So, in the world I'm creating, humans have meddled with animals in order to create unicorns, dragons, jackalopes ect. However, some of these animals were more powerful and intelligent than intended, and wiped out the humans.

In my world, set long after this incident, I want all animals (minus fish and insects) to be intelligent, able to communicate with each other and use tools and equipment. My question is, how long would it take for the intelligent 'magical' animals to make/modify/otherwise 'awaken' the normal animals to be intelligent? Also, how could they do it? Would it have to be magic or is there a plausible scientific reason?

Edit: If possible, I'd like the explanation to be scientific, through gene manipulation or what have you!

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to world building Fia94. Unfortunately it is very difficult to answer your question because so much depends on the magical element where we don't have much to go on. With magic it might happen in days or never. Remember that evolution (without magic) is blind and will not necessarily lead towards intelligence. Adaptions for webbed feet or any one of a multitude of other factors are just as likely. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 15:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It really depends on how the humans decided to meld them with humans. Though what techniques and what exactly did they meld? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 15:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Unhappymarshmellow I think you're confusing the word "meld" with "meddled". OP never mentioned that humans melded with the other animals. $\endgroup$
    – AngelPray
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ So you're basically asking how long would evolution need to arrive at The Animals of Farthing Wood? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 8:10
  • $\begingroup$ How fast could a directed breeding program turn another Earth species intelligent? can probably help establish a lower bound on the amount of time required. Can an 'unadvanced' species accidently uplift another species? and Intelligent Animals Integrating into (Western) Human Society may also be of interest. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 8:12

4 Answers 4


All animals (or even just most) is impossible, intelligence is costly and unintelligent ones would quickly outcompete intelligent animals in many niches, even if you just hand waved them intelligent. Intelligence also requires specific biology that is incompatible with many forms of life, you can't put a big brain in a snake's head and still have it look or function anything like a snake. Even if your surprise intelligent animal is trying very hard to uplift other animals they will fail most of the time. Worse if they don't realize this will happen they aren't very intelligent.

So yes you are going to have to hand wave it as magic and basically ignore most of biology with an even bigger hand wave. At that point having to have humans make your created animals intelligent does not make much sense since you are already ignoring all of the relevant biology, they should just BE intelligent for no reason (because fantasy) since that is already true for everything else.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Worse if they don't realize this will happen they aren't very intelligent." I feel that you might be confusing intelligence for knowledge. Humans weren't really any less intelligent 500 or 1,000 years ago, but certainly lacked much knowledge that we now take for granted. (We do, on the other hand, now generally lack much knowledge that they likely took for granted.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ the ability to systematically alter the genome of all other animals to make them intelligent presupposes sufficient knowledge. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 14:55

In order to make all those animals intelligent, tool-users, you'd have to modify them to the point where they would only look superficially similar to what they once were. Think about how large the skulls (and thus heads) of say a fox would have to be in order to house a brain capable of human-like intelligence. And what of the arms/paws? You need dextrous hands, fingers and especially opposable thumbs in order to manipulate tools effectively. So while there is no reason why you couldn't modify the fox genome to meet your requirements, the end result wouldn't be as fox-like as you might want.

But beyond that, as far as how long it would take, that merely depends on whether or not the gene-manipulators know what they're doing. If the hyper-intelligent "magical" creatures that overthrew humanity have a very good grasp of genetics and furthermore know exactly what precise changes they want to make, then it could take very little time (less than a century).

Gene manipulationm as you call it, doesn't take time in itself, it's rather knowing what genes to manipulate that's difficult and takes time.

At the moment we humans have severe holes in our understanding of genetics, we don't currently create GMOs with a set plan in mind, instead we experiment and see what changed genes express what characteristics and eventually we manage to bring about positive traits.

But this doesn't have to be the case, we're already attempting to create more or less complete models of gene interactions in species with primitive genomes (for example yeast). It is likely that within the next few decades we'll have succeeded to do such not only for the latter but perhaps for all species including humans.

So to finish, it really depends how good geneticists your "magical" creatures are. If they have an advanced knowledge base then it could take very little time, if their knowledge base is poor it could take centuries for a single species, that with millions of failed attempts (that last part isn't pretty to think about).

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You don't necessarily need a huge brain for intelligence. There are many animals with smaller brains that are considered more intelligent than a larger brained animal. Us and whales, crows and cows, etc. $\endgroup$
    – heskey30
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 22:27
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You know, the situation could get much worse. If they were somehow able to gene-modify in human-level intelligence into all the animals with minimal form factor changes, many of them would be annoyed. "Hey I'm a superintelligent snake. Thanks for not giving me HANDS, guys!" ;D $\endgroup$
    – akaioi
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 22:40


Animals have become 'intelligent', and then wiped out humans.

Do you mean 'intelligent' or 'violent'? There is a difference.

If the genes are already present in the genome of the species (in the junk DNA) and just need to be expressed, within a few generations. However, if the genes are not already present in the genome, you have a choice. Either a mass extinction event that gets rid of all the 'old' genetic material and leaves only the 'new', or you are looking at a very long time -think of your family tree. How many generations back do you have to go, before you are related to everyone? It's an Adam and Eve thing.


Think of a more practical approach, like the social and intellectual skills of chimpanzees, babboons, dolphins, rats, and lions: they all use survival skills which requires some intelligence, like collaborating in dodging enemy attack, ambush predation, adjusting to environmental changes. Maybe some of those designed creatures will have a head-start in becoming more intelligent.

Maybe fairly intelligent animals competing over resources against equally intelligent animals will usher an evolutionary race for higher intelligence? In that case the race is on the slow-lane compared to that of GMO. Think a million years or more... It is, however, highly unlikely the GMOs will wipe-out humans for one reason: They have no technology yet. Adopting some technology would require enough interaction with humans and learning from them a great deal of science. Do these creatures go to schools and universities?


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .