Barking, Houndsditch, the Isle of Dogs… London is full of canine references. (Just don’t mention Catford.) You can also find plenty of statues, memorials and sculptures devoted to our four-legged friends.
Follow our family-friendly trail around the city to discover these seven woof-tastic oddities.
London’s Biggest Dog (Tottenham Court Road)
After emerging from the tube, duck into the new development at the foot of the Centre Point tower. Here, in St Giles’s Square, you’ll find what has to be central London’s largest dog, curled up in the corner, without a care in the world. Called Whippet Good, the sculpture is the work of Delve Architects. It’s actually designed for use as a bench, so feel free to clamber onto the dog’s back and get a family portrait.
London’s Other Biggest Dog (All Saints)
If you want to see an even more colossal canine, you should take the family to Chrisp Street Market in Poplar. Here, just across the road from All Saints DLR, is a multistorey painting of a chihuahua. This epic mural was created by artists Boe and Irony in 2014 -- at six years and counting, it’s lasted much longer than most works of street art.
Dickens’s Dog (Southwark)
It always pays to look up. Ask your kids to do so near Southwark tube station and they might spot this peculiar sculpture on top of a lamp post. It depicts a dog, in the act of licking out a cauldron or large bowl. The sculpture is a 21st century replica, but its origins are much older. In his memoirs, Charles Dickens recalled a similar dog-and-bowl at this location. It was used as a hanging sign for an ironmongers. The 12-year-old Dickens would pass it every day on his way to the blacking factory where he worked. The replica was placed here in 2013 to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth*. A nearby coal-hole cover also bears an image of the sculpture (it too is a replica).
*Sidenote: Dickens has no public sculpture in London, at his own request.
Another Famous Trump (Turnham Green)
This one’s quite far out of the centre, but worth the journey -- especially if you have a dog, as both Turnham Green and Chiswick Common are good for a runabout. At the point where Turnham Green Terrace meets Chiswick High Street stands a statue to one of the area’s most famous residents -- William Hogarth. The 18th century artist was noted for his satirical paintings of everyday life. He also had a charismatic dog, called Trump! A likeness of the pug crouches at the heels of his master’s statue. Rub his nose for good luck.
The Secret Kennel (St James’s Park)
If you’re over near Buckingham Palace, take a minor detour to track down one of the little oddities that central London hides in abundance. Find the huge column to the Duke of York (it looks like a fatter version of Nelson’s Column) and climb the steps up to Carlton House Terrace. Just to the left, hidden behind a fence, you should be able to track down this simple kennel-shaped memorial. It remembers a dog called Giro, faithful hound to the German Ambassador, whose embassy was next door. Giro died in 1934, at a time when Germany was under the Nazi regime, so this is a doubly peculiar memorial to find in central London.
Two More Hidden Dog Memorials (South Kensington)
How many of the millions of annual visitors to the V&A notice these memorials? They record a pair of dogs -- Tycho and Jim -- closely associated with the museum. Jim belonged to Sir Henry Cole, the museum’s first Director. Tycho was the dog of Alan Cole, Henry’s son. You can find these plaques hidden away in the John Madejski Garden at the centre of the museum.
The Cappuccino-Sipping Dog (Liverpool Street)
And finally… Spitalfields Market, close to Liverpool Street station, has an abundance of unusual art (look out for the goat standing on a pile of crates). This piece by Gillie and Marc Schattner is called Dogman and Rabbitgirl with Coffee -- and it shows just that. Kids will love the surreal image. Parents might be tempted into buying a warm beverage from one of the many chain coffee shops hereabouts… especially if they’ve been doggedly tracking down all seven of these canine oddities.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.