:

Alas, no pictures!


Sadly, Dr Stables’ readers were unable to see the breeds he was so ably describing. Still, I’m sure that didn’t spoil their enjoyment of his most informative series.

21st-century Pets

Today you will find all kinds of pets on our Pets page. We’ve featured dogs, cats, rabbits, tortoises, ferrets — even bearded dragons!

It’s always great to find out more about caring for our beloved friends. We hope our 21st-century readers, like those in the 19th century, will find our pets pages “most useful and valuable”.

And we love to hear about your pets, too, so do send your letters and photos about them to “Between Friends”. We’d love to see them!

Marion McGivern

As editor of the cookery, money, pets and eco pages, Marion covers a wide range of regular Features content. Along with the rest of the Team, she enjoys finding interesting features for both the weekly and Special issues that readers will love. Having so much variety every day means that over ten years with the “Friend” has just flown by!