# Would keeping dinosaurs as livestock be feasible for a society like ours?

When you mention livestock you think of creatures such as cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and so on. We've been domesticating animals for like 17,000 years or so and have used them for a variety of means: meat, skins, labor and so on. But would something like this be possible with dinosaurs instead of the mammals we have?

Of course, dairy's not an option with reptiles and using feathers from dinosaurs in lieu of wool from sheep will make the textile industry an interesting one. I'll buy that a nomadic lifestyle would be possible (ie, following the herds), but could a society like ours work with dinosaurs as livestock? I'm looking at all the various species of dinosaur which have actually existed, so no new species have evolved (but they can breathe the same air we do, eat the vegetation that grows here and are able to exist on the same world that we live on now).

And for the sake of the answer, nasty carnivores can be seen as a non-issue (they're either chased off, exterminated or somehow domesticated).

• If dinosaurs hadn't gone extinct 65 MYA, they would probably still be the dominant species on the planet and likely more intelligent. Are you supposing humans rejuvenate dinosaur species (ala Jurassic Park), travel back in time, bring dinosaurs forward, or on a fictional world? – Frostfyre Apr 9 '15 at 0:10
• Why might you imagine not? – alan2here Apr 9 '15 at 1:11
• Dinosaurs wouldn't survive in our world. 65 MYA the atmosphere was different to say the least. Unless you want to bring some compys or raptors here then they would probably be pretty useless, barely getting enough oxygen to survive. – JDSweetBeat Apr 9 '15 at 14:01
• Dinosaurs lived in a low-oxygen world. Right or not, a difference would not matter much, just as animals live at different altitudes. That's like saying mammals barely get enough oxygen so can't live in Denver. Insects have an atmospheric oxygen dependancy regarding their size limit. Vertibrates with lungs and multi-chanbered hearts do not. Hey, crocodiles are pretty much the same as they were then; why aren't they gasping? – JDługosz Apr 10 '15 at 1:20
• We do - chickens, geese, turkeys are dinosaurs/ – Oldcat Jul 10 '15 at 22:40

You mentioned chickens, which are dinosaurs. So are emus and ostriches. There were many kinds of animals in the grouping lumped together as dinosaurs, some of which could prove useful: eat low-grade vegitation and produce meat; eat cheap materials and produce power for turning wheels or pulling loads; race for fight for sport; fight or defend in battle.

Dinos filled many niches, as mammals do today. So there were a great variety. Some would be useful to us and presumably some of those actually exploitable, just like in the real world. Others would be dangerous or conflict with us, and eliminated.

What makes an animal domesticatable? More to the point what precludes it? Is there any reason to think that primitive creatures would be less subject to domentication than even their modern decendants, for no other reason than being more ancient? Well, we farm alagators and fish, so no.

• No, birds are NOT dinosaurs. Birds EVOLVED from dinosaurs, in the same way that mammals evolved from reptiles. – jamesqf Apr 9 '15 at 18:14
• Birds are theropods. I saw a presentation on latest findings of bird brains and they said in clear terms that "it no longer makes sense to speak of birds and dinosaurs as separate things." Reptiles are a paraphyletic group that by definition excludes all mammals (and birds, and you could drill down a phylogenic diagram to find out where dinosaurs left the group): see the figure at the top of this page . Dinosauria is a clade which means all decendants are included by definition. – JDługosz Apr 10 '15 at 0:56
• Your statement "just like" is wrong because those are different kinds of categories. Those who study these things have good reason not to cast off a group of decendants; it is not a technicality based on established rigid rules, but rather the classifications are actively studied and adjusted and reflect deep understanding of how things are related and how they differ from various degrees of other relatives. However, reptile is an old term that predates understanding, and lumps together different wings that have unrelated modern families, as mammals and birds are in the middle. – JDługosz Apr 10 '15 at 1:01
• @jamesqf no, but I found this one to be quite reputable. <sigh> fish is not a clade either. You mean to say we are still chordates. Never leaving a clade allows differences because new clades start. Yes, aves are more specialized than therapods (which they still are), and a subset of the variery of birds that existed before the K-T event (e.g. opposite birds). Dinosaurs had wings long before they were birds, so that is not a distinction in favor of your view. And that is why you need a phylogenic tree to plot them on, when looking for a branching point of interest. – JDługosz Apr 10 '15 at 15:36
• The favored term for the paraphyletic group is non-avian dinosaurs, since birds were already around at the K-T event. Look at paraves: interesting "clearly dinosaurs" are also cousins to aves, so it is impossible to box them out without creating a nasty paraphyletic group. That group is not called "dinosars", but is constructed as a disjoining of sets, "non-avein dinosaurs". – JDługosz Apr 10 '15 at 15:48

Are humans being transported to the mesozoic, or are we picking dinosaurs to come to our time? Ill assume the former, since we already have plenty of of livestock species in our comfy Holocene period.

The most likely species to domesticate would either be some of the smaller hadrosaurs or ornithopods. milk and wool would not be an option for these species, obviously, but some of them might have steady egg-laying cycles, so they could be used as giant chickens. Regular clutches of huge eggs would be an excelent source of protein at least as good as milk. Their size would also make them useful as draft animals. Of course, we have no idea of the temperment of these animals. Are any of them docile enough to domesticate? Will a pachycephalosaurus act like a donkey or a goat, or will it be completely unmanageable, like a zebra, or cape buffalo?

