Humans have been domesticating carnivores for over 10 000 years. And there are certainly carnivores big enough to ride. The former is the biggest feline ever to exist. They certainly can carry a human after all they are big enough. Let's assume that the danger of the mount being a carnivore in the first place is worth the reward.

So, why haven't large carnivores been ridden by ancient people?

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    What are you asking? Do you want to know if it's theoretically physically possible to ride a large carnivore or why people haven't tried domesticating large carnivores to ride? – Steve Bird Sep 19 '15 at 22:27
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    Most carnivores we've heard of are predators build for the kill not to be mounted by the likes of humans, these animals usually stalked their prey and sprint at it to deliver their signature attack hoping to win a trophy. Their cardiovascular system probably couldn't last for too long let alone with laden weight in short the ancient wisdom forbids them to die at the hands/paws of their ride :-) – user6760 Sep 20 '15 at 2:40
  • Ride the tiger, you can see his stripes but you know he's clean, oh can't you see what I mean – LindaJeanne Sep 20 '15 at 13:12
  • Related: Tiger riding, possible or not on Pets. – a CVn Sep 20 '15 at 14:12
up vote 32 down vote accepted

Many problems.

The first is that carnivores large enough to ride are few and all are very dangerous. Grizzly bear, Siberian tiger, Lions all are large enough for a human to ride. However all are dangerous, even today when these are made pets they still can maul people, even their owners.

Second, especially for times past, these animals are a large competitor for prey animals and require a lot of meat to keep happy. You don't want your ride to decide that you will make a nice snack. Keeping a large lion fed is very expensive. That is why so many are in shelters or have to be put down, they cost too much to keep, and that is as a pet, not a hard working mount.

Many of these predators are also solitary, (lions are pack) partly because it is easier to feed fewer mouths when you get bigger. Wolves are pack animals and a human can replace a wolf as the leader. House cats are still partially domesticated.

Most animals we ride are herd animals, they are easy to feed, usually grass and other vegetation (often stuff we can't digest well) so there is no competition for food and they are generally not going to try and kill each other.

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    I was going to say the same thing, but you beat me to it. Vote up! – Youstay Igo Sep 20 '15 at 3:35
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    Another issue, predators are not built to make good mounts. Predators need to attack their prey, meaning they have to be able to pounce in some shape or form at them. This causes them to have very different builds, with a focus on being lighter, lower to the ground, and generally lacking the overall strength to carry a human relative to their weight. They also are much worst at long distance travel. In short even if you could domesticate a predator odds are you would discover they are a horrible mount – dsollen Oct 27 '15 at 21:27
  • Wolves have very good endurance but they are just too small to make good riding animals, you would have to scale them up to the size of a ox before they would be ridable for distance. – John Jul 24 '17 at 5:34

Hypothetically, a pack animal with a strong sense of hierarchy and loyalty to leader, like wolf or hyena, could be ridden by a human, given it's large enough and has been trained for this kind of activity since puppyhood. However I don't see a big cat, or a bear, or any other solitary animal to be a reliable mount. If we're talking about a fantasy species, stick to something based on canids.

I know this question is from a long time ago, but yes. Theoretically it's possible. We wouldn't be able to ride it like a horse, however. Since most carnivores have a very flexible spine and fairly small shoulderblades compared to horses we would have to almost sit on the neck of the animal for it to be able to carry us without being hurt or disturbed in it's movement. It wouldn't be a very comfortable mount tho; no matter if you ride a canid or a feline (although in felines it would be worse than in canids) you would have to deal with a lot of movement, since canines and felines have much more shoulder freedom than a horse. In combination with a more flexible spine you would be in constant motion if you would just sit down, and therefore you would have to ride "standing"; in a position where you hover over the animal, only with your feet in the stirrups.

So, all the danger aside I think it wouldn't be worthwhile since we already have a less dangerous and more comfortable mount available.

Theoretically, yes. Circus lions are successfully trained for feats so that they don't chew off the trainer's hand. There are even circuses where the trainer rolls and wrestles with the lion(s).

Practically, no. People (in as a whole) tend to do things which provide good results lesser the hassle. So while carnivores might be trained for riding, why go all the hard way when we have much better options in the forms of horses and mules? Many Asian civilizations have successfully trained elephants for riding and burden labor, but none has given a go at lions for that purpose.

Even if we were living in the age of dinosaurs, it was much more feasible to domesticate a Diplodocus or Saltasaurus than, say, a Tyrannosaurus or even an Utahraptor.

Paraphrasing the comment from user6760:

(...) predators are not built to make good mounts. Predators need to attack their prey, meaning they have to be able to pounce in some shape or form at them. This causes them to have very different builds, with a focus on being lighter, lower to the ground (...)

I disagree with the rest of the comment, though. A bear or lion should be strong enough to carry a human. It all comes down to a body shape that is not much in agreement with that.

That said, humans can ride some species that are either omnivore:

Common ostriches

Or downright carnivores:

Orca

But the temperament of these creatures is more towards the wilder end of the spectrum, with a world of hurt being caused by that. The damage is in proportion to the ride's size.

That's gotta hurt

(I'm keeping the gorier stuff out of the post, but you can reaserch yourself why meddling with unusual rides is a bad idea).

  • The difference here is that the orca, like the wolves that became dogs, is a social species. Humans can be accepted as members of the pack/pod, and so are not considered food. – jamesqf Nov 11 at 4:08
  • @jamesqf tell that to Tilikum. He seems to have forgotten about that – Renan Nov 11 at 6:42

It’s called a dog sled. Amongst the large predator species, only canines possess the long range endurance, and what I guess you could call a “rational” thought process, or the ability to stay cool under pressure, and therefore could actually be considered an improvement over the “prey animal” thought processes of a horse. (also the only “rideable” Predator species that doesn’t come with the looming threat of murdering you in your sleep) A big cat or bear species (including hyenas which are more closely related to bears than they are to wolves/dogs) is likely to possess all the same mental/instinctual shortcomings of a horse, but with the added downside of your mount forever maintaining an underlying willingness to kill and eat you if on some occasion it should become too appealing. This is why wolves and the dogs they became had aided mankind in hunting for millennia before anyone mounted a horse. The coevolution of Human primates and canines has been no less significant on both our species than any other examples found in all of animalia. While horses may have played a greater role in reshaping human civilization it’s fair to say that it was through comparitively indirect means more akin to technological innovation than coevolution, but canines reshaped the human animal on a far more fundamental level. They helped transform us from opportunistic omiverous chimps that occasionally managed to bludgeon animals that were cornered or too slow to escape, into the most relentless, inescapable predator to ever stalk the planet. Even if you could effectively use another species of predator for transport it would be almost completely useless, because only man and wolf hunt by maintaining a medium speed for great distances relying on endurance and our ability to track the faster prey. Your big cat or bear drawn sled would be limited to travel at a slow walking pace except for the occasional burst of unsustainable speed that would most likely lead to catastrophic accidents anyway. That question slowly became a more interesting contemplation than I expected, and led to a very long rant... hope that was atleast interesting as an answer of sorts. Certainly feels like it was a practical answer, if only a little grandiose in its wording.

Lots of people have ridden ligers. They are the largest and most docile of carnivores.

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    But we need to remember this ancient piece of advice: "There once was a lady of Niger / Who smiled as she rode on a tiger. / They came back from the ride / with the lady inside, / and the smile on the face of the tiger." Or this: gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/11/10 – jamesqf Nov 11 at 4:14

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