Animals on Film
"Never work with animals or children," runs the old film industry saw. But British filmmakers have proven adept at both - and especially animals.
Britain's wildlife filmmakers have long been the envy of the world - well before the era of Sir David Attenborough. Back in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, resourceful, dogged and sometimes eccentric pioneers were exploring the borderlands of film and science. Others, meanwhile, were drawn to animals as a subject for much the same reasons as their audiences: the eternal appeal of soft fur and tender paws, of exotic plumage or fearsome claws. Whatever your own favourites, this menagerie has something for you. WARNING: A few films in this collection show practices that may upset some viewers, including what would now be widely considered animal cruelty. We've flagged potentially sensitive content with an on-screen warning and / or a note in the text where appropriate.
Anoop and the Elephant
Children's197252 minsDirector: David Eady
Fun-packed comedy for kids, in which a boy befriends a baby elephant – then teams up with his friends to stop it being sold
Open Your Eyes
Amateur film196714 mins Location: Thompson Common
Should you look hard enough, you’ll be amazed at the antics that creatures get up to, says Dorothy Maxey, amateur filmmaker and naturalist.
The Living Rainbow
Amateur film197626 minsSilent Location: Thompson Common
Critters and blossoms of all colours, in Norfolk, captured on Super 8 colour Kodachrome by amateur filmmaker and naturalist Dorothy Maxey.
Amateur film19626 mins Location: Moorlands
A rather different view of the world, as seen through the eyes of a poodle, as “Mimi” is taken for a walk by two ladies in their summer dresses.
Tower Circus Elephants Bathing and Stanley Park
Amateur film193010 minsSilent Location: Blackpool
It's nice to be beside the seaside, particularly if you're an elephant - meet some unusual visitors to Blackpool beach.
Everywhere is a Wildlife Park
Amateur film197019 mins Location: Norwich
No need to queue, and nothing to pay. All you need is a good pair of eyes ... because ‘everywhere is a wildlife park’.
Peacocks and Tragopans
Nature and Science programme197011 mins Location: Great Witchingham
Norfolk’s Ornamental Pheasant Trust are devoted to preserving and breeding the world’s rarest and most beautiful pheasants.
Sponsored film19433 minsSilent Location: Cambridge
Possibly the cutest and quirkiest road safety film you are ever likely to watch, featuring a purely canine cast and a grocery shopping trip.
Pheasants to Formosa
Nature and Science programme196731 mins Location: Great Witchingham
Documentary about the work of The Pheasant Trust in Norfolk, and an investigation into Taiwanese practices to provide Chinese medicine.
The Romance of the Swan
Amateur film193312 minsSilent Location: Wroxham Broad
An affectionate record of the nesting period of a female swan. Winner of the 'Home Movies' magazine amateur filmmaking competition, 1933.
Roaming Wallabies at Whipsnade
Home movie193019 minsSilent Location: Whipsnade
Dunstable Downs is not the usual habitat for roaming wallabies, unless, of course, you’re visiting Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in the 1930s.
Monkey Mischief at Whipsnade
Home movie193015 minsSilent Location: Whipsnade
A spot of mischief on Chimpanzee Island attracts a large crowd at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in this home movie footage captured in the 1930s.
Chimps Tea Party at Whipsnade
Home movie193021 minsSilent Location: Whipsnade
Chimps take afternoon tea in this home movie, also featuring mammals, birds, and reptiles from all continents, resident at Whipsnade Zoo.
Non-Fiction19754 mins Location: Birmingham
With petrol prices up and pollution levels rising, is it time to leave the car in the garage, forget the bus and instead rely on a different type of horse-power?
Amateur film19492 minsSilent Location: West Sussex
A chestnut mare and her frisky foal frolic about a paddock while there's an outbreak of tweed at a local 'cross-country' event
Bungay May Horse Fair
Amateur film19764 minsSilent Location: Bungay
A unique two-day event in rural Suffolk, an opportunity for locals and countercultural types to return to rural community living.
Foal's First Footsteps
Amateur film19356 minsSilent Location: West Sussex
This tender little film shows a new born foal exploring the world around it while its mother looks on
This Horsey Business
Amateur film197511 mins Location: Chartham
Everything you ever wanted to know about the equestrian set - but were afraid to ask - is explained in this fascinating short film
Turkey and her Poults
Amateur film19452 minsSilent Location: Heptonstall
Mrs Turkey goes on the warpath when her newly-hatched poults are threatened by the farmer and his dog
Lena Partridge At the Livery
Amateur film196010 minsSilent Location: New Forest
Join the girls and the boys, both young and old, of the equine set as they hunt with hounds, trot about gardens and attend gymkhanas
Pheasant - from egg to larder
Amateur film192918 minsSilent Location: Wootton St Lawrence
The stages of a pheasant's short life are shown in this fascinating film - from being an egg to its violent end on someone's dinner plate
Charity Ferret Walk
Non-Fiction19725 mins Location: Evesham
Has raising money 'for old people' ever been more uncomfortable? Nicky Roberts plans to walk 13 miles with two ferrets down his trousers. He's surely risking more than a few nips!
