This is about a world which is quite similar to Earth in many respects. It has continents, oceans, mountains, fjords, humans, and every other property Slartibartfast might be more or less proud of in his work.

It also has a species of wilderness-living, large (roughly between the size of a large dog and a large feline), sapient, intelligent, land-dwelling carnivores. These live in groups and do not have any magical or supernatural abilities. In other words, what you might consider just another species of group-living animal, just a very smart one. Naturally, not having evolved from apes, these creatures' intelligence is rather different from that of humans, but it is of a similar level.

These creatures have evolved alongside humans, so the way I have it so far, insofar as there has historically been interaction between them and humans in the first place the two species have pretty much grown accustomed to each other's existence.

For the most part, these creatures are happy to live their lives with minimal interaction with humans. Some might tolerate or even enjoy human company, but most are relatively indifferent to humans. (That isn't cast in stone, however.) They might, at most, defend themselves or their offspring if threatened. As such, for the very most part, they are not a direct threat to humans, and they pose little threat to for example humans' livestock. They are, however, decidedly carnivores, easily able to kill an unprotected human should they see the need to.

The humans of this world are largely the same as humans of our real world.

I could just hand-wave it all away, but one issue has been gnawing on me for some time. How can I make sure that my world allows for the continued existence of these creatures as well as humans as we know them, through history and into the future?

I could put these carnivores and humans in different parts of the world, but as we know, particularly humans aren't exactly known to historically have stayed put, so especially in recent centuries, almost no matter where on Earth I put these creatures, humans will have encountered them, and might very well feel threatened by the existence of such a creature that they had no idea even existed.

Another alternative would be to accept that these creatures and humans will need to know about each other from early on, and give them overlapping ranges (and have the humans learn to act non-threatening to these creatures, as well as for these creatures to largely ignore humans), but again as we know, humans haven't exactly embraced the idea of sharing their world with other species, particularly large and potentially dangerous ones.

What are realistic options that don't break suspension of disbelief too much?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Aug 16 '16 at 19:13

30 Answers 30


Give the carnivores and the humans reasons to need each other. These probably aren't a matter of fundamental biology, but could be social, religious, or commercial.

If it's traditional for human kings to be guarded by mercenary carnivores, this could be something like the Varangian Guard of Byzantium. Humans could be valued as doctors and craftsmen by the carnivores, because they have hands. The species have different strengths and weaknesses, so there are things they can do for each other, if they're wise enough to take advantage.

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    $\begingroup$ This hits the nail on the head. Mutually beneficial cooperation is about the only thing that will save the other species from all-out war with humans, especially if alliances are established before humanity goes iron age. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Aug 13 '16 at 21:12
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    $\begingroup$ Application of Game theory. Works. But the simplest explanation is that humans are too much trouble to eat. They are hard to kill, they often end up kill you back, and finally when you do eat one, his family comes trying to off YOU! $\endgroup$ – Aron Aug 15 '16 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Aron I would be way more worried about the prospects of humans wiping out the carnivores than the other way around! Human sees 'threat': Kill it off!! $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Aug 15 '16 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ @xLeitix because some film maker produces an iconic movie that scares a generation into thinking that every great white shark will hunt down and sink a boat to kill everyone on board... $\endgroup$ – Aron Aug 15 '16 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Aron Or a religious leader teaches that a natural indigenous species is in pact with the evil forces of the religion in question, scaring dozens of generations into thinking that said species is out to get them. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 15 '16 at 14:04

In addition to John Dallman's answer; you're probably going to have to put yourself in a slightly different headspace than a western-thought modern man is used to. In western thought there is a very "Kill it with Fire!" reaction... as long as the threat is new and 'present'.

For the most part, the only real thing that is going to bring conflict is going to be competition for resources/lack of resources (...like food). Humans in the areas with these predators might become mostly vegetarian, or consume fish primarily where the predators do not live/hunt, to avoid the conflict. (Or they could trade fish for the predators' fresh deer kill.) Likewise, the predators could learn that those [strange hairless two-legs not-foods] get very violent when you eat their companion [four-legs foods], making it more trouble than it's worth.

I envision that most cultures that spend enough time around these predators' ranges will adapt and it will be 'just the way things are' for them, especially if the carnivore behavior is logical and predictable. If you always know these beasts will not attack unless you attack them first (or otherwise provoke them), and that is consistent, then you are going to be much more worried about tigers, panthers, bears, wolves, mice, rats, grasshoppers, etc. first. Predictable is manageable; random acts are not.

Humans are logical enough to deal with actual threats before dealing with potential threats... and if the "potential threat" is around long enough without actualizing, then mentally people will start sticking more "potentials" in front of the "potential threat" (potential potential potential threat). After enough time people just move them to 'can be scary, but not really a threat' (large dogs/horses/elephants) category.

This will hold true until colonialism starts to take hold of the world; the politics and policies of expanding empires are likely to bring them into direct conflict with humans. This could result in some precarious situations where some politicians are likely to go "they're not human, kill them all", unless their interaction with humans is akin to your average cloud; almost none. What happens at this point depends on relative populations, technological advancement, and adaptability of each side.

To actually answer the "keep them alive" question, your best option is going to be to shift the definition of human over time. Instead of the carnivores being part of the "them" in the "us vs them/the world" equation, you bring them in on the side of "us." If they are part of the human group/tribe/heard/pack, that majorly shifts where they fit with your average humans' thought patterns, and sidesteps any "kill them all" thoughts.

Basically think about what has happened with man's-best-friend; wolves/dogs. They've been around so long and part of human history so much that most dog owners consider them part of their household as members (if not fully equal). You may kill a mad dog, but you don't go and kill ALL the dogs. They are part of "us" more then they are part of "them" subconsciously, and more or less have been bound to live in some form as long as humans do.

