The Animal Talent

The Animal Talent

The Animal Talent

Animal notes + -

Raccoon dogs – also known as a ‘tanuki’ or a Japanese raccoon dog – aren’t raccoons. They are members of the dog family. They’re native to the forests of eastern Siberia, northern China, North Vietnam, Korea and Japan and are now widespread in some European countries having been accidentally released or escaped.


Racoon dogs are mainly nocturnal, but they are known to be active during daylight, particularly those that have been fully domesticated.  They vocalise by growling or with groans that have pitches resembling those of domesticated cats. Like cats, the Japanese raccoon dog arches their back when trying to intimidate other animals; however they assume a defensive posture similar to that of other canids, lowering their bodies and showing their bellies to submit.  They have been observed to climb trees to forage for fruits and berries, using their curved claws to climb.


Tanukis have long torsos and short legs which are usually shorter than a fox. There are four main body colours which are normally seen: tan, black, yellow and brown. The shoulders of raccoon dogs (plus their tail tips and legs) are blackish. 


Usually social groups are limited to a breeding pair, but individual raccoon dogs may stay in a group of non-paired individuals until they find a mate. The species is predominantly monogamous. An adult raccoon dog’s body length is about 45-71cm and weight is about 4kg-10kg.  


Raccoon dogs are a recurring theme in Japanese popular culture. The first exposure of non-Japanese to raccoon dogs usually comes through Japanese media. However, they are often described as “raccoons” in translation or assumed as such if no species is given. Notable appearances of raccoon dogs in popular culture include Nintendo’s video games – Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World – where Mario can wear a “Tanooki Suit” and by doing so he takes on the appearance of a raccoon dog and gains the ability to fly, spin his tail to attack enemies and shapeshift into a statue. 


In 2015 adopted a new logo of an abstracted raccoon dog and the term Tanuki. Tom Nook, a recurring character in the Animal Crossing video game series, is a racoon dog as well as his two employees Timmy and Tommy.  In the English versions of the games he is localised as a raccoon, although his name still alludes to tanuki.  Team Sonic Racing one of the characters is a raccoon dog named Dodon Pa.  And the 2020 Studio Trigger TV anime BNA: Brand New Animal features a main protagonist which is a humanoid shape shifting raccoon dog who is often mistaken as a raccoon. 


Raccoons (as opposed to raccoon dogs) have been classified as an invasive species since 2016. It is illegal for private individuals all across the EU and the UK to buy, own, sell, import, breed, or transfer any invasive species within any country that is part of the EU as well as Great Britain, so this has seen the rise of the tanuki (raccoon dog) as an alternative companion animal in the exotics community, though their care is for advanced keepers only (particularly those who have ample space) and we do not promote pet ownership of the species.  At The Animal Talent, we are pleased to have on our roster an actual raccoon that was obtained before the ban in the UK, but please note, as an animal on the invasive species list, legal requirements for working with this animal are lengthy and working with raccoon dogs is preferred.


This being said, they’re undeniably a cute looking animal that is bright and lively.  For stills photography, they’re beautiful, striking, and their (often) black and white colouring works well with any colour palette.  It’s frankly quite hard to tell a tanuki apart from an actual raccoon, particularly to the untrained eye, and for this reason, this (somewhat) domesticated species make an excellent substitute for filming purposes. Add to this, their almost human-like facial expressions, it’s easy to see why they’re loved by audiences worldwide.

Crew notes + -

We supply professional animal location handlers around the world to ensure you get all the shots you require and, as overseers to ensure the wild is not disturbed, the crew will always be safe and no welfare regulations are ever breached.


It isn’t just the animals that are well trained, our team including our handlers are also highly experienced and fully qualified experts in the field. 


Your handler will take full control of any animals on set and ensure the entire shoot runs properly. They will also fully manage the welfare of all the animals both on and off set; the safety and welfare of the animals is their prime concern.  All of our handling is strictly force-free and only positive, reward based practices are deployed. This way you can have total confidence that by booking With The Animal Talent everything is taken care of legally, professionally and ethically.


The Performing Animals Licence is no longer relevant (it was scrapped in 2019) and has been replaced with the Animal Activity Licence, which we hold.

Special measures + -

Our animals are covered by a £10 million Public Liability Insurance policy. 


Raccoon dogs are nocturnal and therefore we’d prefer filming to be within their waking hours.


If any species of animal listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act are required, special measures will need to be put into place for the shoot. Precisely what is appropriate will vary species to species, but may include sectioned off areas where only trained handlers are allowed. In the event of large and dangerous carnivores, a specifically built green screen studio can also be supplied.