Fun is brewing: An elephant's tea party at the Robur Tea Room in Sydney was captured by Sam Hood on 24 March, 1939

Fascinating animal photos from Australia in the 1920s

You’d be forgiven, in the age of the cat fail video compendium, that we’ve only just started documenting how we interact with animals.

But these weird and wonderful vintage pictures from the State Library of New South Wales remind us that we’ve been recording our complex relationship with them for decades.

They date from as early as 1900 and show how Australians got up close and personal with a variety of animals at zoos, circuses and even with elephants at tea parties.

The fascinating collection includes the bizarre – such as a sheep towing a small dog in a cart – and the shocking, such as rabbits being packed in wooden boxes for export.

There is also history in action, with a picture of one of Australia’s first police dogs.

Take a look at what life was like living and working with animals in Australia at the turn of the 20th century.

Fun is brewing: An elephant's tea party at the Robur Tea Room in Sydney was captured by Sam Hood on 24 March, 1939

Fun is brewing: An elephant’s tea party at the Robur Tea Room in Sydney was captured by Sam Hood on 24 March, 1939

The elephant drinks from the comically over-sized tea cup, much to the amusement of the guests

The elephant drinks from the comically over-sized tea cup, much to the amusement of the guests

Coming through - the elephant arrives for the tea party through the shop's wide-open double doors

Coming through – the elephant arrives for the tea party through the shop’s wide-open double doors

Six Wirths' Circus elephants with their attendants and a Shetland pony crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for publicity on April 3, 1932. This picture was taken by Sam Hood

Six Wirths’ Circus elephants with their attendants and a Shetland pony crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for publicity on April 3, 1932. This picture was taken by Sam Hood

Barking down the receiver: This image by Sam Hood shows police dog Tess in New South Wales in 1935. She was one of the first police dogs in the country and was often in newspaper headlines for crime-battling skills, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

Barking down the receiver: This image by Sam Hood shows police dog Tess in New South Wales in 1935. She was one of the first police dogs in the country and was often in newspaper headlines for crime-battling skills, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

Hang on tight: A man called Mr Tulk built a zip-wire on Australia's South Solitary Island so he and his dog Sausage could go fishing. He's captured here in 1935 by Winifred Tulk

Hang on tight: A man called Mr Tulk built a zip-wire on Australia’s South Solitary Island so he and his dog Sausage could go fishing. He’s captured here in 1935 by Winifred Tulk

A bicycle built for two: This little girl takes a wombat for a ride at Cary Bay Zoo, Lake Macquarie, in New South Wales in 1954

A bicycle built for two: This little girl takes a wombat for a ride at Cary Bay Zoo, Lake Macquarie, in New South Wales in 1954

Hitch a ride: It's thought that this dog - Yap Yap - was catching a lift in around 1910 in Trundle, New South Wales

Hitch a ride: It’s thought that this dog – Yap Yap – was catching a lift in around 1910 in Trundle, New South Wales

This is Alice, a famous circus elephant, seen here helping to load a train in 1925. She was bought by Wirth’s Circus in 1908 and became Alice of Wonderland City – in Bondi Sydney. She was an Asian elephant and while some people claim she was over 100 years old, it’s thought she was born in 1876 and died in Melbourne in 1941

In 1916, vets' assistants were more dapper-looking than they are nowadays. Here a vet operates on a leopard in Taronga Zoo, Sydney

In 1916, vets’ assistants were more dapper-looking than they are nowadays. Here a vet operates on a leopard in Taronga Zoo, Sydney

It wasn't all sweetness and light: Rabbits used to be packed for export at the Victoria Dock Cool Stores, Melbourne, in the early 1920s

It wasn’t all sweetness and light: Rabbits used to be packed for export at the Victoria Dock Cool Stores, Melbourne, in the early 1920s

Happy to help: Zoe the Australian police dog wore a radio receiver backpack. This picture was taken by Sam Hood in 1939

Purr-fect shot: This little girl dangles a whopper of a fish above three cats at Point Perpendicular on the Beecroft Peninsula, New South Wales, in 1936

Purr-fect shot: This little girl dangles a whopper of a fish above three cats at Point Perpendicular on the Beecroft Peninsula, New South Wales, in 1936

In 1916 photographer Sam Hood recorded the well-dressed crowds who arrived to check out the new enclosures at Taronga Zoo in Sydney

In 1916 photographer Sam Hood recorded the well-dressed crowds who arrived to check out the new enclosures at Taronga Zoo in Sydney

This Sam Hood picture shows smartly dressed crowds arriving at Taronga Zoological Park

This Sam Hood picture shows smartly dressed crowds arriving at Taronga Zoological Park

A man has his photograph taken with an orang-outang at Taronga Zoo, in 1916. By Sam Hood

A man has his photograph taken with an orang-outang at Taronga Zoo, in 1916. By Sam Hood

Sam Hood captures a uniformed keeper with carniverous marsupials called quolls at Taronga Zoo in 1916

Sam Hood captures a uniformed keeper with carniverous marsupials called quolls at Taronga Zoo in 1916

Bizarre sheep are displayed at Boolarwell, 60 miles west of Goondiwindi, in 1900, in a photograph by D M Cameron

Bizarre sheep are displayed at Boolarwell, 60 miles west of Goondiwindi, in 1900, in a photograph by D M Cameron

A judge opening the fleece of a merino ram owned by a Mrs Matthews at a New South Wales farming show in the 1930s. Captured by Sam Hood

A judge opening the fleece of a merino ram owned by a Mrs Matthews at a New South Wales farming show in the 1930s. Captured by Sam Hood

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