“At one time Rosa Bonheur had a complete menagerie in her home: a lion and lioness, a stag, a wild sheep, a gazelle, horses, etc. One of her pets was a young lion whom she allowed to run about and often romped with…I was easier in mind when this leonine pet gave up the ghost.” So wrote a close friend of Rosa Bonheur in recalling the artist’s passion for animals.

Bonheur, known for her unconventional ambitions and conduct, received special dispensation from the police to wear trousers and a smock to visit butcher shops and slaughterhouses. It was in these gritty locales that she closely studied animal anatomy to prepare for her paintings.

“Highland Raid” epitomizes the artist’s ability to capture the raw spirit of animals, such as these bulls and sheep whose thick wooly coats are typical of Highland livestock. The lowering sky suggests that the shepherds are trying to outrun the impending storm, driving the herd down the “raid,” old Scottish for road.


  • Title: Highland Raid
  • Creator: Rosa Bonheur
  • Date: 1860/1860
  • artist profile: Rosa Bonheur, a 19th-century woman who achieved a successful career, served as a role model for future generations of women artists. Born in Bordeaux, Bonheur moved to Paris with her family in 1829. She was trained by her father, a minor landscape painter. While unconventional in her ambitions and personal conduct, Bonheur was traditional in her working method. She studied her subjects carefully and produced many preparatory sketches before she applied paint to canvas. Bonheur’s reputation grew steadily in the 1840s, and she regularly exhibited her animal paintings and sculptures at the Paris Salon, which favored traditional work, from 1841 to 1853. In 1845, Bonheur won a third prize, and in 1848, a gold medal. Bonheur’s career was firmly established when she exhibited a painting at the 1849 Salon, “Plowing in Nivernais” (Musée Nationale du Château de Fontainebleau), which she had been commissioned to create by the government of the Second Republic. In 1853, she won international acclaim with her monumental painting “The Horse Fair” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which was exhibited in England and which Queen Victoria greatly admired. In 1865, the French Empress Eugénie visited Bonheur at her studio in the forest of Fontainebleau to award her the cross of the Legion of Honor.
  • Style: Realism
  • Physical Dimensions: w84 x h51 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Exhibitions: “Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts,” 1990–91; “Rosa Bonheur: Selected Works from American Collections,” 1989–90

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