Let's have your typical fantasy world, with many races. During searching what I could do to make humans a little special, someone give me idea of letting them to be only race that have ability to domesticate animals. That mean, other races wouldn't have those. But there is twist, all races can use almost unlimited number of goblin slaves, so they are in no need for raw strength from animals.

How lack of domesticated animals hinder societies and civilizations in development and daily life?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The mesoamerican civilizations did actually exist... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP this article clearly states they had domesticated dogs and turkeys quite early in their history. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Plutian: Yes they did. But the point is that they can be compared and contrasted with the Eurasian civilizations which had a very much wider set of domesticated animals. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ so what the difference between enslaving the goblin with domesticate ? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Li Jun I presume humans won't eat goblins, that's why "enslaving". $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 16:21

4 Answers 4


One could technically argue that goblin slaves are a form of domestication, but I am assuming you're looking more at the consumable kind of domestic animal.

Significantly less meat
Obviously if you can't herd animals, your meat consumption will be completely dependent on hunting and fishing. One could see an increase in seafood depending on location, but all meat would be wild game.

No dairy
Without cattle, dairy like milk, cheese, eggs is out of the question. You could scavenge eggs, but this would be rare. This would make your races most likely (semi-) vegan by necessity.

Depending on your technology level, things like transport would slow significantly. If you're depending on hand drawn carts (or goblin drawn) you won't get nearly as far as when you'd have the use of a horse. This will significantly slow down agriculture as well, as plowing will have to be done by hand too.

No pets
The small members of your races will be quite disappointed, because asking dad for a puppy for christmas is out as well. The more isolated members of your race will likely be lonely.

All off this will have a severe impact on production and might constrict the size of the towns significantly without a technological alternative. Development of these alternatives might be sped up, or slowed down depending on manufacturing methods and communication possibilities.

  • $\begingroup$ cant selective breeding fix this for the goblin slave ? most of the domestic animal was gain this trait due to selective breeding anyway, as other has mention. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun if the goblin slaves are a sentient species, I don't think they will take kindly to being told who to breed with. But whether goblin slaves are sustainable is another question. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Plutian Sadly, forced selective breeding was the norm for African slaves in the US South, so why expect goblin slaves to be treated differently? $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 22:09

If you lack domesticated animals you lack:

  • easily available energy: beasts of burden were the only widespread source of power until the invention of steam engine. For some specialized work you can replace them with wind or water flow, but that will limit your capability of porting the source around
  • a source of proteins: domesticated animals provide food, when you can afford to slaughter them or via their byproducts like eggs and milk.
  • a source of materials: from leather to wool, from feather to horse tail hair, there a lot to be used coming from animals. Domesticated animals make it easier to be supplied on those.
  • time: as EDL pointed out in their comment

    Materials like Leather, and to a much lesser degree wool, can be gathered from wild species that are either hunted, or just trapped. Eggs can be stolen from wild fowl

    however if you compare fetching an egg from your barn with going out in the wild to search for a nest and steal an egg, you realize that with the barn you are left with much more time to do something else.

Lacking all of the above will surely hinder any civilization. Sure, you can use goblins to action a mill or pull a plough, but you can't milk a goblin, nor they lay eggs, nor you can eat them.

  • $\begingroup$ As I mentioned, lack of beasts of burden wouldn't be problem, because of free goblin slaves. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Guywithjewels'names it certainly will I'm afraid, goblins are only so strong. You would need a lot of them to effectively pull a plough, which will increase the food they need, and increase the need for agriculture, which needs more goblins. When this can be replaced with one cow/horse eating grass, the cost vs profit rate is severely more efficient. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ pretty sure you can eat goblin $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ you can replace them with wind or water flow, but that will limit your mobility Ummm... not really... even if so, use ingenuity $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ @EDL, see my edit $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 4:01

We also learned several things from our domesticated animals that would be difficult to learn without them.

