Why weren't monkeys or apes domesticated?

Both seem to have a similar social structure, disposition and would seemingly be more useful than dogs. So why weren’t they domesticated instead of dogs? Is there any research or effort being made into doing so? Will I have a monkey butler anytime soon?

Because they will end up taking over the world and hunting humans. We’ll end up hanging in a net screaming “Get your damn hands off me you filthy ape!”
And nobody wants that.

We’ve had cats this long and still haven’t domesitcated them very well. Imagine if they had hands and higher intelligence… they would be making even more of a mess than they do even now. I think that’s why monkeys are not allowed in many communities.

As for apes, I think the same reason we don’t allow them is the same as why we don’t allow people to have large cats… they can escape from any enclosure which doesn’t have a roof, unlike a large dog.


There are those little monkeys they used to train to work with the severly disabled, but I’m not sure if that ever worked out. They seemed so dang hyper.

Capuchin monkeys http://www.helpinghandsmonkeys.org/home.htm are working with handicapped people.

There was also a story recently about capuchin monkeys being trained to be a part of SWAT teams.

(To start off with, disease is not an issue here any more than it is with any other animal. We can clean primates as well as we can clean anything else.)

First off, chimps and gorillas are deadly. Especially males. Baboons are probably too deadly to even consider having as pets. I can only imagine other primates of similar size would be dangerous to roughly the same extent.

Smaller primates, like the Rhesus monkey, are intelligent enough to get into serious trouble. They have opposable thumbs, prehensile tails, and are small and agile enough to get places even hyper five-year-olds can’t reach. I don’t think we can breed that out of them, any more than we could breed it out of humans.

And that final point deserves a paragraph of its own. They are sufficiently human-like to evoke strong feelings in a lot of people. Keeping what many see as little fuzzy humans as pets would seriously creep a large number of people out.

However, I think having a small monkey would be useful the next time someone tries to set me up with a blind meeting. And not because it would be cute.

How much more dangerous than a 150 pound Rotwiller or a similar breed is a monkey? For example (I guess I should have included them) Chimps aren’t that heavy. How hard would it be to selectively breed out the incisors and breed for passivity?

True but wouldn’t the monkeys (I am using this term to include Apes, Chimps etc etc) listen to their owner like a dog would?

Hmm I think if you went up and asked someone on hte street if they would want a monkey as a pet 95% would say yes. I know I would.

Chimps and gorillas are ridiculously strong, and can easily kill a full-grown man with no sweat, even if their teeth are pulled. Furthermore, especially with chimps, it is very common for males in a band to put on destructive dominance displays and get into serious fights. Not good in a pet. Breeding out the teeth is probably not a realistic option; better to pull them when the chimp is young.

Sure, unless they decided they wanted to do something else, or they realized that they’re stronger than the human and can therefore kick his ass and take the dominant position in the band.

Something that stinks horribly, never shuts up, will fling food and feces and spit at you, is intelligent to get out of most any enclosure eventually, isn’t good for anything useful, won’t worship you as a pack leader like a dog will and so cannot be counted on to obey, easily gets bored and destructive, will merrily try to eat your baby and your dog, and can rip you limb from limb if it decides it wants to? Are you sure?

Ah, so you want a cute little chimpanzee in the house for companionship, eh? Think again. Although they have a reputation for making great drinking buddies, chimps, as several people have already pointed out, are mean, vicious, despicable little fucks. They have 5 times the strength of a human, they don’t like being told what to do, and although domesticated chimps think humans are kinda cool, they really don’t care that much about your well being. It’s pretty much all about them. Read Next of Kin by Roger Fouts for some insight as to the frivolity that will ensue if you try to adopt a chimp.

Hmm…I think I’ll stick to having cats as pets.

You probably heard about the Mesa, Arizona (a satellite of Phoenix) PD trying to get budget for a monkey approved. It’s even been in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not comic strip.


I have read that orangutans were once used as domestic servants. Sometime during the 19th century IIRC. If my occasionally faulty memory serves me, there was some reference to it in Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island”. I don’t know what became of the practice, maybe some abused orangutan ripped the arms off of their owner and the custom disappeared. Until Clint Eastwood showed up with Clyde in “Every Which Way but Loose”.

Why domesticate other primates when it’s easier to capture other humans to use as slaves.

I actually was thinking about a similar question today. We have warhorses, war elephants, but no war Gorrilla’s, even though they’re certainly intelligent enough to train. As others have said, it’s probably because they would challenge their masters for dominance.

