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The article Why Can't All Animals Be Domesticated? on Live Science sets out a list of criteria that a species needs to meet in order to be successfully domesticated by humans. In short, that list states that to be successfully domesticated, they...

  • cannot be picky eaters
  • must reach maturity quickly relative to the human life span
  • must be willing to breed in captivity
  • must be docile by nature
  • cannot have a strong tendency to panic and flee when startled
  • must conform to a social hierarchy dominated by strong leadership

Well, it seems to me that kangaroos meet, or can meet, at least several of those criteria.

Would it be plausible for indigenous Australians to, circa 1600 A.D., domesticate, or at least tame and train, kangaroos? What difficulties would they encounter in attempting to do so?

I imagine keeping the animals for the meat is one use. Another, possibly cooler, use would be to use them as beasts of burden, perhaps as messengers, if they can be trained well enough. If you have other ideas, feel free to explore those as well; just make sure you actually answer the question!

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    $\begingroup$ Domesticating kangaroos is not going to be a big problem, but what for? Meat, milk, pulling burden? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Oct 18 '17 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander Meat is an obvious option, considering that kangaroo meat is a real thing in Australian cuisine. If they could be trained well enough, I kind of suspect they could be useful as messengers, not entirely unlike homing pigeons carrying messages but with the potential for carrying larger items. And probably other uses, too. $\endgroup$ – user Oct 18 '17 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Okay, with that you have me picturing a kangaroo in a FedEx Uniform carrying a box with the Amazon Prime logo. And like the arrow in the Fed Ex logo, I cannot un-see it :) $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Oct 18 '17 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI Good! Now, can we make it happen? $\endgroup$ – user Oct 18 '17 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I'm willing to give it a try, Call Jeff Bezos and we can ask him for a $200 Million dollar grant and we can get started. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Oct 18 '17 at 19:35
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While kangaroos meet a lot of the criteria they are failing on a couple of key points.

While kangaroos do congregate in mobs the socials structure is too loose and flexible to a human establish them self as top roo and get the entire mob to follow them. Furthermore this would open the human to regular challenges to his authority from other males. Since these dominance challenges involve face clawing and powerful stomach kicks I don't think humans would be successful at this in the first place.

If the animals were going to be kept for meat they would need to be kept in a fenced enclosure. Kangaroos are talented jumpers and the fences that are normally used to fence in other livestock wouldn't be effective.

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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, an argument can certainly be made that wolves can be pretty rough in maintaining the pack hierarchy, especially during the mating season, and it takes fairly good enclosures to keep them contained (see the average zoo that keeps them). Yet humans managed to domesticate wolves into dogs (though an argument can definitely be made that wolves to some extent domesticated themselves). That leaves more or less just the "loose and flexible" social structure argument, but you see that in dogs too; would that really be such a showstopper? (I'm not arguing; I'm asking.) $\endgroup$ – user Oct 18 '17 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ If we're keeping kangaroos in cages with pre 1600s technology then we will need to bring fodder to them which negates any benefit of domestication. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Oct 18 '17 at 20:37

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