I have had an ingenious idea of combining the two most dangerous creatures the world has ever seen by using my massive and titanic intellect. Mankind, the deadliest land mammal, and sharks, the most feared creature in the sea. For decades, these two species have been at odds due to Spielberg. But together, they make an unstoppable force!

This ocean world is covered in mostly water, with small islands dotting the surface and large landmasses being rare. Ocean life is far more diverse, with many larger predators. I have had dogs become extinct due to some virus because they suck and are boring. Sharks are much cooler, so I had them take their place as loyal servants to humanity.

These humans use sharks for a number of things, specifically to hunt for food. Hunters ride on the backs of sharks to search for prey. The riders use spears as weapons of choice while sharks assist by catching and ripping chunks out of the animal. Then the carcass is towed back home.

How can I make this vision possible? To what extent must I change a shark to allow for this compatibility ?

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    $\begingroup$ First, have your sharks evolve long term memory and the ability to recognise individuals $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ Don't most animals already have that ability? I remember a guy training a group of goldfish to do a choreography $\endgroup$
    – user56803
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Sharks are not a species. There are many species of sharks. Some, like the whale shark en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark are plankton feeders. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say that Sharks are the most deadly if you want to make humans the most deadly land mammal. Orcas or Killer Whales are much more deadly and intelligent. They are known to attack and kill sharks, are smart enough to use bait (to catch birds) and use humans to their own advantage as well (They would herd whales into a bay where humans would butcher the whales for their fats and throw the carcass out). So while Sharks have the cool factor, orcas are truly scary. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ I believe sharks can only be domesticated when they are placed in a tornado. $\endgroup$
    – JMac
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 14:53

7 Answers 7


Sounds impractical at best.

These humans use sharks for a number of things, specifically to hunt for food.

Call me Mr. Obvious, but if we've domesticated sharks and we need food, what's wrong with shark meat ? :-)

Hunters ride on the backs of sharks

A human "riding" a shark is essentially the shark carrying a packed lunch with them.

This sounds impractical. Sharks are fish and they need to be under the water to breath - they can't air breath and so they can't skim the surface in the way "riding" a shark would require. On the other hand people can't breath water, so there's no happy meeting ground here (unless it's inside a shark's digestive system).

Also note that in terms of stability, sharks (and all sea going creatures) are designed to operate without some dead weight on top of it causing enormous drag in the water. People riding sea creatures may sound nice in children's books, but it's an insane idea unless your idea of a good time is giant wave surfing. It's doubtful a shark would be at all keen on dragging a human around, given it can hunt fine on it's own.

The idea of a shark ignoring food and towing it is just not an option. They kill, they eat. They have no equivalent of "home" : home is where a shark is swimming. A land animal typically will have a location that equates to a home (a base, a lair, a nest, if you will). That's practical on land.

I have had dogs become extinct due to some virus because they suck and are boring. Sharks are much cooler, so I had them take their place as loyal servants to humanity.

First. Things. First. Dogs Are Cool. I'd prefer most dogs to e.g. most lawyers. Lawyers, as an example, are indeed boring, whereas dogs are fun. I rarely have arguments with dogs, but I have arguments with lawyers all the time. Sharks may be your idea of fun, but I can't make that connection myself. I'll stick with dogs. :-)

Humans are land based creatures. Even if we could somehow use sharks in hunting at sea (what for ?), we're going to live on land and we're going to use some other land based creates as our loyal servants (actually dogs are domestically loyal companions not servants). Horses would be the next most likely "servant" (companion). We've used elephants, donkeys, cows, horses and other animals for labor and typically provide them with something in return (like food - not such a good idea with a shark when we're the food !).

But they key here is that we can communicate with these animals is a practical sense and we can provide them something they want. Can't do that with sharks.

Ocean life is far more diverse, with many larger predators These humans use sharks for a number of things, specifically to hunt for food.

Humans have been successfully hunting marine creatures for food for as long as there are records. We've hunted, on an industrial scale, everything from tiny fish and shell fish to the largest whales. We even hunt sharks !

We don't need help hunting marine creatures. We have evolved a device for doing all that is required ourselves - the brain. That and the ability to create tools, like boats and trawl nets give us all the advantages we require.