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    $\begingroup$ Frankly, you could also look at humans of African descent. To those of European colonialist descent they can fall anywhere on the scale from "us" to "them" depending which particular white person's opinion you ask. Of course it's easier when you're all the same species. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Aug 13 '16 at 22:48
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    $\begingroup$ This is not an answer to the question, but a racist rant, soap-boxing the idea that only "western-thought" people can hate or can try to destroy others. Maybe they did so, some generations ago. But back then, it was true to every nation on the planet. Every nation on the planet did, historically, try to conquer other people somewhere in the past. And actually, "Western-thought modern man" is now actually supposed to help people from other descent much more than helping their own kind, (even if it would lead to his extinction in a few generations), or risks being punished by his own peers. $\endgroup$ – vsz Aug 14 '16 at 1:11
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    $\begingroup$ @vis I'm really not sure what you are trying to say, you seem to be implying that this answer is some sort of racist rant thing, when its not meant to come across that way. the whole point of bringing up "modern-western" is the general idea of being more confrontational then other cultures, and while I can see how that might be arguable, I fail to see in totality what "race" has to do with anything. $\endgroup$ – Marky Aug 14 '16 at 1:26
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    $\begingroup$ What happened to the homo habilis? What happened to homo denisova? What happened to homo neanderthalis? What happened to the megafauna of America? What happened to the megafauna of Australia? What happened to the megafauna of Eurasia? Fact is, that homo sapiens has been wiping out everything big enough to be a threat left, right and centre since the beginning of our species, long before "western thought". $\endgroup$ – BlindKungFuMaster Aug 15 '16 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ @BlindKungFuMaster from what I've heard, most Europeans have a few percent of Neanderthal DNA, and Asians some Denisovan (the latter perhaps to a lesser extent). So what happened to them is they mated into the dominant H. sapiens gene pool. $\endgroup$ – Monty Harder Aug 15 '16 at 17:16

Humans and this carnivore should easily be able to coexist. The key to this is that the carnivore is intelligent.

enter image description here enter image description here

Here's examples of two humans coexisting with what would definitely qualify as a carnivore that is more than capable of taking down a human being with little to no effort. It already happens in real life!

We even tend to call these majestic creatures "intelligent," though I do believe we use that word in a different way than you intend. No tiger is ever going to discuss Shakespeare with us, or engage in science or engineering. That requires a different level of intelligence.

This actually makes your question easier, not harder. The disclaimer that is constantly attached to pictures like the beautiful ones above is that these tigers are animals. They are governed by instinct, and that instinct includes killing other creatures, even human sized ones. Dangerous animal handlers are constantly reminded that if they ever get between their animals and the animals' instincts, they will lose because the animals are governed by those instincts.

If you assume your carnivores are actually intelligent, by human standards, and sapient, then we can apply Maslow's hierarchiy of human needs to them without too much handwaving. enter image description here

As you see, food is very low on that hierarchy. For intelligent creatures, the mere fact that they are a carnivore matters little until you stress them so much that they have given up on self-esteem, family, and security of their health. Only at the very bottom does their drive for food govern their actions.

So what really matters is not that they are carnivores at all, it's that they are a dangerous creature which has developed extremely effective ways to kill a human. Once again, I find it meaningful to turn to prior art. We have examples of dealing with this in our real world. With a warning that the next few videos contain quite a lot of violence, I'd like to show you just how many dangerous creatures with extremely effective ways to kill a human are around us today. There's a very good reason why our own race has been given the nickname "The Most Dangerous Game," well above lions and tigers and bears. And as violent as those videos are, remember that that is the portion of the violence that those groups are willing to portray to the civilized world. The reality is far worse, and brings us towards some of the more terrifying weapons humanity has ever created.

So what permits us to live with the "animals" we see in those videos? Culture and society. We've constructed an environment where it is in their interests to not engage in such activities. Using Mavlov's pyramid, we seek to give them ways to strive for things like morality and creativity, so that they don't find a need to bring their special set of skills to bear.

In your case, I see no reason why there would be an exception here. If that carnivorous species is sapient, like you say, then we would strive to communicate with it, and understand what they want -- understand what they put in that pinnacle of Mavlov's hierarchy. Then, we would create a society which encourages that.

You ask how to make such a world realistic. The key to this is that you won't see all of the factors which add up to success in one big layer. They will be distributed. You will see facets of it at every level of society. Why? Because we don't always have the opportunity to approach things from the top down. Sometimes you need to deal with the needs of a killer right here, right now, and don't have time to bring in all of those high lofty concepts like justice. So society would be structured so that, at every level of its fabric, the killers are given something else to do which accomplishes their goals better than killing.

There would have to be some concept of mutual respect. Why? Because that shows up in the esteem category in Mavlov's hierarchy, right near the top. If humans and the carnivores don't respect each other, there will be trouble. This will likely result in a series of mutual rituals built into society. Consider how, in our society, we often look at people and nod at them, acknowledging their existence (unless you live in a big city, in which case you acknowledge them by intentionally not looking at them). This acknowledgement is key to building a healthy relationship.

In all, look at human societies for how to answer this question. We already have killers in our midst, and in general most of them choose not to exercise that skillset because they have better things to do with their life. How we keep it that way will be a treasure trove of approaches for dealing with your carnivores.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Love the graphics! For the tl;dr set like myself they offered a quick "ok, I get it!" $\endgroup$ – Brian Risk Aug 15 '16 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ Assuming that the other species are integrated into human society and not withdrawn into their own society (which is a safe assumption for two sapient species), I think you are on the right track here. Society has a way of forming a niche for most acceptable behaviors, and steering people towards those. The only way significant tensions would be viable is if in a given nation one species was in significant majority. $\endgroup$ – trevorKirkby Aug 19 '16 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ If this was Puzzling.SE the spoiler for every line would be : a cat. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Dec 22 '17 at 4:28

Humans already do coexist with various intelligent carnivorous species, most notably other humans.

