The Animal Talent

The Animal Talent

The Animal Talent

Animal notes + -

There are multiple animals within this group that we have available for filming and photography purposes.


Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK according to Pet Industry Federation, with around 1.5 million believed to be kept as pets.  That’s a whopping statistic and proves just how relatable the image of the rabbit is.  They’re wonderful companions and people love keeping them as household pets; most are now litter trained and live in the home (as well as having outdoor space).


Rabbits are fun to work with and confident bunnies do well in a studio setting when handled with care.  We always recommend reading the basics about their care before filming and we support the RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund) which is the UK’s largest organisation for rabbit lovers, supporting their care and contributing to best husbandry practices.


There are at least 305 breeds of domestic rabbit in seventy countries around the world. The European rabbit, which has been introduced on every continent except Antarctica, is familiar throughout the world.


They are small, furry mammals with long ears, short fluffy tails and strong, large hind legs. Small domestic rabbit breeds weigh 0.8-2kg, medium rabbit breeds typically weigh 2.5-10.5lbs and large rabbit breeds usually weigh more than 4.5kg.  Their coats can be brown, white or black while some breeds come in more than twenty different colours; numerous patterns add to the variety. Rabbits’ eye colours also vary and include brown, blue, ruby and blue-grey iris colours, making for glorious close-ups.


A male rabbit is called a buck and a female is a doe while more recently, the term kit or kitten has been used to refer to a young rabbit.  A group of rabbits is known as a colony or nest (or occasionally, a warren, though this more commonly refers to where the rabbits live). A group of baby rabbits produced from a single mating is referred to as a litter and a group of domestic rabbits living together is sometimes called a herd.


Rabbits are often used as a symbol of fertility or rebirth and have long been associated with spring and Easter as the Easter Bunny.  For this reason, spring is usually the time for rabbit imagery in advertising and also rabbits seen at spring fairs and other events.  


The role of the species as a prey animal with few defences, evokes vulnerability and innocence.  They’re often thought of as a ‘pure’ animal.  In folklore and modern children’s stories, rabbits often appear as sympathetic characters able to connect easily with youth of all kinds (for example, the Velveteen Rabbit or Thumper in Bambi). With its reputation as a prolific breeder, the rabbit juxtaposes sexuality with innocence as in the Playboy Bunny


The rabbit (as a swift prey animal) is also known for its speed, agility and endurance, symbolised for example by the marketing icons the Energizer Bunnyand the Duracell Bunny. It has often been depicted as a trickster, for example as Br’er Rabbit from the Disney animation and Bugs Bunny in the cartoon from Warner Bros. 


Anthropomorphised rabbits have appeared frequently in film and literature; in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the White Rabbit and the March Hare characters), in Watership Down (including the film and television adaptations), in Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson and in the Peter Rabbit stories by Beatrix Potter. 


Let’s face it, rabbits are cute, adorable and have a hint of magic about them. They suit a whole manner of film themes and are a wonderful addition to any photoshoot.


There are seventeen species of hedgehog, all of which are easily recognized by their spines, which resemble that of porcupines. The spines are hollow hairs made stiff with keratin. They are not poisonous or barbed and, unlike the quills of a porcupine, do not easily detach from their bodies. However they can shed when the animal is under extreme stress. All species of hedgehogs can roll into a tight ball in self-defence, causing all of the spines to point outwards. 


They are found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and in New Zealand by introduction. There are no hedgehogs native to Australia and no living species native to the Americas.  It is illegal to own a hedgehog as a pet in some US states including Hawaii, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and California and some Canadian municipalities, where breeding licences are required. No such restrictions exist in most European countries with the exception of Scandinavia.  In Italy it is illegal to keep wild hedgehogs as pets.


Hedgehogs are fairly vocal and communicate through a combination of grunts, snuffles and/or squeals, depending on species.  We think this fits perfectly with their appearance!


Hedgehogs are usually brown, with pale tips to the spines, though blonde hedgehogs are found on the Channel Island of Alderney, and of course, the African Pygmy Hedgehog is now a popular pet in the UK.


Like many of the first mammals, they have adapted to a primarily nocturnal way of life, though some species can also be active during the day. Hedgehogs sleep for a large portion of the day under bushes, grasses, rocks or most commonly in dens dug in the ground with varying habits among the species. Although not all do, wild hedgehogs can hibernate. This depends on temperature, species, and abundance of food.


In most European countries, hedgehogs are believed to be a hard-working no-nonsense animal. This partially results from the folk belief that hedgehogs collect apples and mushrooms and carry them to their secret storage. They are often pictured as fond of milk and are also often seen in pictures with an autumnal themed background, since the animal hibernates in piles of leaves. 


