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Harry Potter owls needed six months training to carry post

They say never work with animals, but the filmmakers on Harry Potter clearly ignored this advice, and it took six months to train the owls

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, with Hedwig the owl

One of the key rules of the movie industry is to never work with children or animals, but the team behind Harry Potter didn’t really have a choice. Not only did they need to fill the Harry Potter cast with exceptional young actors, but they also needed to spend lots of time training animals to perform on command, such as the owls who carry the post to Hogwarts.

The hugely popular fantasy movie franchise features all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures, but one of the more normal animals in the world of the Harry Potter movies is of course, the owls. The likes of Hedwig and his other owl buddies are integral to the workings of the magic school, but their efficient delivery system took a lot of work.

Speaking at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature back in 2018, animal trainer Julie Tottman revealed her extensive training with the avian actors for the hit family movie series, which apparently took all of six months to complete before the birds were ready for the film.

“To train an animal, you have to take time to understand their different personalities and ensure they are enjoying the experience, or it won’t be a success,” Tottman explained.

Apparently, it usually takes around four months to train animals for the big screen, but in the case of the owls on Harry Potter, it took a little longer. “It was challenging, and I had to work with 15 owls,” Tottman said.

Tottman also revealed that many of the animals used in the Harry Potter movies, including Hagrid’s dog, Fang, are rescue animals. She claimed that is the case for most animals in any film, in fact.

It’s been quite the career for Tottman, having also worked on Game of Thrones, some James Bond movies, the Sherlock Holmes franchise, and the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.