The sentient species is about one and a half feet tall, and resembles a feathery raptor. The predatory creature is around two and a half feet tall at the shoulder. It resembles a thick furred dog with the addition of a hump on its back like a camel. It lives in chilly northern deserts in small packs containing one male, females, and young.

Would the sentient species be able to domesticate an animal so much larger than it?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 21, 2020 at 15:35

5 Answers 5


It is definitely plausible.

Most importantly, the domestication should be the result of a symbiosis between the species. A mutually beneficial relationship that naturally develops.

In my mind I would say a few prerequisites should be established to help facilitate this symbiosis, primary of which is that the two species should live in close proximity, allowing for a historical familiarity of sorts.

An example of a plausible scenario would be:

Species A (raptor) and Species B (canine) have a common prey, and this prey is abundantly available in their common environments. Given enough time, multiple encounters between the species would likely occur simply by happenstance; hunting the same prey on the same grounds at the same time. Given even more time, these happenstance encounters would eventually yield an opportunity for them to observe that working together during a hunt yields better results (likely the first few times they would observe this by accident). And with yet even more time, this learned behaviour is reinforced through multiple situational / happenstance encounters. Add in little details like if the common prey were large and/or dangerous to hunt, would even better reinforce this cooperation. Naturally, the sentient species' ability to craft and think (assuming they are significantly more intelligent or advanced) and the canine species strength and transportive qualities, yields great cooperative opportunity. What may start as a cooperative arrangement with tentative commitment from both sides, again given enough time, will eventually become a much stronger symbiosis as long as the positive results are maintained over a significant enough number of generations.

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    $\begingroup$ Additionally, the raptors could hunt by themselves and use part of it for feeding the canines, helping them associate that "raptors=more and easier food than hunting alone". That's one of the strategies we used to domesticate Wolves. $\endgroup$ May 20, 2020 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ Is symbiosis the same as domestication? While admittedly not clear in the question, I assumed that the OP was asking about bringing the canines under the control of the sentients, including living together in the same house and being fully obedient etc. There are many examples of symbiosis in nature, especially in the food chain, but that doesn't mean that one species domesticated the other. $\endgroup$
    – Binyomin
    May 21, 2020 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Binyomin It is a good point you make; there is a distinction between symbiosis and domestication. The OP asked for the plausibility of a scenario in which a significantly smaller but more advanced/intelligent species could domesticate a larger and more dangerous carnivorous animal. My scenario above was an attempt to illustrate that it is primarily a matter of their environment. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan McCoy
    May 21, 2020 at 9:55

Wolves and ravens.


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Very few mammals have symbiotic relationships with other animals. One of the few exceptions is the raven and the wolf. Ravens are sometimes known as "wolf-birds" because they form social attachments with wolves. Where there are wolves, there are often ravens that follow wolves to grab leftovers from the hunt, and to tease the wolves. They play with the wolves by diving at them and then speeding away or pecking their tails to try to get the wolves to chase them.

The wolf and the raven have a complex relationship that is many thousands of years old. Although the wolf had been missing from Yellowstone since the 1940's, the raven had not forgotten the wolf and what their relationship meant for both of them. With the reintroduction of the wolf into Yellowstone National Park, the old ways are once again practiced by both.

Ravens are already smart. They lead the wolves where they want them. They have fun messing with the wolves and the wolves put up with it. They are both pack animals with hierarchies and similar dietary needs, and their strengths complement each other.

Take it one more step and you have the world you proposed - intelligent avians and their slightly less intelligent but more formidable wingdogs.

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    $\begingroup$ It wouldn't take much more intelligence to have the ravens scouting for prey and then directing the wolves at it. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    May 21, 2020 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ That's not domestication. Domestication is much more than that. It's being able to have complete control over that species, including being able to control their reproduction. Ravens are very far from being able to control which wolf mates with who and when. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    May 21, 2020 at 4:30

I can think of one way, the animal would have to be a pack hunter with a fairly rigid pack structure and with a strong imprinting instinct so raising it from birth basically convinces it you are its parent and thus higher up in the pack. There are some issues with those behaviors evolving together but it is at least believable.


An Answer to this might depend on what you mean by domestication. This entails the breeding of the domesticated animal to increase it’s usefulness. Otherwise it would be taming.

This video might give you a descent introduction to what was historically necessary to domesticate an animal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmjnioNulo

Based on this, your idea has some problems that you should work around:

  1. If your two species have the same requirements in food, the domesticated species needs to be very useful, to justify sharing that resource with it.
  2. Dangerous animals are generally bad for domestication, but if your domesticating species is even more dangerous, or technologically advanced it might work. @John already mentioned imprinting and pack structures, which might also be a possibility to get around capturing the animal.

Some of this you might hand-wave since your working on fiction. On the other hand solutions to these problems might make your setting more interesting. The video I linked makes a couple more points that you could include. In this answer I focused things that might be problems.

Taming would of course be easier, and if the taming species forms a complex enough society it might even be likely.

  • $\begingroup$ > They are unpredictable and are known to attack people. To be domesticated, animals must meet certain criteria. For example, they must have a good disposition and should not panic under pressure. Zebras’ unpredictable nature and tendency to attack preclude them from being good candidates for domestication. - Can zebras be domesticated? www.loc.gov $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    May 21, 2020 at 1:34
  • $\begingroup$ > Zebras are social animals that spend time in herds. They graze together, primarily on grass, and even groom one another. Plains zebras are the most common species. They live in small family groups consisting of a male (stallion), several females, and their young. These units may combine with others to form awe-inspiring herds thousands of head strong, but family members will remain close within the herd. – nationalgeographic.com $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    May 21, 2020 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ They have "pack structures" but due to their disposition towards humans they have never been domesticated. - Dangerous animals are generally bad for domestication, +1 $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    May 21, 2020 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I admit that I know little to nothing about zebras, but the fact that they "have pack structures" might not be enough. As I understand it, a "social hierarchy" that can be exploited is important for domestication. So what you wrote doesn't necessarily contradict the claims in the video. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    May 21, 2020 at 5:09

In addition to the beneficial relationship proposed by Ryan McCoy, perhaps best as part of that scenario, domestication could be achieved by capturing very young animals, raising them and breeding those that display the most signs of tameness. The early generations would still be very wild and suitable only for the most prepared trainers - think lions & tigers with Siegfried and Roy - but as deliberate breeding continues, younger generations will become more manageable



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