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When humans first domesticated goats, it wasn't for milking them. No, they domesticated them originally because they kept hunting them for meat. That's the primary purpose, the most aggressive and dangerous animals are killed off, leaving the animals that are easiest to catch and kill survive and breed. Eventually, the hunters moved on to outright managing these food sources until eventually the goats were domesticated. This same process was performed over and over again for almost all herbivore domesticates, from sheep to cattle to pigs. Even the Tarpan had the same disposition as the zebra (just as ornery and unpredictable). Neither was impossible to tame, but both were difficult to tame, and neither was tamed for a long time because there were better alternatives. Horses were eventually tamed because they are better than other animals at grazing in the snow, which isn't relevant to zebras in Africa (Guns, Germs and Steel is regarded as outdated). I'm racking my brain as to how a herbivorous sapients would ever domesticate any animal, since I feel like stone age people would just kill any animals eating their food (much like why people irl killed off many species of birds and ungulates to extinction or near it, calling them “pests”).

So the question is still - What animals would herbivorous humans most likely domesticate? This is in a world where humans were derived from herbivorous ancestors. Like horses and deer, they only consume a tiny portion of meat in their diet and are designed for plants like seeds and fruit and honey.

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    $\begingroup$ Domestication of dogs took place long before everything else - and not for food. Domestication occurs for protection, for service (herd dogs, dogs that hunt rodents like badgers and weasels, etc) and even for pets. Animals were domesticated for religious and textile reasons, too. Even cows would be useful for leather, until the activists got involved over the wasted byproducts. I can rationalize every domesticated animal today in your society. Only the reasons change. Also, I removed the internal-consistency tag. It has a specific purpose you didn't adhere to. Please read the tag wikis. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Apr 14 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH badgers and weasels aren't rodents, they're mustelids - a carnivorous family. Neither are they dogs (the other way to parse it) so that bit of your comment makes no sense. Anyway, mustelids will be quite different in their effects: Weasels aren't a pest unless you keep rabbits or chickens (for meat, eggs, or fur/feathers). Quite the opposite, as they keep the rodents (rats/mice) down - see also the domesticated ferret. Badgers are a nuisance in arable farming, being less carnivorous. They can do a lot of damage to maize and squash crops, for example; they also eat chickens etc. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Apr 15 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ Cats, for the same reason omnivorous humans "domesticated" them: they eat the rats that eat the grain that humans want to eat. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 15 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ My first thought on reading this question was "would we still be humans if we were herbivores?" In the strictest sense, no. Most of human physiology is geared for endurance chasing of prey, so we'd be morphologically much different. This extends to the choice of domesticated animals. Dogs are man's best friend because they are also endurance hunters. Cats come in second because they fill a hunting role that we aren't good at. $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @RobertRapplean it only occurred to me because I was thrown by the sentence and its taxonomic error, so tried to make sense of it in other ways. I shouldn't have pointed out the rather tortured secondary interpretation - it seems to have touched a nerve, which is a shame given that it was only a throwaway remark on grammar in the context of disagreeing gently with the biology $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Apr 15 at 19:49

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Cats

In fact, there is a considerable amount of evidence that cats sort of domesticated themselves. Wild cats saw that if they hung around humans, who piled up grain, there would be good pickings for mice and other food. The evolutionary pressures to tolerate other cats to a greater extent (there was food enough for everyone, so fights to protect your territory were more a waste of energy and a peril to yourself than a benefit), and tolerate humans, too,

From this the herbivores could pick up the notion that domesticating animals can be a good thing.

One notes that if your herbivores are mammals, milk is still a possible reason.

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  • $\begingroup$ I kind of guessed cats might be one of them lol cats are underrated nowadays! I'm hoping they aren't the only domesticated animals for herbivores, otherwise people would be riding kitty cat carriages 😺 $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ @SuperYoshikong Once you get used to the idea of animals working for you, you can consciously set out to do it. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Apr 14 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ I'd argue that cats didn't domesticate themselves, they domesticated us: to provide shelter and food for them. Until quite recently they were perfectly capable of coming and going as they please from most or all households, and did so to find the best families to stay with. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @coppereyecat There are considerable genetic differences between domestic and wild cats. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Apr 17 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary there are genetic differences between lions and tigers too; that's not really relevant to the point. Although it was somewhat in jest. $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 19:39
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So this solution is very specific. So it may not cover many niche points as I am going assume your herbivorous don't domesticate animals to eat them or their byproducts.