Perhaps one of the most famous hedgehogs is Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega’s anthropomorphic corporate mascot and one of the stars of the video game series of the same name, five TV series, OVA, movie, animated shorts and five comic series.  Harry Hedgehog is an enemy in Yoshi’s Island and Mr. Pricklepants is an animated stuffed toy hedgehog from the 2010 Disney/Pixar film Toy Story 3, who likes to act in stage plays.


An adult hedgehog typically reaches 23-25cm in length and has a very short tail. A hedgehog’s legs are around 10cm, which is surprising considering how they seem to disappear beneath their bodies! 


We’d also like to talk about tenrecs in this section.  Tenrecs are widely diverse; as a result of convergent evolution some resemble hedgehogs, shrews, opossums, rats, or mice. They occupy aquatic, arboreal, terrestrial and fossorial environments.  As San Diego Zoo says, if a tenrec could speak, this would likely be the first thing out of its mouth: “I’m not a hedgehog!” It doesn’t help that of the nearly 30 different tenrec species, two of them have the word hedgehog in their name.  


We’re pleased to have tenrec species on our roster here at The Animal Talent as they’re not often seen, however, they are growing in popularity in the exotic keepers community.  For filming and photography purposes, they’re an interesting alternative to the equally wonderful hedgehog.


Hamsters have become established as popular small companions in the UK. They are known for their docile yet curious nature.  The best-known species of hamster is the golden or Syrian hamster, which is the type most commonly kept as pets.  Another hamster type commonly kept as pets is the dwarf hamster (a collective name for some of the smaller species).  


The hamster was first described scientifically in 1839, but researchers were not able to successfully breed and domesticate hamsters until 1939.  Hamsters are more crepuscular than nocturnal and, in the wild, remain underground during the day. They have poor eyesight; being nearsighted and colourblind. Their eyesight leads to them not having a good sense of distance or knowing where they are, yet they can sense movement around at all times. 


Physically they are stout bodied and have small, furry ears, short, stocky legs and wide feet.  The smallest species of hamsters have bodies 5.5-10.5cm long.  The largest is the European hamster measuring up to 34cm.  They have distinguishing features that include elongated cheek pouches extending to their shoulders – which they use to carry food back to their burrows – as well as a short tail and fur-covered feet. All of these features make them pretty adorable; it’s no wonder they’re well loved by kids.  Their thick, silky fur can be long or short and coloured black, grey, honey, white, brown, yellow, red or a mix depending on the species. 


In popular culture, we come across hamsters more than you may realise.  For example, TV presenter Richard Hammond, has the nickname of Hamster because of his short height, an adaptation of his surname, and also because he eats an award paper in Season 7 of Top Gear. Given that children have a natural fascination with fuzzy creatures and nature, hamsters feature in storybooks aimed at them in which they often are the silliest characters and can also be quite rude at times!  


Oh yes, they’re an animal known to be cheeky, and that’s not just because of the size of their pouches!  Whatever it is we like about them, everybody loves a hamster.  They are a tame and fun character to have on set or in the studio.


Although they inhabit North America, opossums actually originated from South America.. Opossums are also located in parts of Southern Canada, Chile, and Argentina. There are several dozen different species of opossums in North America. The best known species is the Virginia opossum or common opossum  (the only marsupial found in the United States and Canada). The other species are mainly found in Mexico.   They should not be confused with the Australasian marsupials that are called “possums” which are an entirely different species!


They are small to medium sized animals that grow to the size of a house cat. When they are born, baby opossums are only about the size of a bee.  Adult females have a pouch. 


Although most opossums are grey, there are several other colour phases: Some are black, some are brown and a few are white. The head has an elongated shape with a prominent snout. Generally the nose is pink, the eyes are black and the ears are bluish-black.  They also have a somewhat grizzled appearance due to the long, white-tipped guard hairs on their thick fur. Opossum tails lack hair and they serve as an additional limb to help in climbing.  Their most developed sense is smell, and to a lesser extent sight and hearing, although they do not have the level of other mammals.


The species are moderately sexually dimorphic with males usually being slightly larger, much heavier, and having larger canines than females.  They tend to have a body length of 40cm with a tail length of 29cm and usually weigh  between 2.7-5.5kg.


Opossums are usually solitary and nomadic, staying in one area as long as food and water are easily available. Some families will group together in ready made burrows or even under houses. Though they will temporarily occupy abandoned burrows, they do not dig or put much effort into building their own. As nocturnal animals, they favour dark, secure areas. These areas may be below ground or above.  Keep this in mind if filming this curious creature; they will always gravitate towards dark hidey-holes.


When threatened or harmed, they will “play possum”, mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This physiological response is involuntary (like fainting), rather than a conscious act.  Our handlers can help you avoid this occurrence during shoots.


The opossum is a passive animal, but looks ferocious when it displays all 50 teeth, drools, and hisses.  Some might say, that’s quite funny to see, though we’d never want to upset one of our working animals.


