Born in Bordeaux in 1827, Isidore-Jules Bonheur began his career working with his elder sister Rosa (d. 1899) in the studio of their father, drawing instructor Raymond Bonheur. Although best-known as one of the 19th century's most distinguished animalier sculptors, Bonheur initially made his Salon debut in 1848 with the painting Cavalier africain attaqué par une lionne and a plaster group of the same subject (no. 4619). He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris the following year and from then onwards concentrated solely on sculpture, whereupon his true talent in the medium became apparent.
Bonheur had a close working relationship with his brother-in-law, the celebrated Parisian founder Hippolyte Peyrol, who was married to his sister Juliette. These close ties resulted in the production of exceptionally cast and finely chased bronzes, often identified by Peyrol's miniscule cachet.