Pity though. I bet if Hannibal had a few hundred armored gorillas with him, Rome would have been toast.

And lest we forget, courageous little Ham, the John Glenn of his species.

“The chimps chewed off St. James Davis’ nose and severely mauled his genitals and limbs Thursday before the son-in-law of the sanctuary’s owner shot the animals to death, authorities said.”


YOU go in there and domesticate them.

Surely there are species of monkey’s that don’t grow to 150 pounds. I realize that these animals are not to be messed with but would you mess with whatever the wild version of a Rottweiler was? I mean there are plenty of Apes and monkeys that are trained as they were a pet. Why can’t we breed those together and eventually get a domesticated monkey?

If you think about it, what physical talents do apes/monkey offer to make them worth the work of domesticating?

They’d make a lousy species to raise for meat: they don’t breed very fast, they don’t grow super fast, except for a few species of apes they don’t get all that large. Besides, they’d compete with humans for food. No turning a chimp loose in a field and expecting him to thrive on nothing more than grass and whatever weeds happen to be in the field.

They’re mammals, sure, but I can’t see a herd of ‘dairy monkeys’, can you? Their yield is probably measured in a few ounces, just like humans.

They’re stronger than humans, but not in really useful ways. As in, they use all four limbs in walking (basically) so they can’t be used to carry heavy loads ‘on foot.’

They don’t have the speed to make as good mounts as horse or camels, they don’t have the combination of strength/stamina to be as good at hauling wagons as horse or oxen.

I guess you could use the arm strength to pull, such as hauling things up on ropes…but once you’ve figured out pulleys, strength isn’t all that necessary.

Well, most of them climb trees pretty good, so I guess they might make great laborers for orchards and such. That’s sort of a niche use, though. Much easier to prune your fruit trees and invent ladders.
Basically it comes down to their having clever hands, so you could theoretically turn them into household servants and weavers and whatever.

But, as Sewalk said, our species was always knee deep in beings with clever hands that could be taken advantage of very easily: children, females, ‘war’ captives, slaves… All of them easily obtained and much more easily handled than any of the other apes/monkeys would be.

treis, the main problem is their disposition. Basically, chimps and many monkey species are vicious bastards and it’s not something you can train out of them, any more then you can train a grizzly bear to not be dangerous. The species that we domesticate have inherent psychological traits that make them suitable for domestication. Monkeys and apes have inherent traits that make them eminently unsuitable.

Cecil touched on this in a column. To wit:
“As you might deduce, therefore, the word on keeping chimps as pets is a big negatory. Chimpanzees can never be fully domesticated; they’re aggressive by nature and sooner or later they’ll start to threaten their keepers in subtle ape ways that the untrained eye won’t recognize, until one day–blammo.”

The wild version of a Rottweiler is a wolf. They don’t make good pets, but they have in their nature traits that made it reasonable to try to domesticate them ages ago, and it worked. Dogs do make good pets, but it took some degree of suitability (in the wolf) to start with and then thousands of years to get to dogs as we know them.

The nature of apes and monkeys (with partial exceptions as noted by others) does not lend itself to this. While it might be possible to breed them to be more “pet suitable,” it would take a LONG time compared to getting from wolf to dog, as well as much more diligence in relating to them. Thousands of years ago, there was no good reason to try, and that hasn’t changed.

treis, there are two main differences between wolves and wild chimps:
[li]Wolves are dumb. Not as dumb as junebugs, but certainly not smart enough to trick a human, or figure out that a human is pretty damned defenseless without a big stick.[/li][li]Wolves are loyal. If you’ve established yourself as the alpha, a wolf will respect you slavishly and obey every command it understands. Wolves have the pack mentality wired in.[/li][/ul]Wild chimps are neither. They’re smart SOBs and while they do form hierarchical societies they aren’t as loyal and they are much more willing to challenge someone’s dominance.

Plus you have the physique of your average chimp. Chimps have upper-body strength that would put Mr. Universe to shame. If you got into an arm-wrestling match with a full-grown male chimp, you would most likely lose your arm and the chimp wouldn’t break a sweat. Physically, we can’t compete. The fact we eat the same things means that chimps could kick our ass and eat our lunch. Not something you look for in a pet.

Finally, chimps have opposable thumbs. That, combined with their intelligence, truly makes them ‘door-opening smart’ (to steal a phrase from Jurassic Park). It makes them escape artists, in fact. A mix of brains, thumbs, and brute strength will allow them to escape from most enclosures sufficient to hold any other animal their size.

Wolves are bad pets. Chimps are extremely dangerous pets.