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Thread: Question about untamable animals

  1. #1 Question about untamable animals 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Not sure if this is the correct section for this or not but here goes:

    What causes some animals to be able to be tamed and some not. Is it biologically hardwired in their brain? Is intelligence of the animal in question a factor?
    Lets say you adopt a grown tiger. Untamable right? Yet if you adopt a baby tiger from birth, then Im guessing it will be easier to tame to some degree but still dangerous nomatter how close a bond you make to the animal?

    Another thing Im not sure about is behavior in evolution. I find it strange that you can breed dogs or cats or other animals to get a desired behavior. Its kinda depressing because that seems like such a strong evidence of biological determinism in personality and behavior.

    Anyone here know much about this and want to share?


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    Well, it the dog was domesticated 15,000 years. I'm not sure any animal is untameable -- it will just take longer with some. And there will be no incentive with others. For the most part, we've only domesticated animals that could do something for us. Sometimes that "something" was to die and be eaten.

    I do know this: wolverines don't make good pets.


    Last edited by Chucknorium; May 16th, 2014 at 08:11 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    I do know this: wolverines don't make good pets.
    Are you sure?
    Steve Kroschel with Banff the Wolverine - YouTube
    Jasper the Wolverine - YouTube
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Chucknorium View Post
    I do know this: wolverines don't make good pets.
    Are you sure?
    No. How about this guy?

    dan hunter and samsmoot like this.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    there's a big difference between taming an individual animal (which covers a very wide spectrum of animals) and domesticating them
    on the latter topic Jared Diamond covers the requirements for successful domestication admirably in his book Guns, Germs and Steel
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    Some years ago, David Susuki hosted a show which raised the question of whether humans domesticated animals or whether animals elected to subjugate themselves to humans as a mutually beneficial relationship. There is no doubt that our ability to intervene in selective breeding has influenced the nature of many plants and animals and as a breeder of both dogs and horses over a span of nearly three decades, I have observed that both nature and nurture contribute to the outcome. Personality is largely genetic in horses and the temperament of the mare is considered to be equally or even more important than that of the sire because it is the mare who spends the greater amount of time in teaching the offspring the appropriate social conduct. In the herd, the foals are born into the mare's place in the hierarchy. As they move toward adulthood, they then compete among their own peer group to determine if their place in the social order shall change.

    Humans domesticate the horse by becoming the most reliable 'leader'. Whomever controls the food supply and movement becomes herd boss which is why the use of treats with horses must be understood and handled respectfully or you will end up with an animal of unreliable and dangerous nature.

    What makes an animal possible to domesticate?

    The world's foremost expert on domestication is arguably UCLA Professor Jared Diamond, who is best known for his popular science books like the awesomely titled Guns, Germs, and Steel. In the book, he lays out six basic criteria that an animal has to meet in order to be possible to domesticate. Let's run through them briefly:
    1. The animal needs to be able to eat a lot of different thing and be willing to live off the scraps of humans. If the animals are able to eat stuff humans can't, such as grass, then even better. This also makes strict carnivores somewhat more difficult to domesticate than other animals, as it commits humans to providing a ready food source of other animals for them to eat.
    2. The animals need to grow up fast, or at least faster than humans. There's not much point in trying to domesticate extremely long-lived species like elephants or tortoises, as it can take several years before they're even remotely useful, and their long life cycle limits how quickly their numbers can be replenished.
    3. The animals must be willing to breed in the close quarters of captivity. Any creature that demands a lot of open territory in order to breed - pandas and antelopes are good examples of this - are terrible domestication candidates.
    4. The animals have to be naturally pleasant. An unpredictable or ill-tempered beast is just going to be dangerous to attempt to keep enclosed in a small area. It's possible to meet some animals halfway on this - for instance, the American bison can be kept in huge enclosures on ranches - but that's as close as we can get to full-on domestication for species like that.
    5. It isn't just pleasantness - the animals need to be calm as well. Skittish or flighty animals will constantly attempt to escape, and it can be almost impossible to control them even if escape is impossible. This is what seems to have kept foxes from being successfully domesticated, as they're far more skittish than dogs and wolves.
    6. The animals need to be willing to recognize humans as their new masters, which means they must have a flexible social hierarchy.
    Why some animals can never be domesticated

