In the real world we live in, people mostly domesticated herbivores like cattle. Some of the reasons for this are:

  • They are efficient in terms of cost and profit. A cow simply takes in grass which is abundant in nature and turns it into meat and milk which we love.
  • They are docile and would not attack their owner.

In the world I am thinking of, large clans domesticate carnivores like lions, bears etc. mostly for the purpose of fighting power. I am not concerned about the docility or royalty of the animal, but the ways to feed it. Supposedly, these clans are doing the domestication of their respective animals for ages and they found the efficient way to feed them. But I don't know this way.

The clans could also have a farm of cattle for feeding their main carnivore herd. If this would be feasible, how much bigger should the cattle herd be than the carnivore herd.

We can assume that the animals are absolutely royal to their owners, and they are necessary and a big advantage in the wars between the clans. Also ignoring other costs, what would be the most effective way to feed the herd of carnivores?

  • $\begingroup$ Obligatory video: youtube.com/watch?v=wOmjnioNulo Carnivores fails hard on the point "Friendly", and the points "Fecund" and "Feedable" are not exactly quite optimal either. In short I would say that such animals very expensive as weapons and a big loss if they die. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Aug 9, 2016 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKarnerfors I watched it before and it discouraged me. Actually, the video itself might be the reason I ask this question. $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2016 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to look at these questions, if you haven't already: What qualities are necessary for an effective herd creature, What makes an animal suitable for domestication $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2016 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @GökhanKurt So what are you actually asking? Your question is kind of fuzzy. Please reformat the question a bit to make your query clear and precise $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Aug 9, 2016 at 8:33

3 Answers 3


Carnivores are already domesticated.

Dogs have a lot of characteristics similar to what you describe:

  • They are pretty big (the largest are well over 100 lb).
  • They have been trained as attack animals.
  • They are pack animals, and humans may keep them in groups.

In addition, some lions and bears have been trained and kept in captivity, and there's no reason to think they couldn't be more fully domesticated, if they were beneficial to humans.

Food is not a problem—just feed them meat. Since humans already eat meat, there is no problem in obtaining it. Also, carnivores can be trained to hunt for humans, more than paying their own way (as dogs have).

The problem is not feasibility; it is benefit.

Humans simply don't have a lot to gain from keeping a bunch of large carnivores.

  • Using them in battle would be problematic. See the previous question Would a bear cavalry be feasible? A lot of the issues discussed there would apply to lions, too.
  • It's not clear what they can do for you that smaller animals like dogs can't—and the larger animals are a lot riskier and require more upkeep.

Actually, people have tried for a very long time to domesticate animals like lions, and it doesn't work the same way; some animals are much easier to domesticate than others. Generally speaking, you need:

  1. A pack/herd animal that conforms to a social hierarchy.
  2. Eats whatever's around/isn't expensive to feed.
  3. Breeds in captivity.
  4. Are docile/don't blindly panic and flee when startled.
  5. Reach maturity quickly relative to the human lifespan.
  6. A society motivated and dedicated to domesticating this animal.

I believe the only currently domesticated animal that breaks this is the cat (breaks 1), and the domestication of the cat was a much longer process than, say, the cow and happened in a very different way. There's also a lot of evidence to suggest that dogs and cats basically domesticated themselves into our societies because the ones that rooted through our trash in a non-threatening way tended to survive better.

For this reason, it's very unlikely we could domesticate things like bears (no social hierarchy).

Lions have social hierarchies, but are a lot more aggressive and dangerous than wolves, so it's difficult to capture enough of them at a pre-industrial technology to even begin domesticating them. They're also more likely to view humans as competitors, not potential partners, like small cats and dogs did. Finally, they're somewhat difficult to breed in captivity and can't stand small enclosures.

An example, the Americas have all manner of animals, but the Native Americans were only able to domesticate: guinea pigs, turkeys, chickens, dogs, alpacas, and llamas. Bears, buffalo, large cats, birds of prey, deer, and snakes might seem like things that would be advantageous to domesticate, but in reality it costs far too much, and most of it upfront. You're likely to get killed off by a neighboring tribe that isn't routinely wounded and wasting thousands of pounds of meat on unruly carnivores generations before your payoff occurs. Or, even, killed by your new "pets"; bears and lions have a ranging territory of dozens of square miles, so it's hard to keep them happy in a cage.

A lot of my information comes from the fantastic book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

Edit: Your clarification edit makes my "answer" more of a rebuttal of your premise than an answer to your question; I'll leave it available for future readers.


Everything from bacteria up to your cousin or a flying vampire unicorn can be domesticated.

Given enough weapons, you'll always find a way to enslave things for your pleasure.

Although farming animals is 100% not efficient cause, for example the soy and grains a cow eats in a day would be just enough to feed 25 more people than you would feed by farming and killing a cow in a day, usually cows are eaten when they reach the age of 10 or 15 so multiply 10 years per 365 days then multiply it by 25 and the results are; by non-farming a cow you could feed 91 more people for the lifespan of said cow.

If you want, multiply it by a single small farm of only 113 cows and the numbers start to become absurd. that's why 70% of world's cultivations of edible grains are used to feed animals.

Sure logically you may say grass fed animals instead of grain fed ones would solve the problem, But this way there would not be enough land on earth to feed all the cows, even after cutting down every single forest.

In the end animal farming takes way more that it gives, it's only an additional cost to a population not a benefit.

Then why does farming even exist if the only effective ways of feeding people are cultivation and hunting?

Because early humans were not good at math and they liked to eat meat without having to chase it, that's why this ideology doesn't need logic, it's just a tradition. People are used to it therefore they don't care if it's not efficient in any way and only causes damage to themselves and destroys the future of the next generations, by leaving the world in a destroyed state.

Obviously there are some exceptions in history in middle ages the low class lived without eating meat for years, cause being incredibly poor helped them realize how much of a waste of resources it was and they couldn't either hunt cause it was reserved to nobles.

But at any given chance anyone from this poor caste would choose to farm animals.

If your fictional civilizations follows the same traditions and religions as humans with the addiction of animal fighting then it would be perfectly ''plausible'' for them to breed big carnivores just to see them slaughter each other or to bring them to war.

But, I mean they go to war, they are not intelligent enough to care about efficiency in the first place. So probably they would not even need the same traditions and religions of humans.

  • $\begingroup$ Your first statement is factually wrong. You then proceed to basically rant against eating meat? And make a bunch of outrageous statements which you try to pass off as facts, yet are anything but. You then finally briefly address the question at the end of your anti-establishment manifesto in a way that is not useful. Which I think characterizes your entire post. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ It's not a rant against eating meat, you understood it this way. $\endgroup$
    – Charon
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:18

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