John Emms was born in Blofield, Norfolk, the son of a plumber, glazier and amateur artist, Henry William Emms. In his early career, he worked as a studio assistant to Frederick, Lord Leighton, helping to paint a fresco at Lyndhurst parish church in Hampshire. Living at first in London, it was to Lyndhurst that Emms retired, drawn by his interest in the New Forest and hunting with foxhounds, buckhounds and beagles. As a keen and active huntsman Emms found his vocation painting sporting scenes, particularly images of dogs. An accomplished horseman and convivial guest, the artist sought patronage throughout the British Isles, traveling extensively to find clients and subjects. Increasingly painting dogs, he depicted the Clumber spaniels belonging to the Duke of Newcastle, as well as many winners of Cruft's.
He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and the British Institution. The present work exhibits the characteristic style from the period when Emms was at the peak of his artistic skills and career. It is a perfectly balanced composition and the fluidity of the brushstrokes adds to the sensitivity of mood within this picture, making it an outstanding example of his style. The alert expressions of the hound and terrier in the center, combined with the inquisitive pose of the terrier reaching into the bucket watched by the hounds to the right and left, beautifully capture the character of the animals.