Secret of the Porcelain Dogs

These Staffordshire dogs can be admired at the Raahe museum.

During the age of Queen Victoria, the trend of placing porcelain decorations on tables, cabinets and the edges of stoves, spread throughout England. Birds, dogs, cats, cows and sheep were affordable ceramic shapes that sold like hotcakes.

During this time, the Staffordshire pair of dogs was the most popular. The name comes of course from Staffordshire, which led in the making of ceramics since the 1600s. The design for this English pair of dogs was created in the beginning of the 1800s. The model for these dogs was taken from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which was Queen Victoria´s favourite species. Originally, the dogs were brought back as a momento to England from China by seamen. The dogs brought back were of the Foo-dog and then changed to the more familiar spaniel.

The dogs are a mirror image of each other. They are commonly made to be white with brown or black spots. Around the neck is a gold leash and chain. The dogs are meant to be adored from the front, therefore the backs of the dogs aren´t always bothered to be decorated. Some were made to be quite flat as to not take up too much space.

These same dogs are produced today in Staffordshire. They are sold in a variety of colours and sizes. In addition to the Staffordshire spaniel dog model, greyhounds and dalmations are available. Some of these porcelain dogs hold smaller dogs in their mouths.

Porcelain Dogs in Raahe

Ceramic artist Kirsti Niemelä, who lives in Raahe, has been making porcelain dogs for a couple of decades. She closed her business in 2009.

These porcelain dogs are their own species of dog, Kirsti didn´t want to copy the museum´s porcelain dogs. Her dogs could be the Raahe species!

Porcelain dogs of Raahe are designed to sit on the window sill, therefore they are decorated on the back unlike the Staffordshire dogs from England. The base colour of these dogs is white or just off-white, creamy with bronze spots.

These dogs are placed in the window sill so that passersby can ascertain whether the homeowner is at home. If they are facing inwards, they are paying attention to their owner. If they are looking out of the window, facing the street of the old wooden town of Raahe, they are waiting patiently for their owner to come home… like very loyal dogs.

Poem with dogs
Original poem by Pauli Ylitalo

Katson ulos maailmaan,
isäntääni oottaa saan.
Sitten vasta käännän pään,
kotona kun hänet nään.
Sitting on my window sill,
look around the world I will.
Only then I´ll turn my head,
when master´s way has homeward led.

This English translation by Ossian Swanljung.
I look upon the world that turns
Awaiting Master’s home return
Only then my head will turn
Upon my Master’s safe return

This English translation by Dave Bradburn.

A work in Progress

This website is a real-time and living project. These pages are being actively translated into English and you will find many missing texts and possibly even a few mistakes. We have decided to make all the current information available as and when.