The smaller troodontids like velociraptor might be domesticable in the same vein as dogs. But, you also seem to be asking whether we could overlap our modern society onto the mesozoic ecosystem. Id have to say no. The one thing more important to the rize of civilization than the domestication of livestock is AGRICULTURE, specifically the domestication of cereal crops like corn and wheat. Flowering plants in general did not appear until very late in the cretaceous period, and grasses specifically did not appear until well after the dinosaurs died out.

• This answer addresses a lot of "practical" points I wouldn't have thought of. +1 and welcome to the site! – Josiah Jul 9 '15 at 17:34
• +1: Wool might not be an option, but feathery down might have been. – Binary Worrier Mar 2 '17 at 15:55

If I remember correctly from childhood, the triceratops was a particularly non-aggressive animal, but would defend themselves if attacked. They could possibly be domesticated as guard dog type animals (of course if you're guarding against other predatory dinosaurs they may not be particularly effective). But if there are no bigger dinosaurs and they have been wiped out, that wouldn't be a problem.

And they would be very useful for their horns, their hide and their meat if bred for slaughter. They could even possibly be ridden like horses, which would make them pretty good all-rounders.

I think the answer is that some dinosaurs could be domesticated through training/breeding, as long as they are the more peaceful ones (and as long as you can build a fence big and strong enough to keep them enclosed). We domesticated wolves this way, and they're pretty aggressive, and now we have dogs, which (some breeds) are entirely non-violent.

As for nomadic tribes with dinosaurs, with the dinosaurs being so much more deadly than humans (through sheer size) I would say that you would have to have dinosaurs that are already pretty ready to be subjugated in the wild (like cows), or that humans can offer them something that makes a mutual relationship beneficial for the dinosaur (such as protection from bigger predators).

I would say the most dangerous dinosaurs, such as the T-Rex, couldn't be domesticated (could you train a shark to jump through hoops?) but could maybe be kept like a tiger in a zoo, as long as they're held properly.

Of course, if you have modern technology you could always manipulate any dinosaur's genes to make them non-aggressive.

• Just an aside, but Great White sharks have proven to be very difficult to keep in captivity. Maybe the T-Rex would have been equally difficult. – Neil Apr 9 '15 at 12:59
• We didn't domesticate wolves by confining them. They domesticated themselves by exploiting a niche created by us. There is no such thing as a wild cow: the extinct ancestor of cattle was a kind of ox. – JDługosz Apr 10 '15 at 0:38
• I've just realised how terribly I've worded my answer. I meant we've domesticated wolves by training and breeding, hence dogs. And same with oxen, which became cows. – Mike.C.Ford Apr 10 '15 at 8:39
• Actually, wolves are highly non-aggressive. Yes, they will fight an intruder if the need arises, but there are many, many behaviors long before then which have evolved to reduce the risk of a confrontation getting to the point of fighting (everything from scent marking to body posturing). A wolf that is actually aggressive likely wouldn't survive for long; it's far too costly in terms of energy to fight to do it regularly, and the risk of injury is far too great. Same with "aggression" in dogs; most of it isn't aggression at all, but rather conflict-avoidance behavior. – a CVn May 29 '15 at 11:07
• "If I remember correctly from childhood, the triceratops was a particularly non-aggressive animal" you guys kept Triceratops when you were young? Or do you remember stuff you saw on TV, which would have been speculative at best? – Binary Worrier Mar 2 '17 at 16:00

One thing that all large domesticated animals have in common is that they are herd animals with a hierarchical social structure, and domestication consists of breeding them to recognize humans as the herd leader. (This is why, for example, horses have been domesticated, while zebras haven't.)

Keeping dinosaurs as livestock basically means finding a species that meets the above criterion, while also being useful (for meat, as a draft animal, and so on). Since the fossilization process doesn't preserve social structure, we don't know which species would be appropriate, but there are plenty to choose from.

I suspect the most likely sort of dinosaur to domesticate would be a smaller one of the Hadrosaurids (Duckbill dinosaurs). The triceratops and related species seem to have filled the ecological niche of bison, and would probably be rather aggressive, something you want to avoid in a herd of creatures the size of rhinos or elephants.

The Hadrosaurids seem to have filled ecological niches closer to those of the herds of antelope or zebras on the African plains, and used herd behaviour to provide warning of predators, and sheer numbers to ensure a predator attack might be confused by the swirling mass of fleeing creatures (or at any rate the statistical odds of being killed and eaten would be low).

The main issue with this is the Hadrosaurids would require an enormous amount of forage, and you could not effectively "ranch" them, you would need to let the herds roam across the continent in a free range pattern. This might be exciting for people who want to live the traditional cowboy lifestyle of the "Free Range Men" (a rodeo would be very impressive, especially the roping competition!). This would also mean that vast tracts of the great plains could not be inhabited by humans, but humans would have to ensure the vegetation and land was tended before and after the herd passed so there would be enough forage when the herd migrated back later that year.

This also leads to the issue of what these creatures would eat. While the issue of atmospheric composition was asked (it was actually very similar to today), the sorts of vegetation that existed 65 million years ago was quite different. Grasses and flowering plants only came into being near the end of the age of dinosaurs, so modern plants might actually be poisonous for the Hadrosaurids. Replanting large areas of North America, Africa or the Russian Steppes with ancient vegetation might be far more trouble than it would be worth from the economic output of Hadrosaurid punching.