This of course cancels out a lot of animals. Although this may be the case I still think there are a lot of animals left they might find useful to domesticate. I have broken them them into 3. broad categories.

Domestication for Resources:
While they may not extract these to eat from an animal there are still many more inedible Resources that animals can provide.

  • Sheep: Probably a deep giveaway but sheep do primarily provide wool. Which is very useful even to herbivores. So I see no reasons why they don't domesticate a reliable source of a textile producing animal.

  • Birds: Also provide non food resources in form of feathers. Those are really useful if you want to sleep on something very soft. Only issue is that they have to kill them for it but hey as long as your herbivorous are not extreme pacifists they will do so regardless.

  • Other: These are just some possible animals but there many more. Basically everything that provides an inedible Resource that can be easily extracted in a domesticated environment is on this list. And that is a lot of potential animals.

Beast of burden:
Animals have historically not only used to extract resources but have also been used to conduct labour.

  • Transportation: You know it is really hard to pull large amounts of goods for a human. In such a case it is really useful to get an animal that is stronger to do the work. So I see no reason why your humans would not just use these animals unless they are extremely pacifistic.

  • Travel: Similar to the one above but for greater distances. Humans are not very fast and do have a problem with transporting a lot of goods over large distances on their own. Something like a horse is invaluable for this. So it would really hard for your humans not to domesticate such an animal if they want to have any sort of trade going for them.

  • Other: While I don't have any immediate examples there are probably a lot of animals i forgot to cover. But basically anything your humans can extract work from goes.

Companions
While your humans might not hunt they might still enjoy the company of an animal. Or they might find that keeping them around has other uses.

  • Cats/Dogs: Dogs are not only used for hunting. They are also used to control the movements of herds of animals. Likewise cats are useful to keep nasty rodents away from your food supply. So seeing these advantages properties I don't see why they wouldn't want to domesticate them.

  • Other: There are probably still a lot more examples that i did not mention. And in addition to that who says that your herbivorous might not simply enjoy having an animal companion around just because they can.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 17 at 5:31
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I wanna say bees, cause bees help pollination and pollination = food for herbivores and overall good environment.

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    $\begingroup$ plus bees are not a competitor (unlike sheep). $\endgroup$
    – jvb
    Apr 16 at 7:31
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Pest control

This has been kind of touched on with people mentioning dogs, but not in the context modern dogs have been used for. In particular, terriers were bred to kill rats and are still often used for this by farmers.

A better example of pest control though are ferrets. They have no use for fur, meat or hunting game - they were very specifically bred to control rats, mice and rabbits on agricultural land.

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Also consider that we domesticated a lot of animals by "mistake" to make them less deadly.

Giving again the example of dogs, which were domesticated multiple times across multiple regions of the world.

In some regions they were domesticated on purpose, on others they were domesticated to be eaten, and on others they were domesticated by mistake by simply killing the most aggressive ones.

Imagine a pack of wolves following you; they are curious and are trying to decide if humans are prey or danger, some of them are playful and don't bother you if you throw some bones at them, and some of them eat your children.

If you kill all the aggressive wolves, eventually you domesticate them by mistake, creating a new "race" of playful wolves that won't kill your children. You are not gonna live with the dogs, not gonna adopt them or use them as pets, but they have been by definition domesticated as you erased the "violent gene" from the population.

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    $\begingroup$ Herbivores don't have bones to throw them (or more accurately scrap meat), so the wolves would have no incentive to follow a human unless to eat them $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 15 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki in africa and europe herbivorous animals kill more than carnivore ones., and it has been like that since the time of dinosaurs, herbivours are HYPER-AGGRESSIVE more often...so plently of bones.... walk towards a bear and scream at it and that bear might run away in fear... do the same thing to a bison or a warthog and it's going to gore you down 100% of the time. Shoot a warthog in the chest and it's going to kill you with his last breath, shoot a lion in the chest and it will cry itself to death. $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 15 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Herbivore animals are not only more likely to kill other animals more often, but also more likely to kill members of their own species more often... you don't see lions fighting to death much often... or wolves or bears? herbivores do that every mating season. Tigers one of the most feared predator in the world... those big cats don't fight to the death, when encountering opposition of the same species or other predators they submit and leave. Dogs show their butt when encountering another agressive dog... herbivores just fight the death. $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 15 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to fact check yourself there. Bison and warthogs sometimes attack, but will almost always run from a perceived threat instead of fight. The rare occasions they do fight is usually when they are cornered or if thier young are threatened. As for fatal mating fights. Those are pretty rare too, yes it happens, but proportionally speaking they are just as rare as fatal predator brawls. Herbivore homicides no where near common enough to sustain a population of scavengers. Besides, if you leave your own dead for them to scavenge, you're advertizing that you are food. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 15 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ My understanding was that grey wolves started following humans because they were leaving a lot of bones and carcasses to scavenge, and then they domesticated themselves simply because they were hanging around humans so much that they started seeing them as part of their pack. Animals generally don't distinguish between species the same way people do. If it acts like a predator, it is a predator, if it acts like prey, it is prey, if it acts like an alpha male it is an alpha male. $\endgroup$ Apr 16 at 9:00
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They would domesticate exactly the same animals as we do now (mostly)

