A traditional feature of British Pantomime occasionally also seen elsewhere, the Pantomime Animal is a non-talking animal played by a human actor wearing an animal suit. For obvious reasons this is most often seen on stage; the most common animal given this treatment in pantomime is a horse. Larger quadrupeds (such as horses) may require two actors. Children or dwarfs, on the other hand, may be needed to play smaller creatures. Though pantomime animals don't talk (at least, they're not supposed to talk), they may make appropriate animal noises on cue and often can dance as well — pantomime is a highly stylised, non-realistic theatrical form where Rule of Funny is the norm. Having a pantomime animal avoids all the hassle of working with real live animals — although sometimes real animals, usually ponies, appear briefly for the effect.
"The back legs of a pantomime horse" is sometimes used as a byword for an uncomfortable, humiliating job, especially in a show-business context. After all, the actor in that role is invisible to the audience, has to spend all their time bent over and trusting their partner to lead, and has a job which involves keeping their face adjacent to someone else's backside.
A sub-trope of Pantomime. See also People in Rubber Suits. In-Universe examples can overlap with Animal Disguise. A human version of this would be Totem Pole Trench; some inhuman versions include The Worm That Walks and Combining Mecha.
- A Far Side comic has two pantomime actors arguing. One (whose ass is a good three or four times wider than him) demands to know why he's always the rear end of the horse.
- Loriot has a subversion - the pantomime horse doing all the impossible gags only possible by two pantomimes is played — by a horse.
- Don Martin shows a bullfight. The bull in reality are two pantomimes. Of course, this is no gag and is topped: The bullfighter is a bull in a bullfighter costume.
- Pain and Panic briefly dressed up as a female Pegasus near the end of Hercules, with the two forming the individual halves of the Pegasus.
- Those two do this sort of trick quite often. One time they attempted to do a huge lion, and ended up getting confused on who was doing which half.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame: One of the costumes worn at the Feast of Fools is a horse with two rear ends.
- Shows up at the Mardi Gras party in The Princess and the Frog.
- In Sherlock Gnomes, Sherlock and Juliet disguise themselves as a squirrel so they can move about a park in daylight.
- Played with in Snow White and the Huntsman. At one point when the dwarves are sneaking into the castle they walk on the other side of a horse that's between them and the guards.
- The two rebels disguised as a cow in Top Secret!. One insists on playing the rear end, causing his compatriot to gripe, "Fine, be an asshole!" Ironically, the fake cow is really played by a real one with boots on.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen actually did this with an ice cream truck.
- The Pink Panther has two police inspectors undercover in a zebra costume at the costume party meant to ensnare the Phantom. When the Phantom and his nephew make a break for it, they gallop down the street...while everyone else in the chase is in a car.
- In The Bold Caballero, the Commandante holds a bullfight for Isabella's birthday. It at first appears to be burlesque bullfight with a 'bull' consisting of two men in a costume. However, he later releases a real bull into the ring. The first thing it does is attack the fake bull.
- The Wolf mascot from A.N.T. Farm.
- Call the Midwife: In the series 7 Christmas Episode, Trixie and Christopher appear as a pantomime cow when the much-delayed Christmas pantomime is finally stage. Trixie complains that she went to all the trouble of getting her hair done and a manicure when no one can see her.
- Dad's Army: In "Operation Kilt", the platoon attempts to use a pantomime cow to sneak up on a highland regiment during a training exercise. Things do not according to plan when a bull takes an interest.
- In a Dave Allen at Large sketch, a German POW camp guard searches the cargo and even the straw in an outgoing wagon thoroughly, to make sure there are no prisoners hiding inside. Not finding anyone, the guard waves the wagon through the gate, failing to notice that it's being pulled by a pantomime horse.
- Father Brown: In "The Tree of Truth", Father Brown and Sid play the Daisy the Cow in the Christmas pantomime.
- (ding-dong) WHO'S THAT AT THE DOOR?!? Secretariat on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
- Parodied with the pantomime horses in Monty Python's Flying Circus. To say nothing of the pantomime Princess Margaret.
- Buttercup the QI cow made an appearance at the beginning of the "Groovy" episode to help demonstrate the first question.
Stephen: Never, ever in the history of show business has the phrase "Don't milk it, Luv," been more appropriate.
- Dobbin the Pantomime Horse in 1980s BBC kids' show Rentaghost, supposedly an empty costume animated by a misfiring magic spell.
- The music video for Sorry for Party Rocking by LMFAO features a pantomime zebra performing the Running Man.
- Bob's Burgers: In "Two For Tina", Jimmy Jr. tries to impress Tina at one point by dressing up in a horse costume with his pal Zeke and singing a song about her.
- Donald Duck and the Gorilla: Huey, Dewey and Louie put on a three-person gorilla suit (one controlling the head, one controlling the arms and one controlling the legs) to play a prank on Donald.
- In the Classic Disney Short Moose Hunters, Donald and Goofy don a two-person moose costume (supposedly female, though it has antlers) to lure a male moose to Mickey.
- The Doug episode "Doug's On Stage" has Doug Funnie and Roger Klotz having to play Grendle the brave horse in the Bluffington Founders' Day School Play, which of course they don't enjoy.
- The Merrie Melodies short "A Gruesome Twosome" combines this with Paper-Thin Disguise, when the two cats disguise themselves this way in a very cheap, unrealistic horse costume, as an attempt to catch Tweety Bird, who decides to put an angry bumblebee in the back of the costume and ride the "horse" ala The Lone Ranger.
Examples of a real-in-universe creature being portrayed using this method:
- Certain scenes in the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring had a pantomime Bill the Pony used in long shots, as it would have been too difficult to travel there with a real animal.
- The Rodent of Unusual Size from The Princess Bride.
- Return of the Jedi took had the incredibly intricate multi-person puppet used for Jabba the Hutt.
- The Pushmi-Pullyu on Doctor Dolittle, a llama-like creature with A Head at Each End.
- Sesame Street has Mr. Snuffleupagus and Barkley the dog.
- In the Doctor Who serial "Warriors of the Deep", the Myrka, a genetically engineered sea monster, is played by two guysnote in a costume approximating to a green pantomime horse. It... doesn't really work. Michael Grade would later screen footage of a scene involving the Myrka to justify his axing of the series.
- Blake's 7. Bryan the Spider from "The Harvest of Kairos". The actor operated the Giant Spider by sitting in the costume backwards, operating the front legs with his feet. Unfortunately this resulted in a very slow walk.
- As noted, common in Pantomime.
- The lion in Androcles and the Lion is played this way.
- Traditionally, Nana the dog in Peter Pan.
- Imogene the Spotted Calf, who replaced Toto in the original 1902 stage version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. No, really.
- The elephant and rhinoceros costumes used in the Broadway musical version of The Lion King.
- The theatre adaptation of Warhorse.
- The Disney cast members in character costumes who roam the park aren't supposed to speak, so they pantomime everything they want to communicate. Note that this doesn't include "face characters", like Alice or Snow White, who aren't wearing anything over their heads. Or the newest model of Mickey, who has some elaborate mechanisms that allow him to speak.
- Patty Maloney and Pat Cooper once performed at state fairs costumed as Rocky and Bullwinkle, respectively.
- George the horse in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "I Had an Accident," who shows up at the end to ride into the sunset with the gorilla when Spongebob questions how a gorilla is underwater in the first place.