How can I make this vision possible?

Not with sharks as we know them.

You might manage something with dolphins. Not sharks.

But this idea (riding a sea creature) is extremely inefficient and unsafe.

Your intelligent creatures will build boats. Now the relative lack of land may make wood a scarcity, but your humans will presumably manage to figure out how to make alternative materials work. Hey, we build boats from metal and we've even built floating objects from concrete. What would you get on a shark for ?

Island cultures need reliable, dependable and predictable transport based on ships of some form to operate a trading system and allow for the exchange of people and idea. Sharks can't do this, and that means once someone developed a viable sea craft, it's game over for sharks and we can go back to eating sharks !

There is too much at stake for an island culture to depend on sharks for anything, except a meal or something we can make from their carcasses.

Humans needing help hunting ? We the ones that make other species extinct !

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    $\begingroup$ Generally I would agree with you that sharks is not a good choice, but you could improve the answer. 1. Shark's meat is unpalatable. More unplatable than dogs. 2. Wolfes are dangerous like sharks and could eat meat instead to bring to the human. But people domesticated wolfes and get dogs. $\endgroup$
    – ADS
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @ADS Actually, last I looked the widely accepted theory was that basically, wolves initially domesticated themselves by hanging around human settlements and living off human food leftovers (it's less dangerous to do that than to try to kill a moose every few days to a week). Once wolves and humans became used to each other, cooperation was a rather obvious next thing to happen, and from there, the road to reasonably modern dogs was practically paved. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ "wolves initially domesticated themselves", "Once wolves and humans became used to each other, cooperation was a rather obvious next thing to happen". You just say how dangerous predators could be domesticated. It's not clear in your answer why sharks could not be domesticated in same way. P.S. Please treat my comments as effort to improve your answer, not as criticism $\endgroup$
    – ADS
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I think there's a confusion here about just how domestication of dogs happened : we don't know exactly, but it may have be an very long process (ten thousand years or more) and may also have a genetic component - modern wolves are genetically different from dogs. Domesticating sharks would essentially involve a similar process (if possible at all), and a similar timescale and a shark that was genetically different from the related wild species. In short, you wouldn't end up a shark any more than a dog is a wolf. But I think the idea is deeply flawed any way. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @ADS: Despite the scare stories, wolves are not particularly dangerous predators of humans. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 4, 2018 at 18:17

There a number of criteria necessary for an animal to be domesticated.

1. Varied diet

This one's okay. Bonnethead sharks are omnivores, and other carnivorous ones such as tiger sharks are highly opportunistic (I'm sure you've heard of the kinds of human rubbish they eat). Due to their opportunism, I'd say that many species of shark would certainly eat human scraps.

2. Fast growth

Uh-oh. As far as I know, sharks are quite slow-growing animals. From what I can remember, megamouths mature at 13, great whites at 26, and Greenland sharks at a staggering 150. Then again, I had a friend who purchased a zebra shark, and it quintupled in length in a few months - however, zebra sharks aren't the stereotypical image of "shark".

3. Willingness to breed in captivity

Sharks, in general, do pretty lousily in captivity. Only a few species have been kept in aquaria for more than a year, and those are generally benthic species which I doubt you're after - small, pug-nosed things for the most part. While Georgia Aquarium has whale sharks, none of these were born in captivity and all were fished from the wild.

4. Pleasant behavior towards humans

I'd say that once sharks became accustomed to human presence, they'd eventually be fairly comfortable with us. They seem fine in things like shark dives, so consider this a yes.

5. Calmness and "bravery" in human presence

From what I've seen of people swimming with lemon sharks and the like, even man-eater species like tigers, they are in fact very curious, sometimes overly so.

6. Flexible social hierarchy

Sharks are, in general, highly solitary animals. Yes, hammerheads and others will school in great numbers, but there isn't really any kind of social interaction going on, much less a hierarchy. Further research shows that there is some degree of sociality in various shark species, but still - no hierarchy systems.

So, that's 3 yeses, and 3 nos - a 50% positive result. In that case, the truth is that I really don't know if sharks can be domesticated. My best guess would be no - at least not without some significant changes to their biology, which will have many side-effects. One thing that's for sure is that riding them is out of the question - it's just not practical.