As we've seen time and time again, the bigger problem isn't carnivores eating humans, it's the other way around. The carnivores have reason to be afraid. If humans benefit from killing them and do not fear repercussion, the humans will certainly kill them, or enslave them, as has happened countless times to families, tribes, cities, or even "races" in human history.

There are 2 ways the carnivores can prevent being enslaved or being hunted for their balls (to make prehistoric Viagra):

  • build a civilization that can defend themselves and has sufficient leverage with human nations to enforce equal treatment
  • live as slaves until humans in a renaissance-like era decide to increase their status

There are other less likely options too, such as enjoying the protection due to a religion, like the famous sacred cows.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that coexistance with same-species individuals counts, unless said species is prone to cannibalism... oh, wait. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Aug 15 '16 at 13:34

Some might tolerate or even enjoy human company, but most are relatively indifferent to humans.

Sounds like some carnivorous creatures I know...

Let them have insanely cute young!

Throughout human history they have been revered - sometimes but not always, as gods - but at the very least, as companions to humans, with complementary skills, wit, talents and tastes.

Purrhaps they are happy to let us rear their children up to the age of puberty or at least the stage of diminishing cuteness.

(There's a long tradition in Celtic culture of fostering and raising the children of rival - or even sometimes enemy - clans, as a way of increasing bonds or at least decreasing tensions between natural enemies. Same may apply between species)

For the intelligent predators it may have some advantages - perhaps it allows both sexes to hunt in their best and fittest years, unlike humans where one sex stays close to the cave while the other roams far and wide to bring home prey. (A pattern still somewhat in evidence today).

For the humans ... well, look around the internets and deny the human appetite for cute, if you can...

Of course it will never be quite clear if we are their servants, or if their young are our pets ... or will it?

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    $\begingroup$ Profile pic checks out. :) $\endgroup$ – Scraping Infinity Aug 18 '16 at 15:15

Hmm, good question - and a tricky one, given our propensity to kill off or squeeze out anything that competes with us for food or land. But that propensity is by and large after we invented agriculture. So start the process off earlier.

Sooo... they are pack-living carnivores. That means they are in direct competition with other pack-living carnivores (of all sizes), as well as with big solitary carnivores. The same way that lions and hyenas compete, or lions kill cheetahs or leopards given half a chance.

But these guys are smart. So those other carnivores - wolves, lions, bears, sabretooths or whatever - don't stand a chance against them. The smart carnivores will squeeze them out, exactly the same way that humans will squeeze them out later in history.

This would be of benefit to Stone Age humans, particularly when they are just starting to invent pastoralism and herd goats or cows about. If the humans moved into a land occupied by these intelligent carnivores, it comes pre-tamed. They don't have to worry about lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) because the intelligent carnivores have suppressed those populations.

And because the intelligent carnivores and the humans are both smart and can recognise that the other is smart, agreements/truces can be reached.

Carnivore: Please stop chasing away the deer! I need to eat them.

Human: But they keep eating the grass that my goats need.

Carnivore: How about I camp out on the edge of your field and eat any deer that come near your grass?

Human: Deal!

If the two species have been in 'symbiosis' for several thousand years, there won't be any problems until humans get to the 'fence in the range' stage of agriculture or the 'chop it all down and turn it into a palm oil plantation' stage of agriculture. (Well okay, there will always be some idiots murdering each other over a dead cow, but it will be local not genocidal).

The two species could even spread out of Africa together. Slowly conquering the globe bit by bit in a loose partnership. Bands of humans who don't cooperate with the carnivores (and vice versa if there is advantage to be had in the other direction) are at a disadvantage.

What have we got that the carnivores might want? Give them our unwanted bull calves and roosters instead of culling them. Give them our dead to eat?

The carnivores in this scenario will have to keep pace with humans in technology. If they stay Stone Age and we make a Great Leap Forwards to Iron Age, industrial revolution etc, they'll get squeezed into marginal lands, as stone age tech-level human ethnic groups are today.

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    $\begingroup$ This outlines a very good mechanism for how they coexist... Although I should probably note that there are some things about the carnivore race that should perhaps be considered. For example, if we make a great technological leap, they will just copy us, and we will copy them if they make one. Also, by the time we are chopping down things and making palm oil plantations, it is somewhat likely that they will be chopping down the next forest over for their palm oil plantation too. $\endgroup$ – trevorKirkby Aug 19 '16 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @someone-or-other. Good point on the tech copying. Though if they are ecologically and physiological obligate carnivores, they might be chopping it down to plant grass for their herds of beef cattle, rather than chopping it down to grow palm oil. $\endgroup$ – DrBob Aug 20 '16 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ You are probably right about that. Carnivores don't have as much use for palm oil as we do. It would likely be a ranch and meatpacking plant in the next forest over. $\endgroup$ – trevorKirkby Aug 21 '16 at 1:58

That is quite easy.

Most predators are actually nocturnal, the hunting begins at dawn. We as humans are sleeping during the night (especially if we are hard working), the intelligent predators are hunting at night and mostly sleeping during the day, so we have not much overlap in the activity. The predators will have excellent senses and experience, so trying to hunt them at night will be suicidal.

All other interactions will develop naturally. As Marky noted, the predators need to be consistent; it must be possible to set boundaries for both parties. After raids on human dwellings the predators understood that humans are intelligent and that they are capable of stockpiling, a trait which they are not able to learn because they are impulsive and have a ravenous appetite. So they respect human boundaries if they are in human areas and tolerate human activity (wood, mining) in exchange of food. You can decide if they are able to make tools (allowing trade). Some of them have learned to stay awake during the day and offer tracking, finding routes and bodyguard service. As long as they are reliable and can be trusted, I see no problem with coexistence.

