10 Animals That Can’t be Domesticated

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Animals That Can't be Domesticated

Humans have tried and failed to domesticate some animals that mother nature has gifted us. This can be blamed on a number of factors, and most time, it is because certain species are so afraid of humans that they instinctively run at first sight.

Others are far too aggressive for humans to domesticate, and an attempt to force the process can lead to attacks on the breeder or even death.

Another distinct animal category is characterized as tamed but not domesticated. The animals in these cases were bred to recognize and obey humans. Nevertheless, these animals are not safe enough to be classified as a domestic animal.

Tamed animals still have their wild instincts and can easily turn rogue. Below are 10 wild animals that can’t be domesticated:

Table of Contents

1. Zebra

Zebra

Colonists faced transport problems as they pushed further into Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their horses were vulnerable to numerous diseases, and it was not always easy to bring new horses from Europe.

They turned to the zebra, a close relative of donkeys and horses abundant in the African plains, to solve this problem. Zebras are also resistant to most diseases that horses have been affected by.

Nonetheless, the zebra is a very sensitive and aggressive animal, but all efforts to keep the animal domesticated have failed. Naturally, zebras are wary of humans and other animals and won’t hesitate to flee at the slightest sign of risk.

Its ability to run very fast makes capturing it incredibly difficult. In an attempt to escape, it can administer powerful kicks and even bites if trapped. The colonists soon discovered that these animals are smaller compared to horses and unpleasant to ride.

Other than zebras, even after they have been tamed, do not like to be ridden and can become violent after a while. The zebra’s violent behavior has been attributed to its evolution.

Its habitat is shared by animals such as tigers, leopards, crocs, hyenas, and men. This was a big concern for the settlers, who worried that their supposedly domesticated zebras would attract these predators.

2. Great White Shark

Great White Shark

A number of attempts to domesticate or tame the giant white shark have failed since, within days, captured great whites typically die. Sixteen days is the longest this species has survived in captivity. Captured great white sharks even tend to smash their heads on the glass walls of their aquarium.

One shark kept in Japan’s Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium managed to bang its head on the glass wall till it died. Another shark held at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California continuously hit her head on the wall and ambushed two other sharks until she was set free.

For several reasons, great white sharks don’t really fare well in confinement. First of all, they are fantastic travelers, able to tour an entire ocean. They also need plenty of water to breathe.

Thus, large-sized aquariums are also too small to explore the way they would in a large ocean. Captured sharks are often extremely aggressive and will typically refuse to feed. However, when they do, they need live prey, which can be tasking for aquariums.

3. Dingoes

Dingoes

Dingoes are animals native to Australia and are similar to dogs. In spite of their resemblance to dogs, dingoes are not dogs and are nearly impossible to domesticate.

They are also regarded by Australian farmers as pests. Strangely, before allowing them to return to the wild, it seems like humans partially domesticated the dingo thousands of years ago.

The difference in the domestication of dingoes and dogs is very little. While dogs are regarded as companions, dingoes were recognized as a food source by early native Australians.

Besides, because of their desirable characteristics, native Australians didn’t exclusively breed the animal.

4. Moose

Moose

A few centuries ago, when horse cavalry was in vogue, King Karl XI of Sweden decided that he wanted to substitute his horses with a more fearsome creature.

An animal that, at first glance, would send his enemies and their horses fleeing the battlefield. He settled for the moose, but unfortunately, the strategy never panned out for the adventurous king.

The moose was, as he later found out, too dangerous to approach. This intensified when it became uncontrollably aggressive during the mating season. In addition, the moose is vulnerable to disease and has a diverse diet that is difficult to supply. Moose are intelligent animals as well, typically avoiding war fronts.

The moose fled when they saw another moose get killed on the battlefield. Other attempts to use them as a source of meat was equally unsuccessful. Once they realized that the moose taken to the slaughterhouse didn’t come back, they refuse to go anywhere. Despite these shortcomings, there is an ongoing project to domesticate the majestic animal at Kostroma elk farm in Kostroma, Russia.

This program began in the ’30s when Joseph Stalin decided to create a moose cavalry. Similar to King Karl XI’s scheme, Stalin’s idea didn’t see fruition. Nikita Khrushchev played his part when he also tried to domesticate mooses for meat. Unfortunately, this also failed, forcing several moose farms to close up.

The Kostroma elk farm, however, remained functional and continues its attempt to domesticate the moose. The facility is now mainly used for the processing of moose milk.

5. Raccoon

Raccoons would have been a perfect candidate for domestication. They are professional climbers and can penetrate tight spaces like thieves, making them an outstanding working animal. If successfully domesticated, raccoons could be helpful to the physically challenged and senior citizens.

Nevertheless, since they have not been domesticated, they should not be used as working animals. In spite of their cute appearance, raccoons can be quite destructive and aggressive.

They are incredibly inquisitive, prefer to wander, and can quickly become violent when confined to an area. Bites from raccoons can become fatal, and they can infect people with rabies. Because they know how to use their hands well (like humans), it isn’t unusual for a raccoon to open anything they try to access.

