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In pop culture, there are ideas that paleolithic humans and dinosaurs lived together. The Flintstones is the most famous example of this idea. This obviously wasn't the case in reality, but what if by happenstance, the K-T extinction didn't happen but mankind evolved anyway? Then caveman and dinosaurs would be alive at the same time. Could these cavemen then tame and ride a T-rex?

There are many roles a domesticated animal can be used for. The major ones are farm labor, dairy production, meat production, clothing production, transportation, pets, pest control, egg production, and hunting/guarding. Other animal roles include things like experimentation and sending messages and a few other things I have missed.

An animal needs 3 main qualities in order to be domesticated. Firstly, it must be able to be controlled by humans. It cannot be too large and dangerous. It also cannot easily disrupt human efforts to control it. Secondly, it must make a lot of babies in a short amount of time. That way, selective breeding and culling of the unwanted offspring can happen. Finally, feeding this animal must be easy. Ideally, the animal eats things humans don't eat like grass but any animal that overall eats less than a human can work.

So given these qualities, could stone age humans domesticate the Tyrannosaurus Rex the same way they domesticated other animals like dogs and sheep? I have a strong feeling that the answer is no because a T-Rex doesn't have good domestication qualities although they would be useful as transportation. However, some people in my previous question claim that any animal could be domesticated and I want to see their reaction to this question.

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    $\begingroup$ Theoretically possible, but improbable in the extreme. Velociraptors or some nice herbivores would make a lot more sense. Quetzalcoatlus would be fun, since they were likely vulnerable on the ground and could benefit from the symbiosis. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatlus $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Aug 26, 2022 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ "An animal needs 3 main qualities // to be domesticated" does it? "must be able to be controlled by humans" setting aside the fact there is not and has never been an animal on the planet that can't be, sure .. "it must make a lot of babies in a short amount of time" totally not a requirement, it helps make selective breeding faster, it is not required .. "feeding // must be easy" definitely not a requirement .. "Ideally, the animal eats things humans don't" so wolves can't be domesticated because they eat meat, food we do, then? .. you have confused desirable for required. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ It's extremely difficult to domesticate a species that views humans as snack food. On the other hand, there are plenty of dinos that could be domesticated without too many humans being earen, crushed, impaled, or Thagomized. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 6:10
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    $\begingroup$ "Must make a lot of babies in a short amount of time": hmm, since when do cattle and horses make a lot of little new cattle and horses in a short amount of time? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ What are you calling "cavemen" if "caveman and humans would be alive at the same time" cavemen usually refers to humans. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:43

3 Answers 3

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No.

domesticating predators larger than yourself is so hard we have never done it successfully. The single biggest reason is a T-rex would only see humans as one thing, Prey. humans are larger than wolves, we are enough of a threat individual wolves can put us in the too big to bother category, or even in the dominate position. this is an absolute necessity to domesticate a predator, you can't domesticate something if you can't get anywhere near it. Even a juvenile t-rex is more than ten times the mass of a human (2000lbs). Imagine trying to domesticated cats if humans were smaller than mice, they simply get eaten too often. It might be possible in a large agricultural society than can afford to waste the time and lives but it is just impossible for hunter gatherers.

Feeding them is impossible for hunter gatherers. Another problem humans will have it it would be extremally hard for even an entire stone age tribe to feed a t-rex, much less a breeding pair. hunter-gathers just don't generate regular large quantities of meat, occasionally, sure, but regularly enough to feed multiple t-rex, no. you are talking about an animal that would probably eat the equivalent of a cow a day. Even a iron age large pastoral community would likely not be able to feed a pair of t-rex, much less a small group of hunter-gatherers.

behavior wise a t-rex is not impossible, they were likely pack hunters which means they can learn to cooperate, but only if they don't see you as an easy meal, especially if you can't feed them. If you sending them out to hunt on their own then they are spending most of their time away from humans which makes domestication even less likely and them eating someone even more likely.