Lloyd George with Dogs and Book
Non-Fiction19293 minsSilent Location: Churt
A summer's day, dogs and a book and the attention of a newsreel cameraman – what more could David Lloyd George (British prime minister 1916-22) possibly want?
The Solihull Rat Club
Amateur film19388 minsSilent Location: Solihull
The bodies soon pile up when the lads of the Solihull Rat Club let their dogs loose on the town's infestation.
A Day at the Zoo
Home movie195010 minsSilent Location: Dudley
Polar bears and big cats far from their natural habitat try to make the most of life in a West Midlands zoo.
A Day at the Races - Bangalore
Home movie19297 minsSilent
A day at the races is not much fun if your mount is insisting on behaving like a crab! Karolie Kathleen Buckley (nee Kemmis) does her best in the Ladies Race but it's not enough to win.
Who Killed the Bears?
Non-Fiction19645 mins Location: Cinderford
24 April 1889 - a crime is committed against two animals and the repercussions reverberate into the next century.
It’s The Circus Parts 1 & II, Olympia
Promotional195515 mins Location: Olympia
Bears, tigers and elephants perform for the crowds in this compelling colour footage from the Christmas circus at Olympia.
Mills Chimps, Olympia
Amateur film19548 mins Location: Olympia
Chimpanzees from one of London’s best-known circuses clown around for the Christmas audience at Kensington Olympia.
Stars In A Ring, Olympia
Promotional193515 mins Location: Olympia
Illuminated carriages, exotic acrobats and boxing clowns all feature in this extended film of highlights from the Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia.
Bertram Mills Circus, Olympia
Promotional19354 mins Location: Olympia
Elephants, acrobats, clowns and cowboys all feature in this highlights reel from the annual Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia.
Post-War Backstage Stables and Ring Scenes, Ascot & Olympia
Amateur film19554 mins Location: Olympia
Hair-combing chimps, performing elephants and a toothsome cheetah feature in this film of the Bertram Mills Circus.
The Circus Is Back, Olympia
Promotional19595 mins Location: Olympia
Swoon at the costumes, laugh at the clowns and wonder at the elephants as the cast of the Bertram Mills Circus enter the ring for another stellar performance.
Nature and Science programme19496 minsSilent Location: Headingley
An extraordinary film made by amateurs showing a wide variety of species of bees in close up feeding from an equally wide variety of flowers.
The Sheep Stealer
Stealing a sheep is not as easy as it might seem! They are hefty, unwieldy beasts as the desperate father with starving family discovers in this William Haggar production.
Amateur film19356 minsSilent Location: Kent
All looks peaceful on the surface of this pond - but the depths below contain some fearsome creatures - though you need a microscope to see them
Pupils at Chester Zoo 1969
Amateur film19694 minsSilent Location: Upton Heath
Don't climb into the bear pit, children! All the fun of the zoo, as Liverpool pupils visit the wildlife of Chester.
Fire Fighting Wolf Hounds
Non-Fiction19261 minsSilent Location: Roehampton
Bravura performance from some German Shepherds, who leap over high walls and through burning barriers at this demonstration in Roehampton.
Sparta the Dog
Amateur film195722 minsSilent Location: Great Yarmouth
An affectionate record of a family pet, Sparta the Springer Spaniel who leads a full and active life, but with plenty of cuddles from her family.
The Burial of Jackdaw
Home movie19201 minsSilent Location: Cockermouth
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes - children from a Cumbrian family organise a dignified end for a small creature.
Who's Zoo at Belle Vue
Amateur film194816 minsSilent Location: Belle Vue
Meet Larry the Llama and Joey the Boxing Chimp from Belle Vue Zoo. But what is The Clutching Hand? Find out more...
Blackpool Outdoor Dog Show 1960
Amateur film196012 minsSilent Location: Blackpool
Have a doggy treat - and meet some very well groomed visitors to Blackpool.
The Taming of the Elephant
Home movie192920 minsSilent
A ‘Khedda' – the practice (now banned) of trapping and taming wild elephants using already tamed elephants – is here recorded in detail by the fascinated film-maker.
Documentary193618 mins Location: Farne Islands
The birdlife of Northumberland's Farne Islands comes under the spotlight in this pioneering documentary from the Secrets of Life nature series.
Horses at Ascot, Winter Quarters, Ascot
Amateur film193912 mins Location: Ascot
Colour footage from the Bertram Mills Circus’ winter base in Ascot showing training for the Christmas show at Olympia.
"Around and About" 1949
Amateur film194925 minsSilent Location: Rumney
A summer of shows – Rumney Horse Show Society's Show, Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Show, Usk Farmers' Club Show – and a visit to Bristol Zoo where children ride on an elephant.
Whipsnade Zoological Park
Amateur film19364 minsSilent Location: Whipsnade
The Cox family, from Warwickshire, visit Whipsnade Zoo where they commune with a parrot. Once home, their beloved dog, Smut, is given a bath in the garden.
Lost Mother April 1925
Home movie19255 minsSilent Location: Plas Newydd
A dog does what dogs do in this drama created by the 6th Marquis of Anglesey, featuring a lost mother, two frightened daughters and a faithful, if slobbering, hound.
