Thomas Weaver was born in Shropshire, the son and grandson of farmers. He is said to have had some instruction from John Boultbee and particularly specialised in painting livestock although he was also a very capable equestrian artist. Among his patrons were the famous agriculturalist Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, Viscount Anson and Sir Charles Bunbury, whose black racehorse Smolensko he painted in 1822.
The exact identity of the three sitters remains unclear. However, 'Yates' and 'Whitehead' are both Lancashire surnames, and 'Cowlishaw', from which the remaining surname may derive, is near Oldham in the same county.