Painted in 1861, the picture is a powerful indictment of slavery in the United States at that time. It shows two slaves who have escaped into the wilderness only to be hunted down by a pack of savage dogs, from which the husband is heroically defending his terrified wife. The picture dates from the same year as the outbreak of the American Civil War. One consequence of the War for Britain was that it prevented the export of raw cotton from American plantations, causing a “cotton famine” and leading to hardship in the mill towns of Lancashire. Ansdell donated 'The Hunted Slaves' to a lottery held to raise money for the relief of the famine, and the winner then presented it to the Corporation of Liverpool.