To the Rescue
Children's195221 minsSilent Location: Biddenden
An eccentric dog-loving grocer leads the chase to reclaim a stolen pedigree poodle in this madcap canine comedy
Drama-documentary193915 mins Location: Treorchy/Treorci
The Ocean Coal Co. employed not just miners but also shepherds, as evidenced here. Tom Jones of Treorchy protects the company's assets above ground with care and great skill.
Juno Helps Out
Children's195319 mins Location: London
Helpful and humongous Great Dane Juno helps out with housework, does some shopping and chomps cream cake in this cheerful kids' film
Fricker's Trained Alsatians
Documentary194514 minsSilent Location: Pudsey
An intriguing look at the training of police dogs, climbing up ladders blindfolded and rescuing documents from wounded soldiers.
Turners Hill Outing
Amateur film197521 minsSilent Location: Turners Hill
Members of the Complete Angler Fishing Club of Eastbourne enjoy some angling action on a lake at Turner's Hill near Crawley
Amateur film196411 mins Location: Eastbourne
Watch these men in wellies and waders as they attempt to remove five-thousand bream from a small lake in Sussex - in a single day!
Rover Makes Good
Children's195216 mins Location: Callington
A rascally sheepdog redeems himself when he goes to the rescue of two children trapped in an old Cornish tin mine
Documentary197524 mins Location: Twycross Zoo
The British are crazy about their animals: Molly drinks tea with her chimps, Sylvia dyes her tiny poodle pink and Malcolm sings to his pigs.
Home for Ned
Amateur film19708 mins Location: Newchapel
Enjoy this heartwarming film about neglected horses, ponies and donkeys being re-habilitated at 'Cherry Tree Farm' in leafy Surrey
Billy Smart’s Circus
Amateur film19502 minsSilent Location: Brighton
Brighton's crowds thrill to the sight of Billy Smart's Circus parading through their town in this film from the 1950s
Do you remember?
Amateur film195018 minsSilent Location: Lone Barn Fm
Cowboys, Carnivals and Mayors on the slide appear alongside the most beserk and hilarious donkey race you'll ever see in Sussex
Outing to Longleat Wildlife Park
Amateur film19729 minsSilent Location: Longleat Park
Enjoy a day-trip 70s style as we join the Mitchell family on their big game safari at Longleat - with lions, baboons and giraffes doing the splits
The Animal World
Amateur film19356 minsSilent Location: Lancashire
See a baby owl learning to fly, as an amateur filmmaker introduces us to some of his animal and avian acquaintances.
I Guinea Pig
Children's19835 mins Location: South Shields
The do’s and don’ts of pet care explained by a cute cartoon guinea pig created by celebrated British animator Sheila Graber.
The Magic Box
Home movie19656 mins Location: Crigglestone
A young girl takes on the Desmond Morris (or perhaps Johnny Morris) role for this enchanting film of a family birdwatching in their back garden.
Mingo & Jerry, Thea and Jerry
Home movie19311 minsSilent Location: Llandegfan
Mingo, Jerry and Thea: names of the dogs or people seen? Either way, they will be connected, for sure, with Isla Johnston of Bryn Mêl, Glyngarth, Anglesey, who shot the footage.
A Year and a Day
Nature and Science programme195414 minsSilent Location: Headingley
The metamorphosis of the eating machine which is the caterpillar, into an Emperor Moth, revealed in all its detail and presented in 15 minutes.
Documentary198524 mins Location: Lofthouse Hill
Mucking out the loft, the serious business of setting the racing clocks, the anxious wait for the pigeons return home, and finally, a beer.
Documentary197010 mins Location: Bingley
The quirks of a whippet race, with novices in winklepickers learning from the old hands, all fully elucidated in broad West Yorkshire dialect.
Home movie19603 minsSilent
William Lloyd Ellis of Pwllheli celebrates daughter Fiona’s love of horses in this compilation showing her on seaside ponies and trekking.
Two White Rabbits
Home movie1929 minsSilent
The two children seen here could not have been happier if their two, newly-acquired white rabbits had been pulled out of a hat!
Parsonage Farm I – cats, dogs, children and tea-time
Home movie195114 minsSilent
Life at Parsonage farm includes courageous cats, cute kittens, sweet Shetland collies, appealing puppies and kids in the kitchen.
Parsonage Farm II – cats, ducks, cows, daisies - and seagulls
Home movie19413 minsSilent
It’s summertime and it’s fun for the Pym children - Michael and Frances – to play on the duck house and pick daisies.
Parsonage Farm III – kids, cat, chick and children
Home movie19424 minsSilent
Arnold William Pym’s entrancing shots of Parsonage Farm’s animals: goat kids encounter a cat, and a cat is fazed by a chick!
Plas Newydd, Anglesey
Home movie192410 minsSilent Location: Plas Newydd
Three loyal labradors - Brandy, Biscuit and Bran – are solid members of the dog fraternity that is part of life at ‘Plas Newydd’.
Action and Adventure19077 minsSilent Location: Bognor Regis
Delightful rescue yarn with a smart dog and horse working together to save a young girl from drowning in Bognor.