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    $\begingroup$ The Q asks if paleolithic humans can domesticate the T.Rex. Since no stone age tribe ever saw a T.rex, and one can't domesticate what one doesn't have access to, the answer is certainly no. The question did not ask if the T.rex could be domesticated (that appears to be assumed by the last sentence in the Q). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH I guess you didn't read the OP, they are quite clear the question is: If dinosaurs survived the K-T extinction and t-rex lived at the same time as humans, could humans domesticate them. You need to read the entire post including stated assumptions. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @FluidCode bears were tamed not domesticated, there is a difference. Bears have never been domesticated. Taming happens to Individuals, domestication is the creation of a selectively bred population. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ @John right, they were not domesticated, but taming is a first step. Domestication takes many generations, but if you can't tame the animal first domestication won't happen. $\endgroup$
    – FluidCode
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ It has been claimed that T-Rexs wre cannibals. So getting a T-Rex to think of you as somehow like another T-Rex would be no guarantee of safety. smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/… $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2022 at 17:08
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We don't know.

Whether an animal can be domesticated depends a lot on the instinctive character. But we know nothing of the T-Rex.

It has been easier to tame and eventually domesticate herbivorous animals living in big groups and wolves still living in pack. Apart from the cat solitary hunters are a lot more difficult.

The closest to the dinosaurs that we keep as pets are the birds, we domesticated many of them, but still a chicken does not trust a man like a dog or a cow do and in any case they have gone through a long evolution since the dinosaurs era.

Is there a possibility?

A lot of birds had imprinting in their behaviour. A lot of scientists studied some specimen acting as the surrogate mothers. Had the T-Rex a similar behaviour exploiting it and raising them through many generation it could be possible. Trouble is that many reptiles don't have imprinting.

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  • $\begingroup$ chickens, ducks, turkey, are just as closely related to dinosaurs as parrots. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ @John right I corrected my anser. $\endgroup$
    – FluidCode
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 14:02
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No

We have highly romanticized views of what early humans were like and it's not uncommon for us to think that all paleolithic humans were alike. But the paleolithic period ranged from 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago and the humans of 2.5 million years ago were not at all the same humans from just 10,000 years ago.

Folks on this Stack make the same mistake when they declare that their setting is the "medieval time period." Well, that's roughly a 1,000 year period from 425 a.d. to 1,400 a.d. On one end France might not yet have heard that its Roman overlords had had their wondrous city sacked and on the other France was a leading world power with gunpowder. You see my point.

So, what's the problem with paleolithic humans?

They weren't that much above animals themselves.

No written language. They lived in groups, but that's a long way of saying they lived in societies. Remember, we really romanticize our past. The earliest efforts toward agriculture were only 12,000 years ago. That's a long, long, long, long, long time after the beginning of the paleolithic period. In fact, not surprisingly, the earliest evidence of animal domestication is only around 11,000 years ago[1], [2].

So, could someone 2.5 million years ago have the experience necessary to domesticate even a dog? Probably not. Well, no. But that's not the only reason I say "no."

Paleolithic humans never saw Tyrannosaurus Rex

Because Tyrannosaurus Rex lived 66-68 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. That far back, "humans" really were just another kind of animal.

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    $\begingroup$ dogs were domesticated around 30,000 and 26,000 years ago based on genetics and fossil evidence. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6776107 $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ @John Go re-read that article. The only place it mentions a timeline for domestication is Figure 3, ">11,000 years." The number 26,000 appears nowhere in the article and the number 30,000 only appears in a paragraph about funding. Did you down vote me for that article? It contributes to my answer nicely, though, so I'll include it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ I was summarizing dozens of studies about the domestication of dogs, >11000 years is the last bottleneck not the time of domestication, but to be clear even that is in the paleolithic. we have undisputed dog fossils 33,000 years old, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/… here are a few other studies pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2010083118 and link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/13836_2018_27 Dog domestication predates agriculture by a large margin. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ I down voted your post because there are many things wrong with it, the date for domestication is just the most egregious. the paleolithic is 3.3 mya to ~11,000 Bp, during which we see a drastic improvement on human technology. claiming band or tribal living are not "societies" is the most incorrect ethnocentric statement I have heard on this site. I wish I could downvote it twice. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ Aside from agreeing with all of the observations @John has made about your answer there is also this bit at the bottom .. "Paleolithic humans never saw Tyrannosaurus Rex" .. I'll just copy paste John's response to your comment elsewhere as it's equally valid here .. 'the question is: If dinosaurs survived the K-T extinction and t-rex lived at the same time as humans, could humans domesticate them. You need to read the entire post including stated assumptions' .. you've not frame challenged the stated conditions there you just missed or ignored them, unless the question has been edited? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 21:11

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