Born on 26 September 1803 in Canterbury where he was first a coach painter and scenic artist, before entering the Royal Academy schools in 1824. From 1827 to 1830 he worked in Brussels, spending some time in the studio of Eugène Verboekhoven whose animal subjects, together with those of Cuyp and Potter, had a profound effect upon him. Following the political disturbance which led to Belgian independence in 1830,
Cooper returned to London early in 1831 to embark on a very long and successful career as an animalier.
He exhibited at the British Institution 1833-59 and Royal Academy 1833-1902; he was elected Associate Royal Academician 1845 and Royal Academician 1867. He died in Canterbury on 7 February 1902.