So, from what I gather from your question, it seems like what you're looking for is a partnership between humans and a generally badass kind of marine animal. In that case, I would suggest you have them domesticate orcas instead - in my opinion, they're way cooler (they eat blue whales and great white sharks, form separate hunting cultures, are much bigger etc.), and exponentially easier to domesticate, being one of the most intelligent animals in the world.

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    $\begingroup$ I had a friend who purchased a zebra shark There's an expression I never thought I'd read. :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ where did you take these criteria from? It might be an interesting read. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ Sure sharks are intelligent enough to be comparable to a dog at all? Though the size of the larger shark brains is always being stressed by shark lovers who object to the fact that sharks aren't very intelligent, fact remains that 2/3 of the brain is for olfactory sense. Subtract what's needed for swimming and for what little eyesight they have, and not much remains for being trained tricks, if you ask me. $\endgroup$
    – Damon
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ Just to add to your end recommendation: Orca may not be what us humans think of as dangerous sea creatures because they never attack us (as opposed to sharks, which very rarely do), but if you asked a sea creature, I'd wager they would fear Orca over a Great Whites any day. $\endgroup$
    – Michael W.
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ Michael W.: Re orcas never attacking humans, maybe they're just smart enough not to get caught at it :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 17:44

Sharks are not the best choice

Most likely, dolphins could be domesticated much easily

  • Dolphins are much smarter and more communicable. They have enemy - killer whales which are their closest relatives. Dolphins vs orca is somewhat dogs vs wolfes.

  • Dolphins are ofter hunting in packs and people could join to such hunting. As with dogs, the goal is to get more fish more easily when hunting together. They actively communicate each other while hunting (and people make efforts to understand their language).

  • Dolphins are mammamls and breath like human.

  • If you choose bigger dolphins like killer whales then hunting on big creatures (like hunting to mammoth on land) could be an option.

Riding on sharks looks like absurd

Most dog breeds were breeded not for riding on them. In fact, dog in harness is exception. The same for sharks/dolphins: they are more effective in chasing fish swarm to the human traps or nets. Sitting on them during hunting/war would get no advantage.

Hunting together, people and sharks/dolphins could get more food that alone. This is the main reason for domesticating such creatures like dogs.


I could suggest some ways to interact with sea creatures:

  • Fishing.

    1. People set up nets in some area of ocean and send signal of start hunting.
    2. Sharks/dolphins find fish swarms and chase to nets. They could eat some fish while hunting but not so much because specific fish species could dodge from shark attacks.
    3. People pull nets, collect fish and drop some eat to the assistants. Eat could be caught fish or something else which is precious meal for sharks.
  • Hunting.

    1. People set up harpoons and other equipment for whale hunting on boats.
    2. Sharks/dolphins Orcas pack find whale somewhere in ocean and signal to the people where it is. Orcas are chasing whale to exausting, forcing to lift it up to the surface and directing to the people's boat.
    3. People and orcas together kill the whale which is hard and dangerous even when combining efforts. Probably they hunting on fantasy creature which even more dangerous than whale.
    4. Prey is divided between hunters. People get tons of food and raw materials. Orcas could eat delicious meat and probably receive something else that hard to find at sea but easy at land.
    5. People feed orcas between hunts, probably treating them from some illnesses and protect from deep-water dangers.

Note that both options assume that people use boats/ships and acts on the sea surface, like people usually do.

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    $\begingroup$ Your last argument is actually the most important one, but maybe needs to be turned around a bit: The animal must have some sort of benefit when hunting together with the human over hunting alone in order for domestication to work. Also, the animal must be open to social interaction - That was true for wolves and men and most probably isn't for sharks and humans. $\endgroup$
    – tofro
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @tofro Not just "open to social interaction" - that social interaction must be physically possible. It takes incredibly sophisticated technology to interact with sharks, because the human body cannot survive underwater for any length of time. (Scuba training mostly involves learning the ways being underwater can kill you!) We've only been able to do this for about 70-80 years, and that's simply due to the technology required. Free-divers can stay underwater for a few minutes, after substantial training, but that's still not long enough for meaningful interaction. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ “Dolphins vs orca is somewhat dogs vs wolfes.” ... Not really. Dogs are the descendants of wolves that our ancestors were able to make useful to them. Orcas and dolphins are entirely different animals. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ @HopelessN00b According to Wiki, orcas are belong to the oceanic dolphin family. There are dozens of different species $\endgroup$
    – ADS
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @tofro Yep, interaction is important. That's why I noted that dolphins are more suitable for domestication: they have communication and interactions inside their pack. Of course, there is some handwaving how people could communicate with them - but it's out of scope $\endgroup$
    – ADS
    Commented Nov 6, 2018 at 17:36

