William Barraud was born in Lambeth, London. He was one of 17 children to William Francis Barraud and Sophia Hull. His paternal grandfather was Paul Philip Barraud an eminent chronometer maker in Cornhill, and his maternal grandfather, Thomas Hull, a miniature painter. The family was of French Huguenot origin that had travelled to England at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. His younger brother Henry Barraud was also a notable artist.
On leaving school he became a pupil of artist Abraham Cooper. As an animal artist he specialised in painting horses and dogs, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1829–50, the British Institution from 1828–49, and the Society of British Artists.
William shared a studio with his brother Henry until his untimely death. The pair collaborated on many pieces with William painting the animals and Henry the figures. Several of these joint works were exhibited at the Royal Academy. The brothers also produced a book together entitled “Sketches of Figures and Animals” (H. Graves and Co. c. 1850
William died in Kensington, London from dysentery and typhoid fever on the 1st October 1850.