The concept of a planet with several anthropomorphic sapient species (furries, if you will) is immensely popular. But would it actually make sense in the first place?

I am aware of the issue of "Carnivore Confusion" (the question of what would they eat besides each other) but that is not what this is necessarily about. This question pertains specifically to the possibility of how one could place possibly up to hundreds of sapient furry species on one planet without it being a ecological and evolutionary disaster.

Would there be an absolute limit to how many sapient species you could have? Would there be several versions of the same animal (rabbits, for example) based on area? Would they drive each other to extinction until one or two species are left?


4 Answers 4


If you want to have lots of sapient species, in a variety of sizes, all existing at the same time, you have to abandon conventional evolution. It's implausible that they would all achieve sapience at pretty much the same time, rather than at different points in the life of their planet. That leaves you with several ways of achieving the scenario you want, including:

  1. God(s) made all these species.

  2. Some species with very advanced biological engineering made them. They might be from some other world, or universe; they might still be around, either keeping their capabilities secret or having lost them.

  3. They aren't really separate species. They're one species that can develop in many different ways. The closest examples in Earthly mammals are dogs: all the different breeds are still the same species. They aren't genetically identical, but they are all closely related and capable of interbreeding. In plants, the same species, Brassica oleracea, produces lots of different "cultivars", which we treat as distinct crops: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi and kai-lan. There isn't an obvious reason why animals can't do this: Earthly ones don't, but nothing keeps you from claiming that alien ones can. This one gives you interesting possibilities for social conflict as a child of rabbit-people decides she wants to grow up as a wolf, for example.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, that point about simultaneous sapience is a killer. Humans only got to sapience a few hundred thousand years ago, and look how fast changes came after that. I think you could plausibly explain two species developing sapience sufficiently close together (albeit one would probably be far behind on the technological curve), but any more than that is going to break believability. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Palarran not just that but multiple sapient anthropoids have evolved at the same time, and outcompeted/killed each other off almost as fast. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 23:33

I'd say it depends on the climate.
Remember, Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo Sapiens were able to coexist on the same planet for a long time before climate change forced/allowed the two groups to come into contact with one another. I suspect that, were it still an Ice Age, we'd still be at least able to live together.

Another possibility lies in a civilization from the old game Star Control 2: The Zoq-Fot-Pik.
(Bear with me here, this is an old game, and some of its ideas are a bit...eccentric.)

Zoq, Fot, and Pik.

Long ago, in the distant past of their homeworld, four separate species were able to evolve sentience on the planet Alpha Tucanae b: The Zoq, the Fot, the Pik, and the Zebranky. While the Zoq, Fot, and Pik were quite content collecting raw nutrients from their environment, the Zebranky were carnivorous, and took a liking to devouring the other three. This pressure from an outside threat caused the three separate species to put aside their differences, and band together to form an alliance; eventually, their combined efforts were able to completely eradicate the Zebranky.

So what could happen is perhaps the civilizations could unify, and integrate into one society? Just some ideas.


An interesting, albeit magical idea, would be to draw inspiration from mask culture; masks confer some of their likeness' essence onto the wearer. In this case, you could have different cultures revering different animals slowly mutate to resemble them as a consequence of generations of mask usage. This neatly handles a few issues:

  • The diversity of species follows from how cultures such as the ancient Egyptians would revere even field mice
  • Their contemporaneity is explained by the discovery and "rapid" proliferation of mask magic
  • Their human-like intelligence comes from them having once been ordinary humans
  • Their density within similar ecological niches is plausible given you only need a minimal breeding population for every race
  • "Extinction" events are reversible so long as knowledge of the patron animal exists for mask makers to use
  • Humans and anthros living side-by-side is inevitable if some cultures reject masks

Humans are pretty good at not speciating. We're also somewhat good at cohabiting. If you assume these attributes also apply to sophonts in general...

Depending on how you define "species", there aren't nearly as many as you think. As an example, the difference between Bengal and Malayan tigers isn't entirely unlike the difference between Asian and European humans. The former are considered different species, but the latter aren't. Why? Because the former are geographically isolated, and thus wouldn't "naturally" interbreed. If you ignore those sorts of somewhat artificial distinctions and look only at varieties of animal that can interbreed... there aren't nearly as many different kinds of animals as you think. For instance, it's quite likely there are only one or two actual kinds of cats.

Why does this matter? Well, just like we don't consider different "races" (a term I hesitate to use, because it is another purely artificial distinction) of humans to be different species, in your setting, lions and tigers aren't different species. The distinction, rather, would be like humans with blond versus red hair.

Once you take this into account, there are a lot fewer actual species, assuming you're taking your inspiration from the real world. In fact, if you restrict yourself to mammals, there may be as little as a few dozen species. At the least, you can have a huge variety of people with only a dozen actual species. Heck, just look at how much variety you could have if you limited yourself solely to anthropomorphic versions of canis familiaris!

At the same time, regional variations are likely. Just as natives of America, Europe, Asia and Africa all tend to have distinctive features characteristic of those regions, anthropomorphic people will likely show similar tendencies, likely corresponding to their real world counterparts.


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