That does not mean that they will tolerate everything, e.g. humans strolling around during the hunting phase (humans are learning quickly; like we do not tolerate pointing guns at humans). They also should know if humans are hostile to them; if someone kills a predator or is speaking openly that those predators should be hunted...you could decide that those people will face...repercussions from the predator's side.

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    $\begingroup$ If you're nocturnal, then the hunt begins at night. Those active at dawn/dust are crepuscular. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Dec 11 '17 at 1:17

This is very similar to the question of how multiple intelligent species could survive on the same planet. If human evolution is a guide, then the best adapted species will outcompete its cousins, much like the Ancestors are thought to have done to the Neanderthal or Denisovans.

So the real key is the various species must have evolved in sufficiently different biomes that there is no significant overlap of living space or resources, so the two species never come into competition with each other. This sort of rules out your carnivorous species being like wolves or bears, since they do live in the same biomes that we do, and the Ancestors were not the sort of species to be put off by small things like mountain ranges, ice ages, carnivorous megafauna or oceans. If anything, the other species might resemble Orcas (which conveniently are carnivorous) which live in the oceans.

The two species will eventually discover each other at the interface between the biomes, and see each other as the strange spirit creatures from the "other place" who can talk after a fashion and can occasionally be persuaded to trade wonderful and magical things.

  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, one aspect of these creatures that I failed to mention in the original question makes this difficult to pull off: they are land-dwelling. I have edited the question to include that bit of information; you may want to revise your answer. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 14 '16 at 12:26

I am really sorry for that, but the sad truth is...

Humans can't coexist with any intelligent species.

We can't coexist even with a different culture. Maybe it takes centuries, maybe there is a total war with them from the first moment, but at least one of the conflicting cultures will disappear. Check the history. Thus, in my opinion, the answer is a clear no in the first line.

If they are carnivores, it will mean probably total war from the first eaten child.

What can help: have some separation mechanism between them. For example, the carnivores can live only in the wilderness, out of them they are weak.

Or, they could/should live in geographically separated regions. For example, if they can't survive in the cold, so they would be common around the Equator, but they won't to north.

In this case, you can create a

cultural co-evolution

between the species. They won't ever love eachother, but they (from both side) will produce cultural standards and customs to minimize the very bad things. But, the carnivores will still regularly eat some humans visiting them, while the humans will

  • enslave them
  • let them fight in arenas
  • cage them and show for money to the visitors in zoos.

Technical civilization won't help too much in this. If the carnivores are intelligent, they will also have firearms. If they aren't enough intelligent enough for that, the humans will exterminate most of them, and then show the few survivors in a zoo. And, in the technical civilisation, the communication and trade lines are much faster, which leads to much faster switching in the political processes.

The existence of the native Americans was enough for us to exterminate them, what would we do with intelligent lions taking our children to the wilderness to let them eat with their cubs?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Morning Star, and welcome to Worldbuilding and Stack Exchange. I'm not sure this actually answers the question. On Worldbuilding in particular, what is stated in the question as facts are things that answerers have to accept as fact, unless the question itself is whether those facts are plausible. I'm not asking whether the scenario is plausible, I'm asking how to make it plausible. Your answer offers very little backing of or explanation for your stance. It would be far better if you can edit your answer to at least explain your reasoning. See some of the higher-voted answers. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 15 '16 at 6:38

Two possibilities popped into my head right away:

1. Disease

Remember when Chris Columbus and his buddies came over to the New World and accidentally wiped out a millions with smallpox? Or when one of the Martians in War of the Worlds catches a cold and they all die? Or when Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes destroys humanity with an aggressive ape virus?

Disease is easily one of the biggest dangers of interacting with another species, especially one from a completely new part of the world. Make Ebola, a mildly inconvenient disease for the Carnivores (like the flu for humans), endemic to their habitat. Any human who tries to live near the Carnivores soon dies to Ebola. Put the Carnivores in a region with no naturally-occurring ores, and poor farmland (just generally unattractive for human settlement). Combined with the Carnivores' natural apathy for humans, it's unlikely that the two species will ever clash.

2. Religion.

Alternatively, let humans follow a Pagan religion where they regularly worship the spirits of nature and sacrifice meat to the Carnivores. The world government is a theocracy, and harming a Carnivore, a holy vessel (not entirely unlike the cow in Hindu mythology), is punishable by death.


The carnivores will be adapted to hunting their prey. There is no reason to assume that their prey includes humans. For example, the only lions and tigers that hunt humans are the old and infirm ones that can no longer hunt their usual prey. This makes co-existence between the two intelligent species very probable. Provided there is only a small overlap in their ecological ranges.

Recent studies have shown that where species that occupy similar ecosystems co-exist, for example, wolves and dogs, the original species occupying the ecosystem can undergo a population decline. It is possible this is the reason why Neanderthals went into decline and eventual extinction. The presence of humans (H. sapiens sapiens) modified the ecosystem they shared to the detriment of the Neanderthals.

However, if the humans and carnivores share the same territory but do not share the ecosystems, then co-existence can occur successfully.


Humans have lived with carnivores for long times.

Old hunters tamed wolves to hunt alongside them, using them to herd the prey where they could lure it in a trap.

So I'd say a benificial relationship between the two. Humans can provide cooked food, herbs, medicine, the carnivores get to help hunting, scouting, surviving in rugged terrain.

So i'd say the carnivores will be like sherpa's eventually, guiding humans through unmanageable terrain(e.g, anything not plains like mountains, jungle, forests, icefields). Humans are first and foremost plains people, we like to live and colonise flat surfaces like plains or shallow hills. If it's not flat, we make it flat.

This leaves ample terrain for the carnivores, which prefer the rugged nature, like mountains, forests, fjords, deserts, etc... There is little competition from humans there for terrain.