Dogs would be domesticated for protection as opposed to hunting.

Cats still do vermin control

Cattle provide milk and pull a plough.

Horses are transportation.

The only exceptions are animals that have no purpose to humans beyond meat such as fish and pigs. Even then they still might be farmed to feed the dogs and cats.

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    $\begingroup$ You really think people domesticated horses specifically to ride on them? How would people discover milking cows? This doesn't make any sense $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ @SuperYoshikong Milking cows makes a lot of since. Human know where our babies get thier food from, seeing cows do the same for thier babies is a walking advertisement that they produce milk too. That said, there is evidence that horses were domesticated as a food source long before we ate them. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 15 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki also to point out that we have no idea how they used to catch horses since that animal has always been faster than humans and also had enough endurance to make humans give up on the hunt $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 15 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Xenophile Humans don't need to be faster than an animal to catch it. Our social nature makes us masters of exploiting trust. Whether it be baiting and trapping them or learning an animal's body language well enough figure out how to inspire feelings of safety and curiosity so that they approach us, or let us approach them. These techniques are still commonly used today. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 15 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Xenophile This link might be interesting: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_versus_Horse_Marathon Humans in long distances can catch almost any animal, because animals get tired earlier. $\endgroup$
    – Santiago
    Apr 15 at 20:15
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To answer that question, you might want to first tackle the problem of creating fully herbivorous sapient humans. Assuming you mean humans who are true herbivores (evolved to eat pretty much only plants) not vegetarians (evolved to be omnivorous but eat plants by choice) then there would be enormous differences in the herbi-humans themselves:

  • You essentially established humans as prey animals. Nearly all herbivores are prey species, regularly hunted by predators, and by and large, do not hunt them back, other than direct defense. In effect, you created humans that are very unlikely to domesticate dogs, as they would be in an entirely hostile relationship with canines. To domesticate dogs (or other big predators) you need to share meat with them, or hunt together, neither would happen here.

  • unless you want your herbivore humans to be just tiny packs of apes, you cannot have them persist on typical ape diet of fruit and easily digestible plants. You need them to be grazing animals, capable of eating grass, bark, and all kinds of leaves, so that they could grow in population. Grazing means they benefit most from a relationship with other grazers like horses, sheep, or even buffalo (or better yet, mammoths!). Best option is a relationship with grazing ungulates that share the same habitat but not the same exact diet (ie: say a buffalo that eats grass but not the roots and bulbs underneath the ground, which it plows with its hooves.) A buffalo, mammoth or another giant herbivore can form a symbiotic relationship with its caretaker-apes.

  • the vast majority of herbivores, including herbivore apes, follow a harem-like breeding pattern: small number of males mating with a big number of females, with savage competition between males, plenty of whom die childless. This might encourage domestication as sexual display among males, in order to impress females or defeat competition. Could mean anything from males capturing live peacocks, to trying to ride rhinoceroses to show off to the ladies. So there is a possibility of "useless" domestication that has no purpose other than showmanship.

  • pure herbivore diet does not promote intelligence. A brain is an energy-hungry device, that is extremely expensive to maintain, and most useful for quick, non-instinctual decision making that is more useful to predators than prey. Grazing on plants only, in a gatherer fashion, is a very poor way to feed your brain, and plant gathering does not really require much intelligence to do. What do your humans need their intelligence for? Whatever that thing is, this is the avenue where domestication might happen.

