In my book series, there is a large area of the Planet Aurea called Zebusylvania with a similar climate, flora, and (some) fauna to the Cerrado and Caatinga regions of Brazil in our world. Additionally, much of the prehistoric megafauna that inhabited these regions in our world freely roams Zebusylvania. Huge herds of bison-sized toxodon, camel-like macrauchenia and xenorhinotherium, and armored glyptotherium and doedicurus graze the savanna. The occasional megatherium and nothrotheriops ground sloths browse the treetops, and fearsome phorusrhacos birds run down any creature small enough for them to grab. Notably absent, however, is the smilodon, as well as many other species which did not survive the events I mention below.

Long ago, Zebusylvania was inhabited by indigenous pastoral peoples who domesticated some of these creatures, but they were conquered and absorbed by the Zebus, iron-age arrivals from far away who introduced settled agriculture (growing millet, rice, and sorghum mostly) and zebras, whose domestication much of their culture revolved around. In addition to introducing zebras, many of which soon went feral and became fixtures of the local ecosystem, the Zebus brought cattle and goats with them, and liked to build elaborate menageries of wild animals for their palaces. By doing so, they inadvertently established dozens of species from their homeland in Zebusylvania as well. These include the aardvark, cheetah, crowned crane, dozens of antelope species, rock hyraxes, lions (who most Aurean scientists agree filled the niche of the smilodon and subsequently replaced them), striped and spotted hyenas, guineafowl, and the (extinct in our world) giraffid sivatherium.

Would any of the species I've mentioned thus far be domesticable by an iron-age people who already have zebras under their belt? Or at all?

  • $\begingroup$ The analysis of the domesticability will be different for each critter, either ask about the traits required to domesticate any animal, or separate more focused questions on domesticating a single animal. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 13:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Can I Domesticate [X] $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 15:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've voted to close as a duplicate of the generalized "Can I Domesticate [X]?" question because the rules of domestication are always the same. Note that whether or not any extinct creature is domesticatable is a guess because they're not around to test behaviorally or genetically and never have been in recorded human experience. That makes them no different from any fictional creature: they can be domesticated if you want them to for the purposes of your story. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ JBH the main limitation of that question is it puts no constraints on it, domesticate today, and domesticate in antiquity are very different things, and asking about extinct animals narrows it down a lot but also makes a lot of the answers for that invalid. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ You're going to hand-wave the domestication of the Zebra, which has not been domesticated IRL in spite of the fact that horses struggle to survive in sub-Saharan Africa, but want a rigorous appraisal on domesticating a bunch of things no living human has ever seen? $\endgroup$
    – codeMonkey
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 17:39

2 Answers 2


There are already extant examples of domesticated animals from Africa and South America.

South America:

  • Llama
  • Alpaca
  • Guinea Pig
  • Muscovy Duck


  • Donkeys
  • Ostrich
  • Nubian Ibex
  • Pearl Guineafowl

So at bare minimum, those animals can be reasonably domesticated since they are in real life. Wild species similar to those domesticated animals can also potentially be domesticated.


Other than Phorusrhacos whatever you want. There is no way to answer this. Domesticability is primarily based on criteria that do not leave fossil evidence.

Three of the biggest factors are complete unknowns.

The animal needs to engage in social groups or semi-social group tolerance behavior. You can't domesticate animals that can't get near each other or if humans have no hope of controlling their behavior.

They need a calm demeanor. Animals that are hyper-violent just won't work, no one is going to domesticate wolverines or zebra without modern technology. They also can't be too panic prone, you can't domesticate something that kills itself trying to escape every time you get near.

They need breed easily. You can't domesticate something that only breeds once a century or violently attacks others of its kind, or needs special conditions to breed like needing thousands around before they will even try to breed, or that are so picky about breeding humans can't have much influence. This the main reason stripped hyena have not ben domesticated despite being tamable ad trainable, if a male they consider inferior even gets close a female will try to rip their faces off, and it takes them a long time to tolerate a new male in the pack. Humans can tame and train them but not breed them.

All three of these are unknowns for your animals. You can't even make an educated guess based on relatives, horses and zebra are extremely closely related and yet one was easily domesticated and the other has not been to this day. This is do to extreme differences in behavior not anatomy. American zebra Equus simplicidens might be completely different from both in behavior, we have no clue.

If you want to have domesticated some of these animals for your story, you can and no one can say its impossible. There is however a few that can be eliminated; predators larger than humans are out because they would be far too dangerous and anything that has a generation time longer than the human one is out because it takes to long to get any use out of them but other than that you can do as you please. So the only one on your list you should not use is Phorusrhacos its to big compared to humans. It was also likely a pure carnivore which makes it a logistical nightmare.

Keep in mind how you define their behavior will have an impact, if you define Doedicurus in your story as violent and solitary then you should not have them domesticated as well.

Although if your people have magically domesticated zebra then they can domesticate anything you want, that it probably the least likely to be domesticated on your entire list. violent, unpredictable and difficult to breed.


You must log in to answer this question.

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