In Mexico, the opossum is a very important animal in popular culture. One of the most widespread Native American tales is called “Opossum and Fire”, in which the opossum plays an essential mythological role as the bringer of fire.


Growing more popular in the world of exotics, we’re seeing a growing number as companion animals here in the UK.  Their image is definitely becoming more widespread and we love that, because they’re an unusual, interesting animal.


Despite their common name, guinea pigs are not native to Guinea nor are they closely related biologically to pigs; in fact the origin of the name is still unclear.  We do know that they originated in the Andes of South America yet studies suggest they are domesticated animals that do not exist naturally in the wild.


In Western society, the guinea pig has enjoyed widespread popularity as a pet, due to their docile nature, friendly responsiveness to handling and feeding, and the perceived relative ease of caring for them. 


An adorable looking pet, the guinea pig has various different pattern coats of varying colours. Some of the most popular colours are buff, golden brown, red, brown, dark brown and black. Guinea pigs are large for rodents; the common pet breed adults weigh between 700-1200g. They measure between 20-25cm in length.


Their eyesight is not as good as that of a human in terms of distance and colour, but they have a wider angle of vision.  Despite this, they’re really quite bright.  Guinea pigs can learn complex paths to food and can accurately remember a learned path for months. Their strongest problem-solving strategy is motion. While guinea pigs can jump small obstacles, they cannot jump very high. Most of them are poor climbers and are not particularly agile; but who cares?  They are ridiculously charming!  


As a result of their widespread popularity, especially in households with children, guinea pigs have shown a presence in culture and media. Some noted appearances in literature include the short story “Pigs Is Pigs” by Ellis Parker Butler which inspired the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles“. In movies, a guinea pig named Rodney, voiced by Chris Rock, was a prominent character in the 1998 film Dr. Dolittle, and Linny the guinea pig is a co-star on Nick Jr.’s Wonder Pets. Guinea pigs were also used in some major advertising campaigns in the 1990s and 2000s, notably for Egg Banking, Snapple and Blockbuster Video. In the South Park episode “Pandemic 2: The Startling”, giant guinea pigs dressed in costumes rampage over the Earth. 


There are 33 species of jerboa, which is a species of rodent. The great jerboa is found in Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. They mainly live in deserts.


They are solitary and nocturnal, spending most of the day in underground burrows they’ve dug in the sand.


They are described as moving “erratically”. They often zig-zag and leap long distances both vertically and horizontally. They use their tail to help them do this, which both pushes off the ground and helps maintain balance. Jerboas are extremely bouncy and their strong hind limbs allow them to jump to several times their height; they can leap a distance of 3 metres and can hop as fast as almost 15mph! 


They are well known for their quirky kangaroo-like appearance and are incredibly cute animals. They all share the same general features of a tiny, mouse-like head, namely large, owlish eyes, disproportionately long ears and a long powerful tail. They have long back legs and tiny forearms. They also have long, cat-like whiskers that they use to navigate their environments.


The great jerboa is the biggest of all species of jerboa. The length of its body is 180mm and its tail is 260mm.


They are an interesting species and are rising in popularity on social media platforms for their adorable appearance.


The duprasi gerbil is a medium-sized gerbil and spend much of their time in captivity running on solid exercise wheels. 


They have a thick, fluffy and soft coat. The hair at the back and on the head is yellow-coloured, with a dark grey basis and a small black tip. The belly is clear white. Their body is round and somewhat flattened. They have no clear neck and a very sharp face, with large oval-shaped black eyes. The ears are positioned quite low, which gives the duprasi gerbil a fox-like head. The legs are comparatively short for a gerbil. Their body length is about 10cm, with a tail length of about 5cm.  They weigh between 40-120gms.


They look similar to a dwarf hamster, but unlike a hamster they have a pointed snout and a fat almost bald club-shaped tail from which they get their common name of “fat tailed” gerbil. They store fat in their tail, in the same way that the camel stores fat in their hump; a healthy duprasi gerbil should have a nicely rounded tail.


This species is the most docile of the gerbil subfamily and almost never bite.  Duprasi gerbils have been available on the pet market for decades, but in the 21st century breeders can be quite hard to find. However, they are once again becoming a popular pet in the exotics community.  They have a habit of hitting out with their front feet when hiding under something which can look like they’re trying to bite, but they’re not.  It’s all for display.


Duprasi gerbils spend a lot of time grooming their fur and washing their face. They benefit from regular dust bathing to help prevent their fur from appearing greasy, although some will naturally appear this way. 


It is common to keep them singly, since they often display aggression towards housemates. However in the wild they are sociable animals and sometimes live in colonies, but can also live solitarily.  Duprasi gerbils become active at dusk, although they can sometimes appear to be diurnal. 


A fictional gerbil featured in segments of the BBC children’s programme Numbertime and later got his own series.  Similarly in Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, a yellow anthropomorphic gerbil is the titular character of the series.