  • The relationship between sex and birth. We would sex-segregate domestic animals to control certain behaviors. Domestic animals kept in sex-segregated situations did not have offspring. This is not obvious without such lessons. This allowed us to understand "family lines" and so inheritance of traits.
  • Selective breeding. By noting that this very fast horse had very fast offspring, and various other features, we learned to selectively breed for desirable characteristics. This was then applied to other domestic animals and various crops, from apples to grain to potatoes, etc.
  • That last pushed us in learning to write in order to keep records. How many eggs did that hen produce? How many did the rest of the flock produce? How much wool did this line of sheep produce compared to the other line? If you record it in writing, then it is easier than trying to remember it. Having accurate information tells you which animals to breed and which to eat.
  • Growing and storing food. Because domestic animals must be fed over the winter, or the dry season, etc., you must gather a lot of food for them. Plus, you don't want to let them run wild at the best of times, so you need to bring food in from a field and feed them in an enclosure. This drove our agriculture.
  • Weights and measures and simple arithmetic. You need an accurate method of comparing amounts of things like wool or milk. You need an accurate means of estimating if you have enough grain and fodder for the horses for the winter. Too little and there is starvation. Too much and you waste effort you could have spent on something else. The same is true for estimating how big a field needs to be to support one horse, etc.
  • More trade. We learned trade with various items that are portable and valuable. This happened well before domestication of animals. But a domestic animal is a very portable and very valuable item. So it pushed us further along in developing trade. Thus it is called "horse trading."
  • $\begingroup$ isnt this can also applied to the goblin slave ? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 18:10

Interesting point: If the goblins are selectively bred by their owners to be inherently docile to their owners, then by definition they are domesticated. One could argue that there is possibly a domestic animal throughout the world: Goblins.

Meaty Problems

Obviously enough, without domesticating other animals, you make the acquisition of animal-based products harder. No cows for beef and leather, no pigs for pork and suede, no chicken for meat and feathers. While I'm sure you could cook goblins and they might even be delicious, so long as they are thought of as slaves and not livestock, they won't be.

Meat will have to be hunted for, which will make it rarer and more valuable when it is acquired, as will the related byproducts of the animal. As such, certain instruments might become a luxury as the materials that would go into them are spent on other more important things. Hide for drums, or lyre strings to name two things off-hand. Also of note is that there will be no trained animals to help us hunt in the first place.

Less meat-related: Without domesticated bees, we would not have honey and a ready supply of pollinators for our crops. They would still be pollinated by all the wild insects out there, but we would have less control over that.

Silk is another thing that goes right out the window as the silkworm was domesticated to produce the fabric. Likewise yarn from sheep goes away, limiting materials that clothes are made out of.

Pest Control

As we harvest grain, mice arrive for the free meal. As the mice arrive, things that eat the mice come out and eat them. Things like cats or more accurately, the precursors to the domestic cat.

Without domestication, we would have to rely on nature to provide our initial pest control. Cats that wander to farms and stay are not domesticated, but they might be tamed. From there it is a short step, and a long road, to true domestication. You will have to explain why these other races did not attempt to take that step with the animals that came to them.

Similar to that, the carnivores that hunt the animals that go after our other crops are in a similar situation. If wild canids are coming to us to eat the critters that terrorize our gardens, why did they not domesticate them?

Societal Implications

With plentiful slave labour, there is little incentive to innovate automated solutions to problems. Things that do get invented to advance things will either save enough slave lives to be valuable that way, or allow the slave goblins to be more productive.

Lacking large domesticated draft animals, such as oxen and horses, there is the possibility of a reduction in agriculture and merchantile travelling as all carts and plows would have to be pulled by hand or goblin. In this case, a tricycle or similar pedal-powered device might be invented early to aid the goblins.

Other societal issues, both good and bad, will be less related to the lack of domesticated animals and more related to the presence of a plentiful slave race

As one example of that, the lack of domestic animals combined with the goblin slave race to pick up their slack will lead to at least some degree of acceptable speciesism related to them. Depending on the individual, their racial and species-based biases may extend from goblins into other groups that they are not a part of. Alternatively, goblins will not be seen as a group worthy of the same things as the other species. Personally, I would think that an institutionalized and accepted widespread speciesism, no matter what level of it actually exists, to be hindering to a society as a whole.


An interesting effect is that arrows tend to be fletched in feathers. Feathers that are no longer readily available from delicious domesticated turkeys or chickens. While the most likely thing is that they will use a different material for fletching arrows, it might mean that arrows are at a premium in certain areas or are just of inferior quality. Slings, javelins, and spears might be the default ranged weapons just on the grounds of being more readily available.

As leather/suede is not readily available, hide-based armours will not be as available as metal or wooden armour. This is not a deal-breaker, but it could mean that leather armour is a sign of status as opposed to just being light skirmisher-type armour. It may also be that lighter armour is simply a couple of metal parts attached to yourself.

Together, this feels like there is not a lot of ranged piercing power until the firearm is developed enough. Spears can only be thrown so hard, and slings bludgeon more than pierce. Wars could be plausibly based on evasion and not getting hit at all compared to trusting your armour to limit injuries.


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