    In the case of cats, I often wonder whether or not it is they who have domesticated humans, even as Suzuki and others have surmised.
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    The recent experiment on a russian fox farm, where foxes were being raised for their fur, sheds a lot of light on the domestication process. The scientist in charge culled the foxes according to the agression they showed toward humans as young adults . She selected foxes that neither attacked nor ran from a human who opened the cage. After just three generations she had an animal that could be safely and comfortable held in your arms. The are now forsale as pets. So now we know that 3 generations seems to be the magic number.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by scheherazade View Post
    In the case of cats, I often wonder whether or not it is they who have domesticated humans, even as Suzuki and others have surmised.
    As for that, there are plenty of fun pictures like:



    Maybe some truth to the "Arrogant cat considering humans their servant" thing
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    Some of Jared Diamond's claims seem a bit dubious to me.
    There's not much point in trying to domesticate extremely long-lived species like elephants or tortoises
    Indian elephants have been domesticated and used quite successfully for a very long time.
    The animals have to be naturally pleasant.
    You mean like wolves?
    This is what seems to have kept foxes from being successfully domesticated, as they're far more skittish than dogs and wolves.
    This has been pretty well disproven by the guy in Russia, hasn't it?
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    Maybe some animals think to themselves they would rather die than become domesticated. I think the way to find out what a horse thinks is to put a bit your mouth and let a human being sit on your back and ride you. I suspect the horse would be very happy to know that finally someone want to know more about how it feels. Ok, go jump on it.

    I would like to know what is really meant by taming an animal?
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    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    The definition of the word 'domesticate' is of some assistance in describing what is meant by 'taming an animal.'

    do·mes·ti·cate

    [duh-mes-ti-keyt] Show IPA
    verb (used with object), do·mes·ti·cat·ed, do·mes·ti·cat·ing. 1. to convert (animals, plants, etc.) to domestic uses; tame.

    2. to tame (an animal), especially by generations of breeding, to live in close association with human beings as a pet or work animal and usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild.

    3. to adapt (a plant) so as to be cultivated by and beneficial to human beings.

    4. to accustom to household life or affairs.

    5. to take (something foreign, unfamiliar, etc.) for one's own use or purposes; adopt.
    Domesticate | Define Domesticate at Dictionary.com

    It seems logical to my way of thinking that the plants and animals that best lend themselves to domestication are those species for which there is some reciprocal benefit. Animals which are herd or pack species by nature would also find the transition easier, I hypothesize.
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    Quote Originally Posted by scheherazade View Post
    The definition of the word 'domesticate' is of some assistance in describing what is meant by 'taming an animal.'

    do·mes·ti·cate

    [duh-mes-ti-keyt] Show IPA
    verb (used with object), do·mes·ti·cat·ed, do·mes·ti·cat·ing. 1. to convert (animals, plants, etc.) to domestic uses; tame.

    2. to tame (an animal), especially by generations of breeding, to live in close association with human beings as a pet or work animal and usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild.

    3. to adapt (a plant) so as to be cultivated by and beneficial to human beings.

    4. to accustom to household life or affairs.

    5. to take (something foreign, unfamiliar, etc.) for one's own use or purposes; adopt.
    Domesticate | Define Domesticate at Dictionary.com

    It seems logical to my way of thinking that the plants and animals that best lend themselves to domestication are those species for which there is some reciprocal benefit. Animals which are herd or pack species by nature would also find the transition easier, I hypothesize.
    Thanks Scher, I have always looked at taming an animal as bringing it down to human understanding of obedience. On the other side I looked at domesticating animals as living under human conditions within the household. I find sometimes the explanations in the dictionary needs another dictionary.
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    The natural psychology of the species is also important. Wolves are hierarchic animals and they seem to have been quite easy to tame because they're like us in that sense. Cats, on the other hand, are solitary predators and are therefore more emotionally detached from humans. I sometimes see mine as a sort of clever psychopath who knows what to do to have her way. And in fact that's what she is.

