It was Nicolas Poussins (1594 – 1665) friend Andre Felibien (1619 – 1695) who was the first to make a distinction of the portrait towards the then used ”Tableau” which simply means picture or painting. Portrait painting however was reserved exclusively for the depiction of people.
For paintings of animals, Felibien in contrast suggested the use of the word ”Figure”, and by that grouped them together with other vegetating beings as plants and stones – the lowest end of the pyramid of being. As a portrait artist living in the 21st century and todays perception of animals as part of god's creation equal to humans, the word ”portrait” to me appears the only word appropriate that respects the status of the animal and puts it on one level with us. On this note I would like to point towards the great animal portraits of artist Rosa Bonheur (1822 – 1899) whose superb pictures are entirely free from any form of humanized belittlement.