  • another thing to consider: intelligent herbivores tend to be big. You need a lot of calories to feed a big enough brain, and you cannot do that efficiently as a small prey animal. The bigger the animals gets, the more efficient it is to maintain a big brain, and the more useful it becomes. A deer does not need as much IQ to navigate its life as an elephant does, because its survival tasks are easier. Simultaneously, a deer can often barely feed itself as it is, without the extra brain matter to lug around. I would suggest making your herbivore humans more like "human buffalo" than "human deer": a big, heavy, muscular, fat, and powerful animal that needs to remember its migration patterns and know how to fight back against predators, rather than a quick runner who just needs enough IQ to spot leaves, grass and occasional wolf. If you make your humans sufficiently big to make a big brain plausible, there is a good chance they will neither need beasts of burden or anything similar, unless their "mounts" are much bigger still.

My proposal is: have your Herbivore humans be fat, muscular sasquatches that ride on mammoths or aurochs-sized bowines. The two types of herbivores could then cooperate for safety, food gathering and even grooming, and the relationship would be closer to a symbiotic "mutual domestication" rather than the humans doing all the work.

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    $\begingroup$ apes regurlarly kill the cubs of predators and sometimes eat them, yeah apes eating cubs of lions and other panteras and those apes are fully "herbivorous". A human brain on the daily basis doesn't consume more than 300-400 kcals thru the entire day! If you think and solve math problems the entire day you spend 10 times less kcals than if you WALKED the entire day. Stop it with the "brains are expensive". Brain size is expensive, like any organ size is expensive but brain power is not related to size, brains get bigger to control bigger bodies not to think bigger. A small brain can think big $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 15 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ Like you guys who always repeat the same random stuff of "brains evolved intelligence because better food blah blah blah brains are expensive blah blah blah" Have you ever asked yourself how come the better food we eat the more the size of human brains shrink? how come humans grew brain size only when we were growing in FULL BODY SIZE? and as soon as we stopped getting bigger bodies we stopped getting bigger brains? and how come humans of 100'000 years ago with bigger brains than us are not smarter than the average modern child? $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 15 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ How come grappler, boxers and mma fighters are barely literate yet their brains REGULARLY are bigger than NASA scientist's and mathematicians? The answer is cus more brain size= better movement.... and you need bigger brains to control bigger muscles if you want to maintain the same quality of movement $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 15 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ Intelligence is not promoted from eating meat, and humans can survive on plants alone perfectly healthy. Most intelligent animals are not carnivores, but herbivores like elephants and African Grey Parrots, the latter can actually identify objects, perform simple math and form simple sentences (making it smarter than any ape and comparable to 6 year old children). The actual driver for intelligence is social coordination (eg farming). Also, herbivores are more aggressive than carnivores and if intelligent they would indeed hunt carnivores like pests. Finally, wild grain seeds are plentiful. $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 22:15
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Most likely they wouldn't (apart from cats and insects).

It's true that domesticated animals produce things that are useful apart from meat; however, in almost every case those benefits are not available without first raising them for meat.

You might think that Sheep make sense - wool is a useful product, after all. But - when they were domesticated - sheep did not produce wool. They were raised for meat only for thousands of years before they had the traits necessary for wool productions were bred into them. Without that meat production, what incentive is there to breed them for thousands of years? Besides, why put all that time and energy into inefficient sheep when you can just grow flax, cotton, and hemp to make cloth?

And any agricultural society would benefit from beasts of burden, but you can't just take a wild animal and slap a yoke or saddle on it. Oxen, donkeys, and horse are useful because they've had docility bred into them over thousands of years. Why would your society undergo those thousands of years of unproductive but expensive and labour intensive herding without raising them for meat? (And, yes, horse were originally domesticated as meat animals).

Milk has a similar problem. You need docile animals that you can get close to, in order to start stealing the milk from their young. Besides, the wild ancestors of dairy cattle didn't produce anywhere near as much milk and the economics of pure milk production without also using them for meat would likely not have made sense prior to that increased milk production.

Perhaps chickens or other egg laying birds could just about work, depending on how herbivore your animals are. However, remember that chickens wild ancestors don't lay eggs in the fashion that chickens do. The regular laying of unfertilised eggs is a trait that was bred into chickens after they were domesticated as meat animals.

Even dogs are difficult to justify. Sure, they'd still make sense as protectors and guardians, but what are your herbivores feeding them? They don't have meat scraps to hand over to them.