    Chimps might be a good candidate for that matter; they're hierarchic and would eat anything. But then again, perhaps their high intelligence might be a negative factor.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Some of Jared Diamond's claims seem a bit dubious to me.
    There's not much point in trying to domesticate extremely long-lived species like elephants or tortoises
    Indian elephants have been domesticated and used quite successfully for a very long time.
    The animals have to be naturally pleasant.
    You mean like wolves?
    This is what seems to have kept foxes from being successfully domesticated, as they're far more skittish than dogs and wolves.
    This has been pretty well disproven by the guy in Russia, hasn't it?
    can't just check the exact wording in the book, but what stayed in my mind was

    (1) social animals who are used to be led by a dominant animal - in which case if you can convince the pack/herd to see you as the dominant one, you're quids in
    (2) flight distance : some animals never lessen their flight distance whatever happens, unlike the wolves that became the predecessors of dogs, who scavenged refuse heaps and gradually became less frightened of people + let them closer over time
    (3) when Jared Diamond was talking about aggression he something in mind like african buffalo, black rhino or any of the various types of zebra : you can possibly tame individuals but as a species those are the exceptions and not the rule, just because the automatic attack reflex inherent to the species
    (4) domestication requires that you can breed in captivity : it's why the cheetah has been tamed several times as a sort of game retriever, but since they don't breed in captivity, you have to keep on replenishing your tame stock from wild populations - unless i'm much mistaken, elephants fall in the same category (but probably for different reasons): all indian elephants have been tamed individually + not bred in captivity, which makes them fail the definition of domestication
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  17. #16  
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    It seems to me there are three things to consider when determining whether or not an animal is "untamable". They are intelligence, danger, and nature.

    First, intelligence. I once had a petri dish I took from class, and swabbed it with bacteria. For a short while, it became my pet bacteria colony, until it eventually ran out of media and dried up. While I did keep them like pets, I wouldn't say I "tamed" the bacteria because they don't have the intelligence to be tamed. Too much intelligence is also a problem. You can't tame a human because a human is often not content being kept as a pet, and may long for freedom and independence.

    Second is danger. Looking up my city ordinance, "dangerous wild animals" banned from being kept as pets within the city include alligators, bats, bears, bobcats, cheetahs, large constrictor snakes, coyotes, crocodiles, foxes, jaguars, leopards, lions, lynx, monkeys and other nonhuman primates, panthers, raccoons, skunks, tigers, venomous snakes, wildcats, wolves, wolf-hybrids, mountain lions, and ocelots. While each of these animals are probably trainable and possible to be kept as pets, keeping them presents an element of danger that makes it not worthwhile. One time, I had new neighbors that moved to town with a wolf they kept in the back yard. It was as tame as any dog during the day, but by night, it would jump the fence and hunt for stray cats in the area. It was a small suburban area where small children would play, and I have my doubts that the wolf would discriminate between a cat and a child. Thankfully, the city was notified and they were forced to get rid of the wolf before anyone was hurt.

    The last thing to consider is the animals nature. First, lets look at the domestic cat. The cat is highly trainable and tameable, but there are certain aspects of its nature that cannot be circumvented. A domestic cat will always look for something to sharpen its claws on. No amount of training will ever make a cat stop this unwanted behavior. The best you can do is offer the cat alternatives that they would rather shred to pieces instead of your leather chair, such as scratching posts. Now lets consider an animal that is truly untamable due to its nature. The mongoose is naturally destructive and devastating to local wildlife. As a result, the entire United States has banned them. If you were to attempt to hold one, it would go crazy and attack you. There is no way to train the animal that will make it an acceptable pet.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chimoshi View Post
    Second is danger. Looking up my city ordinance, "dangerous wild animals" banned from being kept as pets within the city include alligators, bats, bears, bobcats, cheetahs, large constrictor snakes, coyotes, crocodiles, foxes, jaguars, leopards, lions, lynx, monkeys and other nonhuman primates, panthers, raccoons, skunks, tigers, venomous snakes, wildcats, wolves, wolf-hybrids, mountain lions, and ocelots. While each of these animals are probably trainable and possible to be kept as pets, keeping them presents an element of danger that makes it not worthwhile. One time, I had new neighbors that moved to town with a wolf they kept in the back yard. It was as tame as any dog during the day, but by night, it would jump the fence and hunt for stray cats in the area. It was a small suburban area where small children would play, and I have my doubts that the wolf would discriminate between a cat and a child. Thankfully, the city was notified and they were forced to get rid of the wolf before anyone was hurt.
    Unfortunately many of such list aren't based in any objective measure or science, but people's irrational fears while ignoring that our second most common pet, the common dog, it more dangerous than most of these "supposedly" dangerous ones.
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