They are also good at escaping compromising situations, and this trait is one major reason why domesticating raccoons is challenging.

6. Foxes

Foxes

Once, foxes were domesticated, but they died off, unfortunately. However, modern measures at domesticating them again were partially successful. Ironically, the extinct fox that was domesticated was known as Yaghan or Fuegian dog.

The culpeo was domesticated from wild populations (aka the Andean fox). Oddly enough, the Fuegian dog was not common during this period. This was presumably because it was not as helpful as an average dog.

There is also the knowledge that there were attempts at domesticating foxes, way before the Fuegian foxes, but were abandoned for cats.

Since they could not decide what to use the foxes for, cats were preferred over foxes. Because of their incredible stubbornness, foxes are challenging to domesticate. In the 1950s, a Russian geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaev tried to change that when he began a project to have silver-black foxes domesticated.

Silver-black foxes are red foxes impacted by melanism. This is the reverse of albinism that makes the animals affected appear black. Four generations after, Dmitry made a breakthrough with the foxes displaying doglike traits.

They have established an affinity for humans, licked their owners (breeders), and wagged their tails. Fifty years later, they started barking, responded to people, and understood gestures. They also make sounds that are different from wild foxes. The ongoing initiative is considered a success as the foxes were tamed.

Notwithstanding, domesticating the animal is still a dream.  

7. Asian elephants

Asian Elephant

Even though Asian elephants have been kept and trained for more than 3,000 years, they still aren’t considered domestic animals. Instead, they are known as wild or tamed animals. Asian elephants that are captured and trained are not classed as domesticated because they aren’t bred selectively.

Domesticating Asian elephants would mean that they have to be bred selectively for up to 12 generations. They should be genetically different from their wild ancestors by the 12th century and will be deemed domestic.

Captured Asian elephants are generally not selectively bred (just a few of them were bred selectively after the second generation). This means that Asian elephants are wild animals and would only allow humans to ride them if they are well-trained. Nonetheless, these animals, like any wild animal, are very unpredictable.

8. Bonobos

Bonobos

On this list, bonobos are exceptional because they are not considered wild animals. While humans have not domesticated them, they are domestic animals. Scientists are still unsure how this occurred, but bonobos found a way to domesticate themselves.

It is speculated that bonobos’ exceptional domestication started about two million years ago, right after the Congo River was formed.

The ancestors of the bonobos and the chimpanzees that lived there were divided by this event. On the north side of the river, the primates evolved to become larger and more aggressive because they fought for food with the larger gorillas. The primates that would become the bonobos were on the other side of the river.

There was more than enough food to go around, and they didn’t have to fight any gorillas for food either. Female bonobos became picky with which males they wanted to mate, and as the females favored gentler males, aggressive males died out.

9. Hippopotamus

Hippopotamus

Humans have wisely kept away from one of the deadliest creatures in the world, the hippopotamus. Hippos kill more people than lions, tigers, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinoceroses combined every year. Any encounter between a human and a hippo is likely to end badly.

Hippopotamuses have a large set of teeth and are very fast. Despite their colossal weight, hippos can run up to 48 km per hour (30 mph). The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, barely exceeds 45 km per hour (28 mph). However, independent attempts have been made to domesticate the hippo. Unfortunately, those efforts ended badly.

In 2011, a five-year-old hippo, weighing 1.2-ton killed Marius Els, a South African farmer, and a military officer. He was trying to have the hippo domesticated, but it cost him his life. Els named the beast Humphrey and even considered it his pet.

He took Humphrey swimming sometimes and rode on it once, saying he likened the animal to his son. However, the hippo did not share the same sentiment with Els because he was killed in the river they used to swim in.

Humphrey was considered to be a local terror in the area before killing Els. Humphrey was once reported to have chased a man and his grandson up a tree after canoeing on a river flowing through Els’s farm. The hippo was also famous for killing other animals and chasing golfers near a golf course.

10. Coyotes

coyote
A wild coyote stares straight at the camera in spring. – Image ID: D8YH21, June 3, 2013 D8YH21 A wild coyote stares straight at the camera in spring.

Since they instinctively avoid humans, all efforts to domesticate the coyote have failed. Human breeders are wary of these animals because they may be infected with harmful diseases such as tularemia and rabies.

Nevertheless, some breeders have taken a bold step to domesticate the coyote despite the potential risks. The crossbreeding of a male coyote with a female dog is one common form of domesticating them. Although the resulting hybrid is less aggressive towards humans, it is not an actual coyote.

Another strategy is to take young wild coyotes from their parents and raise them to maturity. After about three generations, wild coyotes become less afraid of humans, but they are still not considered domestic animals. Attempts to have a coyote domesticated have ended with the breeder being attacked.

This happens because a coyote near humans will see them as potential prey and wait for the best time to strike. Incidentally, these animals are slowly becoming domesticated. Naturally, this is happening the same way it probably did with bonobos.

It is best for pet owners to know what animals they should have close to them, especially if they have children around. Attempts at experimenting should be done with care as you not only put your life, but the lives of other around you at risk.

There are tons of other animals that can easily be domesticated, and it helps to know which is which.

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