A survey of nearly 1700 paintings from seventeen major museums in Europe and North America disclosed a steady decline in the appearance of animals. While 64% of the works from ancient Egypt and Persia contained animal representations, only 15% of the twentieth-century paintings showed animals as either a central or peripheral part of the compositions. These results were essentially replicated in a survey of major art history texts, the illustrations for which were selected for pedagogical reasons rather than popularity. If the “serious” art of various cultural eras is considered to represent prevalent attitudes and concerns, it is clear that a waning of the importance of animals has occurred over the last 2500 years. The gradual separation of religions and the fine arts, and a decrease in the direct contacts between humans and other species are suggested as reasons for this decline of animal subjects in the paintings of the Western world.