John F. Herring, Jr. was born to the well-known 19th century artist John F. Herring, Sr., who at the time, was considered one of England’s great sporting and equestrian artists, patronised by the English aristocracy. The father's mastery of the brush, and popularity with the nobility, served his son, Herring, Jr., well. Early on, John, Jr. was exposed to fine painting and wealthy patrons.
Recent reference books state that Herring, Sr.’s first child was named "John Frederick Herring, Jr." and was born on June 21, 1815, later baptized on October 22, 1815. However, another child was born in 1820 and also named "John Frederick Herring, Jr." (baptised in 1821). The assumption is that the first Herring child died and the second, born in 1820, is the artist we know of today.
John Herring, Jr. developed a love for painting, a passion also shared by his brothers Charles and Benjamin. Three of the four brothers became artists, painting in the same style as their father, often collaborating on a single painting.
In the years after 1836, Herring, Sr., feeling threatened by the teenage John Herring, Jr.’s ability and growing popularity, began incorporating the tag "SR" at the end of his signature.
John Herring, Jr. continued painting, in the tradition of his father, the sporting and animal pictures; however, as his artistic prowess improved, his style changed: he loosened his brushwork and widened his landscape views. The placement of farm animals along the banks of a stream or within a farmyard were characteristic of the work of John F. Herring, Jr.