There can be a few wars to make things interesting, since that's in human nature for when mining starts and it's some sacred land for the the carnivores.

But i'd let it be as a cooperative relationship, where the carnivores trade their for humans difficult to obtain goods(jungle spices/fruits/plants/animals) for medicin, iron, crafted works.

Depending on culture/knowledge there are different paths to thread


Assume that humans and the intelligent carnivores both evolved in Africa. That way the two species can have learned to live together. The simplest way for making the two species get along is to make the sapient carnivores highly territorial and have them confined to their specific ecosystem in Africa. This could be, for example, in mountains, the jungles or the deserts like those of sub-saharan Africa. A territorial species is likely to remain in its home biome.

Competition between the two species will further encourage humans to leave Africa and embrace the wider world. Out of Africa to find safer territory for humans. The carnivores will remain in their native habitats. Being intelligent it is probable they will develop their own technology, but this doesn't prevent from acquiring human technology and using it for their own purposes.

If the two intelligent species can communicate, the carnivores may effectively establish their own 'nations' with their territories. Humans may have the rest of the planet, but part of Africa will be forever carnivore country. But this will be an Africa that is both the place of origin and the home to two intelligent species.

It's not possible to go further unless the OP was more specific about the type of organism that evolved into the intelligent carnivore. For example, if the carnivore had evolved from, say, a bipedal crocodilian or from a carnivorous primate species.


This depends highly on the state of the world you are designing and also on what the other race is supposed to be exactly. Also it may depend on what degree of coexistence you mean...

Coexistence type Fantasy-like world where humans and the others live intermingled in the same cities and villages more or less in harmony (give or take some speciist discrimination etc.)? cold war-like situation where world is divided among the two races which are essentially a no-go areas for the other species? Or do you mean something like our coexistence with Native Americans of these days (unless they assimilated, they have been mostly killed off in the past and live in specially designated concentra-... I mean reservations)?

The other race: You need to define their habitat, their approximate biology and psychology. If they are terrestric, they are bound eventually to come into contact with humans and directly compete for resources unless they live naturally in an environment very hostile to humanity (deserts, high mountains, arctic regions). Forests/jungles do not help, quite the contrary - even vegetarian humans will be very likely to burn them down constantly to gain new territory for agriculture. How do they stand against a human? Are they more like an intelligent cave-bear or T-Rex that can easily take down a group of humans unless they have special equipment and/or plan? Are they intelligent carnivorous squirrels? Or something of tiger level? Can they overcome their biological limitations as humans do? In other words, can they use tools and other body extensions that allow a human (essentially a degenerate hairless ape that is with some training good at running) to stand up against creatures that would stomp them to the ground or tear them to pieces instantly? Do they build structures and do they have means of retaining knowledge across generations (writing, eidetic memory, genetic memory)? Are they limited to one continent or are they spread around the world? What is their political tendency? Are they individual loners or do they tend to group and form tribes, confederacies or nations? Do they have internal variability similar to humanity (a number of visually different races, thousands of mutually incomprehensible languages,...) or lower/higher? What are their spiritual attitudes? Are they religious (I mean again like humans, who at some point interpreted the world universally in a way that we might call religious)?

State of the world Pre-modern era - now this one is the easiest. Necessarily, there are likely to be wars between the two species (long and nasty ones) where there are contacts, but people at this age typically more or less stayed put on the spot and moved only under some special circumstances. So with some effort it might be possible to create a cohabitation on more or less equal grounds.

Modern era - this one is difficult... here the humans (basically the western civilisation that gained a headstart over all the others) started to expland wildly, which resulted in total extermination of other civilisations and entire races (think of Native Americans - estimates say that Americas were inhabited by some 50 million natives, who were massacred intentionally or unintentionally in 4 centuries to the level of extinction). So will the other species take the historical role of Native Americans and experience a mass genocide? Will they be in the role of African slaves? Or will they preserve, modernise and eventually prevail like the Chinese and Indians did? Or bits of everything depending on the location of each of their tribes/nations? Or are they the ones going to be the aggressive expansionists enslaving or exterminating parts of the humanity?

Post-modern era - essentially today, where the focus of most post-modern nations moved hugely from external expansion to internal development and where we realised what terrible things we did in the past decades and centuries to ourselves and to others; but also an era where the fears of resources drying up start to surface etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Eleshar, and welcome. I did specify "large" in the question, but have edited the question to make it a bit more specific than that. Also, the question already did specify "group-living". You may want to re-read the question and possibly edit your answer accordingly. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 14 '16 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ Right, so they are mostly comparable to humans in physiology, only probably much more apt in unarmed physical confrontation. However, much of my reply stands because it was not a reply, but questions. To simplify: 1) What level of coexistence do you want to achieve? (from peaceful harmony to occasional near-successful genocidal attempts) 2) What can you tell us about the other race's psychology, society and way of perceiving things (also an important thing - are they able to effectively communicate with humans in some way?) 3) What is the state of society (pre-modern, modern, post-modern)? $\endgroup$ – Eleshar Aug 14 '16 at 15:37

If humans start building large and complex societies (e.g. bronze age cities) then they will almost certainly seek to enslave at least some of these carnivores. In the very long term this might lead to the creation of a "domesticated" breed in the same kind of way that dogs evolved from wolves (although the details would certainly be different). See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Domesticated_Red_Fox on a controlled, deliberate domestication experiment.

This creates a new dynamic: how does a sentient domesticated species think? How do human institutions arrange themselves? Are these creatures considered chattels? Is there an emotional relationship between human and carnivore? If so, how is it considered in law and custom?

There are obvious parallels to slavery here (except the sex abuse angle would probably not be anything like as common), which might be too uncomfortable. For instance if you were to create a world in which the domesticated variant is like a sapient dog then its going to feel a bit like an airbrushed version of historical slave societies. On the other hand this might make it an interesting area to explore.

