Breeding lobotomized animals for temperament (or how to breed tame tigers)

The thought occured to me that perhaps a surgical method could be devised to lobotomize ‘wild’ animals to make them more passive – and hopefully ensure against incidents like the mauling of the Las Vegas performer so recently in the news.

Further musing along this line made me wonder if breeding lobotimized pairs of wild animals over several generations might not produce more docile – or perhaps even domesticated animals through artificial selection of temperament.

Question: Pipe dream, or might this actually work?

That a disgusting idea, it’s only redeeming feature being that it wouldn’t work.

I don’t know if lobotimizing animals would work as it it doesn’t even work that well on humans.

Saying it did work though, how would you be able to judge an animals genetic dispostion to a certain temperament if you lobtomized it to change that temperament.

Of course it’s com[pletely unethical too.

Breeding “tamer” animals such as in dogs from wolves) generally focuses on selecting for neotony characteristics that focus on animals with “younger”, more docile behavioral traits. In this context some biologists claims that dogs are essentially (behaviorally) pre-adolescent wolves.

What you propose is somewhat more extreme in seeking to breed otherwise healthy, but mentally crippled “Forrest Gump” style animals. In the real world retardation is generally linked with lots other really bad stuff genetically and physiologically, so I doubt this would be the best method to develop a more tractable tiger.

You may as well cut the tails off mice and expect them to have tailless offspring.

If you lobotomize the animals, you haven’t changed their genetic makeup, so breeding lobotomized animals would be pointless. Their offspring would inherit their genetic disposition towards tameness, lobotomized or not.

It would be like cutting off humans’ arms, then breeding them; would you expect to get babies with no arms?

What BraheSilver said.

Do a google search on Lamarkian evolution. That’s the term for what BraheSilver described. It don’t work.

IMHO/GQ/Flame Pit hijack. The tiger is one of my favorite wild animals. I admire their beauty, power and grace. I admire them because they are wild animals not because some of them are trained to perform on stage for me. A breed of docile “lobotomized” tigers would be an abomination and an affront to God and nature.

I read your OP too quickly. I thought you were talking about selecting for retarded tigers to give a “lobotomy like” behavioral characteristic. You anticipate that breeding lobotimized tigers will make little lobotomized tigers? This is just too silly. You’re joking right? Wasn’t this covered in your 7th grade biology?

astro. No, you’re on the right track. You lobotomize generation A, allow them to breed and raise the (presumably) tamer offspring. This is not to say that I expect precisely lobotomized behavior in the next generation, but I was curious as to whether you could successfully achieve much less aggressive behavior in the offspring if this idea were carried out over a few generations. The idea, although I seem to have badly expressed it, is to use lobotomization as a tool to achieve a domesticated ‘breed’ in a formerly wild animal species.

Not quite the ‘tailless animal’ scenario – more like ‘learned behavior’ scenario.

Why should the offspring be any tamer than the offspring of any other tigers?! As other have tried to point out, a lobotomy doesn’t change the tiger’s genetics. It will have no effect whatsoever on the nature of that animal’s cubs. Back to biology class!!

In the same vein, tigers don’t “learn” to be wild from their parents - they really are born that way. Which is why is takes many, many generations of selective breeding to domesticate a species. We’ve been working on housecats since ancient Egypt, and they’re only barely domesticated.

And how do you domesticate a species? By selectively breeding the animals that seem to have a genetic predisposition towards being a bit more docile than their peers.

From what I’ve heard recently on the news this famous tiger incident wasn’t a “mauling” at all (if it were you’d have expected them to be loading Roy into a coroner’s van in several large ziplocks).

But still, no - this idea wouldn’t work at all. It actually is a perfect example of the tailess mouse scenario. The things that make wild animals most dangerous, instinct, isn’t learned. In fact I think there is very little (if anything) that a cat has to be taught by another cat… they are very independant and live solitary lives so even a social education isn’t necessary. My pet cat was only a few weeks old when I rescued her, and never had any interaction with another cat for 15 years… and with my never showing her any “cat ways” like how to stalk and kill, or how to lick her own ass she still turned out to be all cat and knew how to and liked attacking things none the less.

Besides the unethical nature of producing retarded tigers, the whole entertainment value would be lost. The whole reason these shows are exciting is that something like what went down and especially something much worse can happen. That’s why you won’t ever see “mmmiiikkkeee’s Death-Defying Dairy Cow Taming” show. There’s no excitment in watching docile animals; and the cost of breeding them for entertainment (what other purpose could they serve?) and the extremely small - I mean non-existant - market for them means it wouldn’t happen even if possible.