It is lovely that we’re seeing more of this animal and we’d love to see them featured more in media.


Ferrets belong to the weasel family, which includes polecats, stoats and ermines. Domesticated ferrets most likely descend from the European polecat. Ferrets were domesticated about 2,500 years ago and are lovable, fun companions.


They are more popular than we may think; for example, in North America the ferret has become an increasingly prominent choice of household pet, with over 5 million in the United States alone. 


Ferrets have a typical mustelid body-shape, being long and slender. Most ferrets are either albinos (with white fur and pink eyes) or display the typical dark masked sable coloration of their wild polecat ancestors. In recent years breeders have produced a wide variety of colours and patterns. There are four basic colours: the sable (including chocolate and dark brown), albino, dark eyed white (also known as black eyed white) and silver. All the other colours of a ferret are variations on one of these four categories.


Ferrets spend between fourteen to eighteen hours a day asleep and are most active around the hours of dawn and dusk. If they are caged they should be taken out daily to exercise and satisfy their curiosity; they need at least an hour and a place to play and relish mental enrichment.


Unlike their polecat ancestors, which are solitary animals, most ferrets will live happily in social groups. They are territorial, like to burrow, and prefer to sleep in an enclosed area.  Including their tail the average length of a ferret is about 50cm and they weigh between 0.7-2kg.  Usually, males are considerably larger than females.


If excited they may perform a behaviour called the “weasel war dance” which is characterised by frenzied sideways hops, leaps and bumping into nearby objects.  Despite its common name, it is not aggressive but is a joyful invitation to play.  It is often accompanied by a unique soft clucking noise, commonly referred to as “dooking”.  When scared, ferrets will hiss; when upset, they squeak softly; our handlers take great care not to get them into that state.


Cruella de Vil famously has a ferret pet in the television series 101 Dalmatians and the Budweiser Ferret was used in a campaign in which the animal was depicted as a happy, fun-loving, and social creature.


We’d love to see appreciation grow even further for our furry ferret friends; get in touch with us if you can work with them on your next creative brief.


Love them or loathe them, mice have quite the name in society!  Some people have true phobias with many people quoting body parts such as their tails or feet that scare them.  However, very many people keep these little ones as pets and enjoy their eminent trainability. 


Mice are typically distinguished from rats by their size where generally, the mouse is smaller and the rat larger. 


Characteristically mice are known to have a pointed snout, small rounded ears, a body length scaly tail and a high breeding rate. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse. In some areas, certain kinds of field mice are locally common. Domestic mice sold as pets often differ substantially in size from the common house mouse and are known as the ‘fancy mouse’. Primarily nocturnal, mice compensate for their poor eyesight with a keen sense of hearing. They depend on their sense of smell to locate food and avoid predators.


The best known rat species are the black rat and the brown rat, of which the latter has been domesticated and is referred to as the ‘fancy rat’.  


Male rats are called bucks, unmated females are does, pregnant or parent females are referred to as dams, and infants are called kittens or pups. A group of rats is referred to as a mischief, which we think is particularly apt.


Mice and rats feature heavily in literature, myth and legend. Mickey Mouse, the cheerful anthropomorphic cartoon character, was a tremendous success for The Walt Disney Company. Mice feature in some of Beatrix Potter’s books including The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse, The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse and The Tailor of Gloucester.  Among Aesop’s Fables are The Frog and the Mouse and The Lion and the Mouse.  


Conversely European associations with the rat are rather less cheery.  They have often been used as a mechanism of horror or torture, for instance in Room 101 in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Selfish helpfulness – those willing to help for a price – has also been attributed to fictional rats. Templeton, from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, repeatedly reminds the other characters that he is only involved because it means more food for him, for example.  However, by contrast the rats appearing in the Doctor Dolittle books tend to be highly positive and likeable characters, many of whom tell their remarkable life stories in the Mouse and Rat Club, established by the animal-loving doctor.


So you see, it’s clear that mice and rats are funny little creatures that are truly fascinating.  They divide a crowd into lovers and haters and this makes them a great feature for media.  They should really be considered for a variety of roles, particularly if you’re looking for some bright animal actors.

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 handler is covered by a £10 million Public Liability Insurance policy. 


Consideration must be given to each animal’s waking hours as follows:

  • Rabbits and hamsters are crepuscular which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, though in the wild, hamsters are nearly fully nocturnal and usually burrow underground during the day.  
  • Mice and rats are nocturnal and will be most happy filming in the darker hours where possible.
  • Guinea pigs are diurnal and can therefore happily work during daylight hours.


It’s also worth noting that many small furries are extremely susceptible to rapid temperature changes and drafts, as well as extreme heat or cold.


All of the small furries startle quite easily, so please remain quiet and calm in the filming environment.


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.