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In the story i'm writing Orcs have managed to domesticate hyenas possibly even cave hyenas enter image description here

In actuality, could Orcs (or any other intelligent hominid) domesticate hyenas? Even if we assume that there are no wolfs where they live, would they even want to? If so, what behavioral differences compared to domesticated cats and dogs?

Note: magic does not exist in my story.

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  • $\begingroup$ I dont want to open up another answer, but it seems you can domesticate anything if you want, the Russians did it with foxes just for fun AND successfully in only 60 years !!! Imagine how perfectly bred they could be within 200, or the literal millenia we've had dogs for en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_red_fox $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Feb 5 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ What is "the cave variant?" This is. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_hyena $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Feb 5 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ yeah pretty much @puppetsock $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Feb 5 at 23:45
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Quite likely - though not canines, hyenas are very behaviorally similar to wolves thanks to convergent evolution. They are pack hunters with a hierarchical social structure that a hominid could take the place of. Though not domesticated (domestication requires multiple generations of breeding to permanently alter the species on a genetic level), they can be tamed and trained relatively easily.

There is some evidence that hyenas were tamed and used for food and possibly hunting by the ancient Egyptians, though it is unlikely that they were truly domesticated. Still, that's nothing that a few generations of finely-controlled selective breeding, or a few thousand years of less-controlled selective breeding, couldn't fix.

So why weren't hyenas domesticated? In order to really answer that question, we would need to understand how dogs were domesticated, and that question is still up for debate. The domestication of dogs occured around the Last Glacial Maximum - perhaps cold temperatures and lack of food forced humans and wolves to work together. Regardless of the reason, once dogs were domesticated, they quickly spread through the global human population, and why go through the trouble of domesticating hyenas when you already have dogs?

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Most animals can be tamed, in the sense that while you may not be able to command them, you can at least ensure that they do not try to bite or harm you. Note that this isn't the same as domesticating them. To be able to say you have domesticated an animal is to train it to do something useful for you, such as fetch the newspaper or smell out truffles.

Hyenas can be domesticated. You commonly see them in circuses performing tricks for treats. It isn't too far fetched to say you could also train them to be attack dogs of a sort.

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    $\begingroup$ And IMHO anything can be properly domesticated by breeding as well. The Russians did it with foxes in mere 60 years with good success. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesticated_red_fox And remember that we've had Dogs for literal millenia, so its perfectly feasible $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Feb 5 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ note the Russians needed modern technology to do this. they had to be able to keep useless animals around for generation. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 13 at 15:22
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Hyenas are sort of domesticated in several places where they are native, see wikipedia. So yes domesticating them is very possible and realistic. They are similar to wolfs/ dogs.

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  • $\begingroup$ tame=/= domesticate $\endgroup$ – John Apr 13 at 15:22
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Very, likely to domesticate them. As a matter of fact quite a few have been domesticated and used as pets.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2vguqjjtN8

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    $\begingroup$ Those are tamed not domesticated. Many animals can be tamed but not domesticated. $\endgroup$ – Jack Aidley Feb 5 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @JackAidley You can domesticate them. See Neil's comment below as well. $\endgroup$ – Letholdrus Feb 6 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ There are no domesticated hyenas. Don't confuse people having an animal as a pet with domestication. They're not the same thing. $\endgroup$ – Jack Aidley Feb 6 at 9:40
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Google Nigerian with Hyena, There are Nigerian gangsters that have pet hyenas and baboons, there are even pictures of small boys with baby baboons.

The Hyenas and baboons may even be on steroids as some are insanely big and muscly, the hyenas look more like the creatures from lord of the rings.

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    $\begingroup$ tame =/= domesticate. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 13 at 15:20
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It is possible.

It is unlikely they could domesticate modern hyena, but they might be able to domesticate cave hyena, specifically since you have orcs, this is a slightly different functional world you have some flexibility to extinct hyena behavior.

Modern Hyena have a pretty strict yet dynamic social structure, which makes it hard for human to take over said social structure. Generally we can only tame individual hyena separated from their packs. Wolf social structure is loose and far less aggressive which is why humans can take advantage of it. It might be possible if you could somehow tame the dominate female but if you separate the female for long enough to do that it is unlikely to be the dominate female anymore.

Of course since this is a fictional setting using an extinct hyena species, you could have slightly different hyena, maybe your cave hyena have a looser social structure, one humans can easily infiltrate/take over.

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