But cats would move right in

Unlike the other domesticated animals, cats would provide a service your herbivores would very much want: they kill vermin. And your herbivores would most certainly be creating the same stores of grain, etc. which attract those vermin.

And bees and silkworms would be no different

Presuming your herbivores have a sweet tooth, the case for bee domestication is just as strong as for us. Similarly silkworm domestication for the production of silk would probably have proceeded along the same lines as historically, although silkworms are eaten in some cultures so it is possible this was the original driver for their domestication.

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point 1)All herbivore animals can eat and digest meat and will eat meat if offered, a cow will eat a steak if offered one and will digest it without problems

point 2)We have teeth like horses and cows and intestines long like horses and cows

point 3)We are more specialized for plant matter than even pandas

point 4)Apes, like all herbivore animals eat meat occassionally, the diet of modern humans is at least 80% plant based even in the most meat eating contries.

Therefore: Humans are apes, apes are herbivores, humans are herbivores

Answer: Your deer humanoids would domesticate the same animals we did

Also historical correction:

In Africa humans ate meat mostly by resistance hunting, basically throwing rocks and sticks at animals to injure and scare them off, running them down until the animal died of exhaustion.

In Europe humans ate meat by following herds of slow animals, the same way lions do and once in a while pick the weakest animal of the herd, isolate it and slaughter it.

We only domesticated the animals you mentioned after developing farming, because cows and goats need to be feed food other than just weeds... and we had to grow grains to feed those animals..

the first animals we domesticated where trash eaters like pigs, chickens and dogs, so cheap animals that will literally eat fecal matter

Also herbivours animals have more complex and stronger taste sensors than carnivores... so we herbivorous animals we don't care what our body evolved to eat, we eat what is tastier. And in nature you can see the same behaviour with many other herbivours animals, they will pick the tastiest food over the one their body evolved to eat, even to the point of getting sick.

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    $\begingroup$ Human digestive tracts are shorter than herbivores, but longer than carnivores. Granted, it's closer to herbivores than carnivores, but it's not exactly either. Our intestines are between a pig and a dog, were naturally omnivores $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @SuperYoshikong distinguish between herbivores that digest cellulose and those that don't we have the same proportions, not all herbivores are grazing animals $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 14 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ cows and goats absolutely do not need grains, they were used because they can eat things we cannot, and can live off land that cant support grains. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 14 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ There's a lot of places today in the real world that have a significant proportion of their population eating a vegetarian diet. I don't find the idea of a vegetarian human society to be so unlikely that the premise needs a frame challenge. For humans, reasons to choose a certain diet over another do not need to be what tastes better, they could include religion, tradition, societal values etc. $\endgroup$
    – Aubreal
    Apr 15 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ @John All grasses are grains. They all grow seeds that are high in certain vitamins and amino acids that are vital to healthy livestock. If you take the seeds (grains) and just feed livestock the left over straw, it leads to significant nutrient deficiencies. So, while they can process the straw part better than we do, they need the grains too. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 15 at 18:18
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Drinking milk gives primitive people, who cannot boil water, a great advantage. Not mainly because it is nutritious and a good source of vitamin D. The main advantage is if your children drink animal milk instead of river or well water they are not at risk from typhoid, cholera or other deadly waterborne diseases.

Should your people have the mutation, (extremely common in Europe,North Africa and the Middle East in our world.) they can continue producing lactase and drinking milk as adults. Adults will therefore also be protected from such deadly diseases.

It is no coincidence that this mutation is in almost every person from populations who have been raising animals for milk for about ten thousand years. It gives a huge evolutionary advantage, where people can drink milk.

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Camelids: Camels, Llamas, Alpacas

Domesticated, rarely eaten.

Used as draft animals, for their fur, for their milk, and sometimes for their blood.

Would your herbivorous humans drink milk? I guess so, if they are mammals.

Would they drink camel blood if that helps them cross a desert? I'm sure a culture like that would develop given the right incentives.

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Without cuisine, man is but a beast. Your sapiens became human by living to eat rather than eating to live. The fanciest of all (culinary, not botanical) vegetables are of course fungi. So your folks domesticate truffle-huntin' swine.

Every region has their own breed of pig, with traits carefully selected for the local funga. Shovel-snouted sows for digging, boars with serrated tusks for sawing down mushroom trees, and even little squealers that can climb to get those impossible-to-reach woodears. You can place a man's hometown by what he calls a pig or by how he eats his mushrooms.

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