I have been working on a post-apocalyptic fiction story and there is one thing I have been wondering about, could (in theory) a mammoth make a good pet and transportation system in this story?

For some context, my character is a human, genetically altered to have thick organic armored plates around his body and he has been exploring the habitable northern area because most of the south, equator, and southern area of the north is laid to waste by radiation from the war. Before his time, mammoths have been successfully revived and released into the wild, so they are in the north.

My character uses his personal pet mammoth to carry his gear so he can set up camp anywhere, and in exchange for this the mammoth gets companionship, food, water, and protection. The northern polar area gets at the average coldest 0˚F and warmest 57˚F (−18° to +14° C). There are about 800 humans in this region and 1200 woolly mammoths.

The mammoths were released into the wild 126 years before the apocalypse. The story is set up 20 years after the apocalypse.

Could someone tame a woolly mammoth, or would it just turn out bad? If so, what other arctic beasts of burden could I use?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding SE. To help make this question (and any more you may like to ask) better, may I suggest a few rules? First, break up your question into paragraphs (2x enter key) to make it easier to read. Second, be as specific as you can. In this question, that means knowing a bit more about your world, especially temperature. Is the Northern polar region you're describing particularly cold? How many mammoths are there in the wild? Was their release before or after the apocalypse? How long ago was it? How many other humans live in the region? Knowing these things will help. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Dec 13, 2017 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ Oh thx I'll get on it $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Dec 13, 2017 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ so far there is no evident from any surviving genome suggesting they had been subjected to any form of human(e) "domesticate" treatment, also I have neither the information nor the confidence to answer that said I'm willing to bet they would make good companion... not transportation(probably hurts their back which leads to disease) $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Dec 13, 2017 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ Why not transportation don't elephants do it on Safaris $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Dec 13, 2017 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ If it followed you home, and you promise to walk it and feed it every day (and shovel out the enclosure), then yes, you can have a pet mammoth. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Dec 13, 2017 at 4:59

4 Answers 4


There is good chance you could tame a mammoth

Mammoths (genus Mammuthus) are most closely related to the Asian elephant of all living species. In fact, they are more closely related to the Asian elephant than the Asian elephant is to the African elephant. This is not the case, for example, for the mastodon (genus Mammut) which is in a whole different family from elephants and mammoths.

The good news is that Asian elephants are domesticated, or at the very least tamed. If the woolly mammoth has the same temperament as an Asian elephant it is totally believable that the mammoth could be a pet, mount, and even companion. Elephants are pretty smart and sociable.

On the other hand, close genetic proximity does not mean that an animal is domesticable. Horses are domesticated, and so are the closely related African asses, but not the closely related zebras and Asiatic asses (onagers). All these species are in the same genus, and all have the same interbreeding capability (i.e. non-fertile offspring like mules), yet their domesticability is apparently variable.

All told, I rate this proposal as 'plausible'

  • $\begingroup$ Okay thx I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    Dec 13, 2017 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ How well an animal can be tamed and domesticated somewhat depends on the animal's natural social structure. Luckily, it is believed that the social structure of the woolly mammoth was the same as Asian and African elephants - moving mostly in herds led by older females. This indicates enough social ability and willingness to submit to a leader to be tamed, and having a similar social structure to elephants is in general an indicator of a comparable temperament. So I concur, it's somewhat plausible. $\endgroup$
    – Pahlavan
    Dec 13, 2017 at 5:53

Domesticating real ancient mammoths would be iffy. Supposedly African elephants cannot be domesticated: too fierce. Even though he was African, Hannibal used Asian elephants as his war elephants.

But for your mammoths I say they could be domesticated. Here is why.

1: These new mammoths will be nice. Why would anyone bring back mammoths? Because they hoped to make money. A good way to make money off an animal is to have humans interact with it in some way - ride it, pet it, have it do work. You do not want a fierce or unpredictable animal in this role. So: the mammoths brought back would already be engineered (for example, genes from long domesticated Asian elephants) to be docile and receive humans well. Dogs for example come from a long line of domesticated canids, and even wild dogs are ready to be domesticated again - usually. Dingoes are an exception: they have lost whatever dogs have that let them be domesticated and so even though puppy dingos are nice, the grown ones are irrevocably wild.

  1. Your mammoths would look like giant baby mammoths. The Russian Silver Fox experiment gets occasional mention on this stack. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160912-a-soviet-scientist-created-the-only-tame-foxes-in-the-world These foxes are bred to be tame. A side effect: they never really grow up. They looks and act like giant fox kits. Golden retrievers look and act like giant puppies too. Your tamable mammoths would look like giant mammoths babies which means they would be super cute and playful. Which it sounds like might be a good thing for the grim world you have built.

baby mammoth model https://goodden.deviantart.com/art/Handmade-poseable-baby-wooly-mammoth-521851526. This person has the cutest baby animals on her site!

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    $\begingroup$ African elephants have been tamed and used in war, circuses, etc. google.com/… $\endgroup$ Dec 13, 2017 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding It's often better to link directly to relevant pages, than to link to a Google search. Google search results are different for different people and from different systems, so you cannot count on someone else getting the same results even for an identical search. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Dec 14, 2017 at 10:31

It's possible, but likely only if your character encountered the mammoth as a baby/young mammoth and raised it from there. Domestication is generally a species-wide thing that spans generations, so unless a mass mammoth-taming project had previously been undertaken in your world, mammoths as a species would not be domestic and it would be extremely difficult to tame a grown mammoth. (info from a general knowledge of domestication and fact-checking with Wikipedia and other sources)


I assert that theoretically any pack animal can be tamed

The single common trait across all domesticated or tamed species is the pack/family behavioral trait.

In order to have familial structures like that simply of lions an organism must be behaviorally wired to facilitate subservience to a commanding presence (an alpha). It is this behavioral wiring that humans can take advantage of in order to assert themselves as the alpha in that organisms perspective.

This is why in my assertion that alligators cant be tamed because they don't have any such behavioral constructs. However there are extremely rare cases where taming has occurred in these cases it is likely the human managed to supplant the parent-child bond or mate-mate bond that alligators can sometimes demonstrate.

Some barriers to this outlook is communication. Like ants if you cant supplement the queens commands you cant control the ants. And an individual ant lacks the thought processing facsimiles to be reasoned with.

Selective Breeding has been proven to enhance traits allowing for easier taming ergo domestication.

So to answer the question, yes it is likely that a wooly mammoth could be tamed. The wooly mammoth is known to demonstrate similar social structures as its elephant relatives so its difficulty is likely similar too. However, There are other species with similar social structures with far greater taming difficulty like Hippos.


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