I've often wondered what would have happened if neanderthals had survived into modern history. Probably something similar.

  • $\begingroup$ The commonly accepted theory is that wolves domesticated themselves long before selective breeding by humans had any significant influence. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 14 '16 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling: True, but I was thinking of the general mechanism rather than the specifics. Different domesticated species seem to have very common properties, including altered colouring, neotenous traits, and floppy ears. Answer edited to clarify. $\endgroup$ – Paul Johnson Aug 14 '16 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Kjörling: Indeed, I think it's at least arguable that wolves domesticated humans. Which I think points up a problem with most of the answers so far: they assume that humans have the upper hand over this other intelligent species. Suppose instead there's a symbiotic relationship, as with humans & wolves. (And to a lesser extent, horses.) Living together cooperatively improves life (in the evolutionary sense) for both species. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Aug 15 '16 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf, implied in the question is the assumption that these sapient carnivores continue living as hunter-gatherers (well, hunters) while we start building cities. At that point the humans have the upper hand due to technology and weapons. $\endgroup$ – Paul Johnson Aug 16 '16 at 18:25


I would suggest putting them in Australia.

This will give them the opportunity to evolve and exist relatively un-disturbed by humanity until the 1600s.

I know this will be unpopular with the humans who were actually living in the continent in real life, but if you want your fictional carnivores to exist on Earth, this is their best chance of developing in isolation.

In your altered reality, some humans may have arrived on the continent over the millennia -- the same ones who in real life would become the aborigines -- but in your reality they would have met your carnivores' society and they would not have been able to settle. Maybe you have a few scattered outposts of humanity on at key points around the coast, but most of it dominated by the carnivores.

The two species may well tolerate each other without conflict, and may even interact.

With this setup, the arrival of Captain Cook would be an entirely different event. The discovery of not only a new continent, and a load of new species, but a new sapient species.

At this point, the questions are: how long will it take the arriving Europeans to realise that these carnivores are intelligent? What will they do about it when they do realise it?

My guess is that once the humans work things out, they will start out with an aggressive attitude and there will be a minor war that will end with the humans accepting that they don't have the resources to fight a major campaign on the opposite side of the world.

After that, they maybe spend a hundred years or so sending the odd tentative expedition to make contact, but real meaningful contact will only grow later, once the anger and recriminations have faded.

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    $\begingroup$ The settlement of Australia by its First People was 40,000 years ago. The carnivores will be adapted to hunting their prey & not humans. This makes co-existence very probable. Resistance to European settlement would have been much stronger. Aborigines & carnivores working together to save Australia from British imperialism. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 15 '16 at 5:30

Several people said to put them in Africa/Australia/near the equator. But what if you put them north. Even now, there is very little human population north, and most of them live on meat already. Look at the Inuit for example. They could evolve north, feed on meat, and over time develop technology to more easily feed themselves(Fishing for instance). With the humans coming from Africa, and the carnivores from the north, you have a good separation at the start. Any early meetings would probably end in annihilation of one group, but it would also ensure some technological exchange to happen, thus keeping tech levels similar. Then, as we move into modern era, we would learn to coexist. There still might be wars, but as they are unsuited for warm weather, and we are unsuited for the cold(Since the only way for us to exist there is technology, and we wouldn't even bother with inventing it so much if there was a strong historical bias against it) we might just not dwell into each other's area. Then we(us and them) start the companies, which don't distinguish between us since it's more profitable to have them working where they're better suited for it.

Another thing to mention is cooperation over a greater threat. If we have a stronger historic enemy that we share, for instance a much larger predator that attacks us both, we might find that cohabitation provides better protection than sole survival alone. Over time, we would see each other as partners, and be in a symbiotic relationship.


It's likely they coexist automatically without any special settings, if there is plenty of food. Note that human eat meat too and there is nothing special for a human to live with another human.

Why do big animals kill humans? If humans decides to revenge, they have virtually no chance to live. The reason they do is that they are not intelligent enough to realize this. For a species as intelligent as humans, they could have their own armies to protect themselves. But it's much more preferable to prey on easier targets. If they are like humans it's very likely they have their livestock in their farms.

It doesn't really require explaining how human morality is formed. That's more likely the result of the inefficiency of causing too many conflicts unnecessarily, in this perspective.

It's unlikely they were always peaceful in the history, though.


Could the humans be extremely toxic or extremely foul-tasting to any carnivore who tries to eat them?

  • $\begingroup$ How does that keep the humans from meddling excessively in the carnivores' affairs? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 14 '16 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ If both species are intelligent, they will most definitely meddle in the other species affairs, whether to make them more sympathetic to their own kind, promoting conflict where suitable, empowering the 'good' factions, weakening the 'bad' factions and so on. $\endgroup$ – Peter S. Aug 15 '16 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ Also, if there is a way to be repulsive for eating to the other species, humans will certainly look into that or even evolve the trait naturally. $\endgroup$ – Peter S. Aug 15 '16 at 9:14

humans do eat meat too. and some human groups were cannibals and eventually stopped that behavior. we also don't eat animals that we depend upon (horses, dogs), but that too is evolved and not universal.

so all it takes is to recognize the intelligence of humans by that species and the development of a moral code, just like we don't eat our own kind, we also don't eat any other intelligent species.

in a way the relationship would be like to aliens from other planets.

recognizing the intelligence and incorporating that into morals seems a natural step. and once that point is reached, the continued existence of both should not be a problem.

the only question then is, how did things get to that point? and just as cannibalism evolved and got reduced, the relationship between humans and this species too can evolve over time.

humans may fear these creatures, but that doesn't mean that killing them all is our only choice of protection. also, they are intelligent, so hunting them down may simply proof to difficult. we also know some dangerous animals who simply won't touch humans unless provoked or threatened. (horses, elephants, and other large or even small animals) they are dangerous because they can easily bring down a human, should they see the need to, but they are not dangerous in that they don't have a natural tendency to do so. in that sense this species may also simply not be dangerous.

i can't think of any carnivorous animals that don't naturally attack humans (bears maybe?). although that actually demonstrates a point. a species need not be carnivorous to be considered dangerous. especially an intelligent one. they could want to kill humans for other reasons, for protection or when in competition for resources. much like different human groups go to war.

it is actually conceivable that these intelligent creatures and humans have been at war with each other, and just never had one kind permanently dominate over the other.

wars continue until today. and they may continue in your world too, but as long as one kind does not permanently dominate over the other, and there are enough resources for both to remove the need for war simply to ensure survival then they may coexist for times to come and eventually develop permanent peace.

