In an alternate universe where Eurasia is less advanced and the native peoples of the Americas and Australia build powerful civilizations, what animals could be domesticated that weren't domesticated in real life?

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, its reproduction should be easily controlled by humans. 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 Aboriginal Australians with Bronze Age Eurasian technology domesticate the Emus or Cassowaries? Emus and cassowaries could effectively serve the role as big chickens by providing eggs, meat, and even clothing and pillows. A similar animal, the ostrich, has also been domesticated. Domesticating cassowaries could be a challenge however due to their sharp horns.


2 Answers 2


They technically could be, but would they be?

Certainly, Aboriginal Australians could have domesticated these big, dangerous birds. Folks around the world have made significant inroads into domesticating ostriches and emus, and one could easily believe that a couple dozen more generations might result in a fairly docile animal (speaking from second-hand experience with emu ranching, though, they are definitely not docile yet).

But Australia has plenty of smaller, more easily managed birds if what you're looking for is eggs and meat. Ducks and geese for example, both of which have been successfully domesticated elsewhere in the world.

If you're thinking that emus and cassowaries could carry loads or pull sledges, they're really not structured to be able to carry any significant amount of weight. They still have the hollow bones that other birds do. And, like most other birds, I know that emus at least are too dumb to train.

So their only use would be as meat & egg providers, and there are just much easier options, even in Australia.


It is believed that around 9700 BCE, Papuans were able to domesticate cassowaries, even before the domestication of chickens.

Information from Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene sites in the montane forests of New Guinea yield early record of cassowary hunting and egg harvesting


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .