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In a lot of RPGs (role-playing games), certain characters (Rangers and Druids from D&D, Hunters from WoW, etc...) can tame an "animal companion" that follows them loyally and does their bidding, helping in combat and sometimes in other capacities as well.

Would something like this actually be possible in real life? Are there any examples of it happening? (I know we've domesticated dogs and used them for a variety of things, including warfare, but I don't think I've ever heard of - for example - a lone adventurer trudging through the wilderness with a combat-oriented canine trotting along at his side).

If so, what animals would best be suited for this?

To clarify, my story takes place in a fantasy world, but magic is uncommon and creatures generally follow the same rules as the real world.

EDIT: It has been noted that this question isn't really worldbuilding, which is fair. I initially thought of it as worldbuilding because it was for a story (as well as, admittedly, some curiosity) and I care about a level of detail and realism. I wanted to find out how realistic this concept of an animal companion was in general, along with some capabilities, limitations, and potential examples. This would be helpful to have in mind when writing, so I could have an idea of what elements would be fantasy (if any).

As it stands the responses and comments have been useful, if not exactly what I was looking for, and for what it's worth I consider my question answered.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by RonJohn, elemtilas, Renan, L.Dutch, Andon Mar 25 '18 at 5:16

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Possibly you've never heard of it because in the current world, the people who train dogs for fighting usually aren't the sort of people who're likely to go hiking in the wilderness, and those who do go hiking don't want combat-trained dogs. But my dog does go hiking & riding with me, and usually does my bidding. Though he's most often ranging out to one side or another, not trotting at my side. So it's certainly possible, though it's perhaps more realistic for the dog to be a scout. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 24 '18 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ I read the title as "Could I actually have a Rocket Propelled Grenade-like animal companion?" and I was very puzzled. Then I read the question and found out that the inquirer lives in a country where they don't have dogs. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 24 '18 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ Well maybe you didn't heard of "adventurer" because there were no adventurers. Traveling mercenaries, yes. Travelling hunters, no. Animals can be trained to attack on command and pack animals will also protect their trainer if he is in danger. So it is possible. Ravens, parrots and monkeys can be trained to do lots of tricks. stealing, bringing things. and these animals are also inteligent enough to associate words with concepts or items. But do not expect a snake to do your bidding, you should choose intelligent animals. $\endgroup$ – Nuloen The Seeker Mar 24 '18 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ I deleted my answer, and voted to close, because of the obviousness of the answer. Just because you've "(n)ever heard of a lone adventurer trudging through the wilderness with a combat-oriented canine trotting along at his side" doesn't mean that it's never happened. Or that there are any better reality-check answers for "trotting along at his side" than dogs. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 25 '18 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn I was actually going to accept your answer, regardless of your response to my additional comment. I was hoping to get clarification on that one additional point (which admittedly wouldn't have a huge impact but was still somewhat useful). $\endgroup$ – Erynion Mar 25 '18 at 0:57
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Birds are sometimes animal companions...

girl with eagle

although I agree that dogs are a pretty good fit for the description, and can be trained to respond to various complex commands (think sheep-dogs, who typically work without a leash and at some distance from the shepherd). In principle I see no reason for a dog not to be able to conduct a variety of tasks, and to travel with its master/mistress without a leash (avoiding modern traffic is one reason to keep otherwise well-trained dogs on leads).

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"Dogs" is definitely the best answer from the primary world.

This question, as written, really is not about worldbuilding, even with the "to clarify" tag. It is, however, one of those "well obviously you can" questions that seem to crop here frequently, and I think there are some generalities that will answer your question and probably eighteen other recent questions!

Clearly, you're working on a fantasy world. A fantasy world is a place where things can happen that do not, can not, should not and perhaps ought not happen ✳here✳ in the primary world. The Laws of Nature may be different, natural history may be different, there may be magic or other natural forces that we don't have ✳here✳. There may be spiritual, physical and cognitive abilities that we don't have ✳here✳. Animals may be of higher cognitive order ✳there✳ than ✳here✳. Ultimately, you're the geopoet: that means you get to make the rules!

You can, quite literally, do what you like!

  • You can have animal companions of any shape, size or species.
  • You can have them do whatever you want.
  • You can give them intelligence and sentience above and beyond others of their kind living in this world.
  • You can have them form psionic & emotional bonds with their masters so tight that they behave almost as one graceful creature.
  • You can have these animal companions be so loyal that they will never turn on their masters.
  • You can make these companions be so intelligent that they can, at least, understand their master's words and possibly communicate in return.

I think you can see here that the answer to this type of question boils down to "go answer your own question, because it's not a question type that we can actually answer for you"!

I can say by way of example that some of these things do exist and at varying levels, among such animal companions in The World! Daine hunters often have dog or even wolf and fox companions and they form very close emotional and psionic bonds with them. Some warriors have been known to take great fighting birds or wargs or even shaggy boars as shock-warfare companions. Herdsmen almost always have companion animals, and the psychic bonds between them often develop strongly enough that the herdsman rarely has to rely on visible or audible signals for their herdscompanions to go here or there.

As for what animals are best, only you can answer that question! That's too "opinion based" for us to assay, especially since we know nothing about your world or the animals & beasts in it. You know your world best; maybe just think about it a while and the answers will come to you! And I am willing to bet they'll be better answers and more suited to your world than if I do the worldbuilding for you!

It sounds like you're heading towards an interesting premise, and I hope future questions will be more worldbuilding oriented!

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  • $\begingroup$ Would upvote if I could for detailed answer and taking the time to explain it's not really worldbuilding, which I understand now (although the other SE sites didn't seem like quite the right fit either). $\endgroup$ – Erynion Mar 25 '18 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Erynion -- understood. I guess my main quibble is that your specific question was can this "actually be possible in real life?" By definition, not worldbuilding related! Even so, it's a good question, and I think deserved an answer. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Mar 26 '18 at 16:38

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