You could take some hints from Cristina Zenato, often called "The Shark Whisperer".

I like these YouTube clips documenting her work (but there are more):

The second video is esp. revealing about the way she became friends with the sharks: she slowly builds trust with them, esp. by bringing food for them; she reads them like people read their dogs; and she removes fishing hooks from the sharks, which earned her the friendship of some and made (?) others come with their hooks as well.

Overall, it does not seem much different from how humans built trust and friendships with other wild animals, incl. the case of Kevin "The Lion Whisperer" Richardson.


I don't think real-life sharks have that level of intelligence. But maybe I'm wrong or we can just assume that the sharks in your world do.

What do humans offer the sharks? Dogs became domesticated because humans offered them warmth by a fire, the protection of a pack when finding a dog pack might have been difficult, a steady source of food, etc. Love too, but that wasn't what drew them to humans.

But what do sharks get out of this deal? Aren't they better off just eating the humans? Or ignoring them? (Or getting out of the way of their spears)

Maybe the sharks really value certain prey but they can't get it very often. With the humans, they get it almost any time they want. That doesn't seem like enough though. Humans and sharks don't live together so there isn't that kind of benefit. But maybe humans can create coves where the sharks can rest and feel safe (safe from?? who are their predators? Killer whales who don't fit in the coves?). Or the humans farm fish the sharks love and feed them from it regularly.

I can see why the humans would be drawn to domesticate sharks in the ways you suggest. But you're going to have to find the motivations (should be multiple ones) that are going to convince the sharks. And to keep them from going wild again. If you don't find enticements then maybe your answer is entrapments. Either way, that's your answer.


Well I don't want to talk about sharks in specific. I really don't know much about them.
But I know something about training. I'm no dog trainer, ask them for special advices, but I can tell you the most common way to train an animal. And that's the method called 'bread and stick'. When your animal/victim does sth right you give them sth they like (bread), in your case meat. When they do sth wrong you hurt them (stick). In this case hurting might be a problem, because sharks wouldn't act so proud of that.
You can do that an you could train pretty much everything, even humans.
Hope this helps :)


By elimination.

Suppose animal A is a better friend of humans than shark S. Then throw A into the pool together with S. Now A is no more and therefore S is a better friend of humans than A.

Rince and repeat.


To answer to @Tyler S. Loeper and @F1Krazy's excellent comments, demands for clarification.

One can reach the desired objective by expanding very little effort on the domestication part. As Pavlov established, feeding an animal is one, perhaps minimal, form of domestication. Frankly, I wonder whether sharks even lend themselves to more involved forms of domestication

I would like also to clarify my answer following @F1Krazy's comments. I intend for the actual slaughtering to be done by the shark itself, not the humans.

  • $\begingroup$ I think this answer needs a little more text to clarify its intent. Are you suggesting selective breeding? Gladiatorial fighting? How do you determine that one animal is a better friend than another? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerS.Loeper: 'How do you determine that one animal is a better friend than another?' it's all in the present tense attached to the operative verb 'is'. If animal A is no more because it has been eaten by S then S is a better friend than A. Start from a world in which there are only two animals left, A & S and work your way backward by induction. $\endgroup$
    – user189035
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ The question asks how you could domesticate sharks. I don't think "slaughtering any animal that's more domesticated than sharks" is really an answer. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think animals eating each other in any way makes them more domesticated. You might able to eliminate all animals until there is only one animal left, and by default it is the 'best' friend because there are no others. But it is no more friendlier than it was when there were multiple animals. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ Include that information in your answer to make it clearer. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 19:03

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