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    $\begingroup$ Humans are omnivores, not carnivores. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 14 '16 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ i guess that depends where you live. in some places you might get the impression that humans are carnivores. :-) you are right of course. i was trying to focus on the carnivorous side of humanity, but the argument still works if i just say "they eat meat too". btw. according to wikipedia: there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore. $\endgroup$ – eMBee Aug 14 '16 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ There is no clearly defined point that distinguishes life from not-life or dead, either. There are some pretty good indications, however. As for carnivores: humans have neither the dentition nor the gastrointestinal tract of a species specialized as either a carnivore or a herbivore. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 15 '16 at 17:18

Religion/believe could be a very strong bond. It is not guaranteed to survive 'forever' and you would need to find a good way of 'introducing' it in the past, but once established it could be the 'need' of each other that preserves peace. Maybe one race is responsible for the afterlife of the deceased of the other? Maybe there is eve a believe of rebirth in 'the other' in an endless loop? This could go as far as that 'high priests' of each race have to live a period of time with the other to 'learn' or such a thing.


Opposable thumbs. Humans are small and weak, but their agile cute tiny fingers can pull those pesky little bugs out of the larger beasts ears. Sometimes this is hard to do with large paws or hooves, especially if claws or talons are attached. Humans can tie knots and make ropes. Any huge Tiger-Elephant can knock down trees and scoot the logs together for shelter from the wind. But human can cut them at precise angles and make them water and air tight.

Sleeping caves can flood and kill off your whole pack. Humans are good swimmers.

Humans can bend rocks when they get them hot enough that the shiny stuff drips out. That can be hard to do when your fur catches on fire when you try making rocks hot.

Humans fight a lot, so having a huge beast to protect them from other humans comes in handy. The Beast might enjoy NOT having to hunt, with humans providing meals out of gratitude. Meals made with those weird plants added to the meat before they half burn them. Some humans might feed a beast his/her enemies.

Humans think they look cool riding on the back of a huge creature, so they can more easily throw spears down on the battlefield.

Feline and Lupine hunters LONG ago on Real-Earth began enjoying the company of humans.


Could and Would are entirely different things

You've asked if we could co-exist, this is reasonable as we certainly could, but it's important to consider if we would.

Historically we've been particularly bad at co-existing with ourselves, let alone other species. Anyone different was variously exiled, killed, persecuted, invaded etc. Taken as a species we've been consistently at war with ourselves for thousands of years, contact between any two given tribes as often at the point of a spear as otherwise.

We're currently in a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity so we can consider whether we could get on with another species, but considered over the course of our extremely bloody history, one species would have wiped out the other 10,000 years ago, as we did with almost anything else that could challenge our dominance over the landscape.

Australia has been mentioned, New Zealand should have been as that was first colonised even later, but in both cases there were pre-existing megafaunae that did not survive the contact with humans.

We do co-exist with certain species, but we could only call them client species. Dogs, Horses, Cats, these being the ones that we kill and eat the least of all the large domesticated animals. Should this second species adopt a client status to humans it's possible that we wouldn't have wiped them out. It would probably have to have been an early contact, possibly not long out of Africa, if not from within Africa, to become a universal cultural meme. Each surrendering certain elements of life to the other, perhaps they were the hunters and we the farmers and builders. Delayed contact is not an option, that would almost guarantee xenocide.


make the humans vegetarian farmers and the beasts nomadic obligate carnivores. this means the humans and beasts would not be competing for any meaningful resources, and therefore have no reason to seek to eradicate each other. sure, occasionally in a lean year a beast would try to eat a human or two and the humans would respond by killing a few beast. but both sides would know better than to start a conflict, since they have little to gain and much to lose. in most years, the beasts and humans coexist peacefully and benefit from mutual trade (e.g. human steal or hides for beast caught fur or postal service). the humans might annoy the beasts by cutting down trees, but the average nomadic beast would probably not realize the long term consequences of that. perhaps some philosopher beasts would argue the humans should be stopped, but with such high short term cost the idea never gets momentum. this makes sense considering a nomadic predator would probably never form any large political organizations. throughout human history, permanent settlement (aka farming) has been a prerequisite for centralized government.

  • $\begingroup$ "particularly if the beasts are solitary (which makes sense for a predator)" But not really for a group-living animal, does it? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 15 '16 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling i really just meant that the beasts wouldn't form large political units (e.g. armies). thanks for pointing out the ambiguity. i have updated my answer accordingly. $\endgroup$ – james turner Aug 15 '16 at 21:05

I have often given consideration to the type of question you pose here so I will give you the conclusions I have come to

  1. Carnivore is not the same as predator. Vultures are carnivores but not active predators.
  2. Humans are omnivores and they are predators.

The driving factors where two cultures or even species compete is natural resource. For a hunting species that is not omnivorous they must follow the prey and therefore their territory is seasonal and transitory.