Apart from the idea being disgusting and unethical, what’s the point? People like S&R use tigers in their acts because they are known to be wild and dangerous, not just because they look pretty. And a large part of of a tiger’s charisma is linked to the wildness and potential for violence that we can sense right beneath the surface, not just to its shiny coat. A tiger which had most of its tiger-ness surgically removed would be nowhere near as impressive, you might as well use dogs or horses.

Sometimes they can get away with using animals that are perceived as dangerous by the public even though they are mostly harmless; e.g. non-poisonous snakes. But if a race of docile tigers existed and was generally known to exist, using them in a stage act would no longer be impressive and people like S&R would move on to other animals, like rhinoceroses or alligators…

Or, pretty much what mmmiiikkkeee said.

Yes! My first double-post! Do I get a badge?

Unethical compared to what? Breeding cows for meat and milk in small pastures, injecting them with growth hormones for their entire lives, and then killing them by smashing a high speed piston into their brains?

I think the current concensus on animal ethics is that we can do whatever we want to them as long as we enjoy the effects…

A little hijacky, but:

It wasn’t, as mmmiiikkkeee said, a mauling at all–the guy tripped, the tiger (who was his special pet) picked him up and following the proscribed routine, carried him off stage by the neck, as a tiger normally would carry a baby tiger. He received, I think, two small puncture wounds, one of which was unfortunate enough to hit an artery, causing a stroke. Had the tiger wanted Roy dead, he’d have immediately shaken him and such. If a tiger wants something dead, he’s not going to gently carry him away and nicely set him down. Tigers guard their prey, Montecore walked straight back into his travelling cage and laid down.

Secondly, I am in the process of learning about operant conditioning as it relates to dog training, and am on an email list with several animal behaviorists and trainers who work with exotics in zoo settings. One woman, Kayce Cover, has regularly worked with tigers, bears, sea mammals, etc. This is her take on the situation, permission to repeat granted:

The rest of the message mostly deals with how to safely keep tigers, tiger behavior, and human interaction with tigers, as well as public perception of exotics keepers and a note about the relevance of laws against keeping certain exotics (or lack thereof).

Anyway, the point is that yes, tigers are potentially dangerous–but a tiger attack is big news, whereas three deaths by elephant don’t even merit a mention. I get the impression it’s another symptom of the Bowling for Columbine culture of fear thing. Over 15,000 pet tigers in America alone, and I really don’t remember hearing about people getting mauled or hurt by their pet tigers in the past–yet after this Sigfried and Roy incident, I’ve heard about three other tiger incidents (only one of which involved a wounded human) in the past few weeks. Tiger maulings are hot news right now. :rolleyes:
As with any large exotic, responsible keepers who have the time, money, and knowledge to handle them do not get hurt. It’s the idiots who attempt to keep tigers in apartments in Harlem who have problems–and didn’t that guy and his family keep more than one big cat for several years without getting hurt?

I’m not arguing that it’s perfectly safe or perfectly easy to keep big cats, or that any average individual should EVER consider keeping one as a housepet, just that properly kept they’re not as dangerous as you might expect.


There is an Animal Planet/ program about an Asian religious order that keeps a large group of tigers. I get the impression that these cats are the outcome of a long established program of raising tigers in their sanctuary. Of course, TV programs can be edited to take out the warts but it would seem that these cats are fully domesticated. The members of the order walk freely among them; play tag with them in their swimming hole and give them every chance to revert to their “natural” state by allowing the cats to chase them, etc. One rule is strictly enforced. When they are on land the animals do not jump up to put their forepaws on a person’s shoulders. A 500 pounder would be an unintentional danger and the tigers are scolded, which is effective, if they try it. It looks to me like tigers, relatively solitary animals, seem more amenable to this sort of treatment than, say, lions which are group animals.

You are correct David, tigers are more amenable to this sort of treatment, that is why acts like Siegfreid and Roy use them over lions, howvere they can never be fully tamed and remain dangerous even after several generations in captivity.

Audiences don’t want to watch tame tigers. The only thing that is entertaining about wild animal acts is that occasionally, the lion tamer gets eaten. If it were otherwise, S&R could go on stage with sheep and chickens, and not take the risk at all. It’s like NASCAR; would anybody go if they reduced the speeds enough to eliminate crashes?