I am writing a novel that involves a person born every few hundred years with the ability to tame animals. The other people never learn their secret. What could I do to make sure that the others never learn how to? Here is some information, in case it helps.

  • The power is not true domestication, just taming.
  • This happens about once every five hundred years or so
  • It requires these things:

Friendly e.g., the animal must not be inherently driven to be aggressive towards humans

Feedable e.g. the animal must have food habits that are easy enough to sustain

Fecund e.g. the animal must be able to have easy-to-sustain reproductive habits

Family-Friendly e.g. the animal must be able to follow a family structure, no matter how loose this may be, because a sense of belonging is essential for this.

  • the novel is set in a time period that is a mix of all three eras of the Stone Age
  • the people have advanced hunting tactics, and have access to large amounts of meat such as steppe mammoths, dodo birds, Irish Elk, aurochs, etc.
  • the people are of species in the Homo genus and others:
  • Homo Neanderthalensis
  • Homo Sapiens
  • Homo Floresiensis
  • Australopithecus Afarensis
  • note the absence of a [reality check] tag
  • all these species are living at the same time, and generally coexist peacefully. To recap my question: Every two to five hundred years, an individual is born to one of the tribes that has the power to tame animals. This person lives just as long as any other person, BUT: the other people do NOT discover how to do it

What can I do to make sure that others do not pick up this knowledge?

EDIT: simplified to be easier to understand

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is real life Earth, no magic? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Oct 23, 2020 at 23:45
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I apologize for being blunt, but unless your stone-age peoples are brain-dead stupid, they will learn animal husbandry. Discovery can't be stopped save with an outside, artificial force (e.g. some angry god kills anyone who begins to discover animal husbandry). You can't stop insight, need, frustration, creativity, imagination, and the occasional genius (even for that age). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 24, 2020 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ @jbh you can't stop discovery, but you can have people that don't believe it. For example, the ancient greek discovered the Earth is kinda round, and to this day we have cave people disputing that. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2020 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ "not be inherently unable to not bite" I think you mean the creature does not have an inherent drive to bite? Reducing the negatives in a phrase from three to one would make it easier to understand. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2020 at 7:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheSquare-CubeLaw sorry this is a late follow-up, I was out of town. That's a good point, but think about it. You're standing next to your neighbor, who has successfully corralled a wild goat and has just offered you your first cup of goat milk - and your reaction is to not believe it. The more abstract (read: not immediately obvious) the discovery, the easier it is IMO to disbelieve... I'm not sure animal husbandry ranks on that list. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 26, 2020 at 1:40

3 Answers 3


The chosen one has better pheromones than the general population.

After a few decades of being hunted, the animals have learnt that the smell of a human approaching is bad news. When they smell human, they try to run, or try to hide. If a human corners them and is nice to them, they just panic / freeze until they get a chance to escape, and then suffer PTSD for the rest of their days.

A human hand offering food smells like a death trap, and the animals will flee to save their own lives.

Humans are good hunters so can throw spears further than their smell travels, for many animals smelling humans means it's already too late to flee and they have to hide. Bathing isn't that common, but with a lack of deodorant the pheromones return quickly even when bathed.

Your hero doesnt have the pheromone that the animals have keyed into. They can offer food to the animal without the animal panicking, and make friends, etc.

Or, related. Your hero doesn't wear animal skin.

Humans hunt and kill animals, eating them, and skinning their hides to make clothing. They've developed leather softening techniques and dyes and can make some nice fashion.

Your hero is allergic to one of these chemicals or dyes, or perhaps allergic to leather in general, so can't wear leather. They have to make clothing from weaving fibres instead.

When a normal human approaches an animal, the animal smells the decaying flesh of its brothers, and runs away traumatised from the whole experience, exactly the same as I would if you killed my family and wore their skin as clothing.

Your hero doesn't dress in the skin of their families, so the animals are willing to give them a shot.

Because of the skill of the leatherworkers - leather clothing looks great, is extremely comfortable, and is easy to make in a huge variety of outfits. The woven non-leather clothes are not immediately noticeable as different, and because of the time involved in weaving, woven clothes are so much more expensive than leather ones, and unless you're allergic to leather, no-one will be wearing entirely non-leather.

  • $\begingroup$ But how do you make such a genetic trait only appear once every 500-1000 years without dying out altogether? At that rate, it is too rare to be hereditary, but it is also too periodic to be a freak mutation. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 24, 2020 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen i doubt it would be genetic. Maybe they have better hygiene standards combined with genetics? Maybe they find primitive deodorant from distilling? Maybe they have a hobby that gives them a different smell? $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Oct 24, 2020 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ Those all still suffer from the same problems of once person every 500-1000 years. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Oct 24, 2020 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ What if its not genetic? Instead something unlikely happens to these individuals, like they get struck by lightning in such a way that it burns their glands and changes their scent permanently. I was also thinking maybe they get bit by some animal or eat some special plant, but those things seem like they could be copied by others. Maybe its a mix of genes and this stimulus. $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Oct 24, 2020 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ What if they get irradiated by some uranium/radium/etc deposits? They would have no way of noticing the radiation directly with their technology. Then the irradiated gets cancer, it alters their smell, which defeats the animals smell-driven fear. The irradiated then dies early and no one figures out why they were sick or why animals trusted them, they assume it was a god's blessing with a cost $\endgroup$
    – Atog
    Oct 24, 2020 at 23:55

It doesn't work.

If only a few people once or twice in a milenium can tame animals will manage anything, they will never manage to tame enough to get more than the occasional 'fancy pet' when one of these humans is around. As a result, humans will never actively manage to tame and domesticate animals in greater numbers. Domestication is totally impossible.

Humans will still be Cattesticated

On the other hand, one species will make itself at home in the human homes without being asked to. And as they cohabit, they make humans accept their presence by eating the vermin that eats human food. But at the same time, this species will simply ignore any active attempt to domesticate them. Instead, it is they who start to bend humans around their soft little paws, making them do their bidding by giving them shelter and cleaning their fur. After they subjugate humans so easily, they'll be venerated as gods. Humans will build a town in their name. For some generations, their overlordship will be absolute, and they will never forget this, and humans will always remember that they are superior beings. The name of the subjugating overlord species is - obviously - CAT, and as it's a principle, they will cattesticate the human - and for the matter any species - in any world.


You just want a plausible and consistent rationale for having a single person able to tame animals? And others unable to learn how to do this even when shown the Tamer's example?

Make it so normal humans excrete a pheromone that unsettles animals. It could be as simple as a strong stink! Your "Tamer" is a genetic mutant, that lacks the ability to produce that pheromone.


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