Humans farm and herd too. Therefore friction will occur where the hunting species' territory overlaps the a static communities territory. It becomes a trial of technology. In a historical scenario you might look at the Vikings vs the Saxon's. In arms and armour the Vikings had a small advantage. In manoeuvrability the longship provided an early advantage. Later when settlement occurred it was the Saxon Burgh (fort) that was the decider. Saxon's could leverage a small tactical victory as a strategic one by fortification or an area.

The Native American model is to flawed simply because they had no history of contact and the Indians had no means to catch up with technology. Had the British still been in control of the colony the available man power of an established nation would have made for a much shorter period of conflict. However the long period of conflict drove US technology at a much faster rate of development than other industrialised nations. Only Britain, France and Germany had a similar speed of development in the 1800s due to on going imperial aspiration with Japan playing catch-up at the end of the century.

So in summary the factors are resources, opportunity for advancement, and pressure from with out to capitalise on opportunity. A well organised defending human population is a match to a skilled aggressive hunt driven culture. The Romans won against Attila, again an area to look at for inspiration of defending culture vs aggressive, fast moving predators. The Huns were a prototype of the Mongols in warfare.


The question you should answer is "How would Humans feel if they came across a sentient race of carrots." Carrots running around, building houses, breeding with one another. How would humans interract with a race when they could just reach out, pick them up and eat them, delicious looking carrots.

Maybe not carrots for you, but pick a food that you would eat without even thinking, Yum.. now add intelligence.. the pie looks at you, a curious look on its face.. "yes, sir? can I help you?" it asks.. Can you eat it now?

How would human society exist, if half of the populace were food for humans? Could Humans exist side by side with candy-bars and chocolate cake as companions? friends? or would we enslave them all, round them up in farms, breed them for better cream filling or prettier frosting..

Would your race, round up humans for breeding and eventual slaughter?


They coexist the same way humans coexsist with each other: generally well but with flareups and strife and wars.

Look at our history, especially examples of genocide and ethnic cleansing and strife, and replace one ethnic or religious group with your carnivores.

For example, imagine the crusades happened, but instead of Christian Knights reclaiming Jerusalem from the pagans, it was human knights reclaiming Jerusalem from the monsters.

For example, maybe the Great Wall of China was built by the carnivores to keep their prey animals inside and their enemies, the humans, out.

For example, imagine the Christian missionaries made great gains converting the creatures, but the Lutheran reformation happened amongst the creatures.

  • $\begingroup$ You, not I, call them "monsters". $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 16 '16 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ No, it's the crusaders who call them monsters. Demonising your enemy helps to sell your crusade to the nobles you want to pay for it. :-) $\endgroup$ – Greenstone Walker Aug 16 '16 at 12:27

A bit late to the game here, but work with me.

I'll suggest that it'd help if each species found the other, well ... sexy.

A mutually profitable exchange could occur. Lonely humans would discreetly wander over to the carnivore village bearing gifts of venison. Lonely carnivores (if they have some kind of "alpha male gets all the broads" dynamic going, there could be lots of these) would come with their own gifts. Everyone has fun, nobody gets knocked up.

Over time, the two peoples might evolve other uses for one another. Imagine a doctor who can't catch your diseases. Carnivore trackers could shine on human police forces. Depending on what the carnivores are like, the humans might have talents which come difficult to the "carnies".

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting perspective. I'm not at all sure I'd use it myself, at least as stated, but it might come in handy as a suggestion to others in a similar situation. And don't worry; as long as you contribute something new, it's fine to post a late answer. There are even three relevant badges for that: (in no particular order) Populist, Revival and Necromancer. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 26 '17 at 11:54

If you're in the mood to make everyone survive without the two species having anything to do with each other, just make it so that the two species are poisonous to one another.

  • $\begingroup$ How is this significantly different from user6030's answer? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 15 '16 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Whoops, didn't see that one. But to be fair, my answer does have it go both ways. $\endgroup$ – user21719 Aug 15 '16 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ Could you perhaps edit your answer to make that more explicit? If I didn't see the differences, it's plausible that others also might not, and will vote accordingly. It's always better to try to make answers distinct from each other. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 16 '16 at 6:43

Ok... From the comments there are a variety of answers from 'Humans are terrible and will kill them all' to 'they'll get along naturally'.

Now, To start with the method they begin to encounter one another: In my opinion, If an animal becomes useful to humans, humans are more likely to keep it alive (unless its only useful for food and the humans are part of a hunter-gathering society). Being a carnivore it stands to reason that it survives alongside humans by a. encountering them early during their hunter-gatherer phase or early agricultural phase and b. by creating a mutualistic relationship in which they help with hunting (if hunter-gatherer society) or with keeping away 'pests' such as other predators or large herbivores (if an agricultural society). Over time this would create relationships somewhat similar to domestic Dogs or Cats.

The issue with them contacting humans at later periods in time is that humans are less likely to find them useful initially, and therefore more likely to wipe them out or otherwise treat them appallingly. There is also a problem with them remaining predominantly 'wild' or wilderness living as humans dislike and fear that which we do not know or have some degree of control over. If this intelligent species remains living in the wilderness, there is a higher chance of them being seen as 'evil' 'demonic' and worth hunting to extinction.

Over history the role of these carnivores could change depending on the culture and social organisation (for example, royalty could hire them as guards (like a guard-dog or attack-dog) or for wealth and intimidation purposes (look how strong/rich i am, I have this powerful beast under my command). Yes there will be a few instances in history or society where they are demonised: but so have the cat and dog (in some cases believed to be linked to witchcraft and/or soulless). Of course overall there may be an issue with human perception of these carnivores (likely in some cases to not even think of them as 'intelligent' or 'conscious') but otherwise i don't believe it is impossible for the two species to get along.

From the carnivores perspective, they could gain easier access to food (especially true in agricultural societies), worship, medical aid and other potential benefits that would make them more likely to stay around.


protected by James Aug 16 '16 at 13:10

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