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Few living reindeer are truly wild. Many are herded in a semi-feral state. Reindeer herding.jpg
Few living reindeer are truly wild. Many are herded in a semi-feral state.

A semi-feral animal lives predominantly in a feral state but has some contact and experience with humans. This may be because it was born in a domesticated state and then reverted to life in wild conditions, or it may be an animal that grew up in essentially wild conditions but has developed a comfort level with humans through feeding, receiving medical care, or similar contacts.


Species of semi-feral animals

Stray cats in Odessa Ukraina (Ukrayina), obl.Odesskaia (obl.Odes'ka), Odessa (Odesa), r-n Primorskii, ul.Leitenanta Shmidta,25, koshki, 10-13 04.11.2008 - panoramio.jpg
Stray cats in Odessa

Semi-feral or stray cats live in proximity to humans who may be accustomed to their presence but have no owner; they are distinct from feral cats, which have no regular food source. They are usually regularly fed in locations where food is left for no one cat in particular, and they find shelter "accidentally", such as in farm buildings, and sometimes deliberately from humans. [2] A common reason to tolerate and even nourish these cats is so they kill vermin, [3] or because of a general favorable feeling toward cats. [4] Usually semi-ownership of cats contributes to cat overpopulation and excessive breeding when people nourish but not neuter the cats. [5]

A naturally approached Camargue horse in northeastern Italy Camargue naturally approached 2a.jpg
A naturally approached Camargue horse in northeastern Italy

Of horse breeds, the French Camargue was once thought of as a wild species, though increased contact with humans has made it semi-feral. These horses still breed in herds and graze throughout plains unhindered, though ranchers (known as gardians, "Camargue cowboys", and manadiers, "ranchers") regularly round them up to check on newborn foals. If captured, Camargue horses, generally steady-footed and considered reliable, are usually used to herd cattle. [6] Other types of mostly free-ranging horses, such as those in Iberia and the Exmoor, New Forest, Fell pony and Dartmoor ponies, have owners which distinguishes them from truly feral horses, such as the American Mustang or Australian Brumby. [7]

Stray dog in Kolkata Dog 05900.JPG
Stray dog in Kolkata

A high mortality rate exists among free-ranging dogs (often called "strays"), even those supported by humans; the stray dog population is often replenished by domestic dogs. [8] Most abandoned dogs in the Western world are taken to shelters, except in some dense North American urban centers and rural Southern Europe, particularly Italy, where abandoned dogs become feral or semi-feral. [9] Some semi-feral dogs that receive a substantial portion of their diet from humans can afford to exert energy hunting prey; many dogs are unsuccessful hunters without human support. Semi-feral dogs are more likely to transmit disease than their domestic counterparts. Local cultural attitudes make how humans interact with stray dogs quite variable. [10]

Wild pigeons feeding in San Francisco Feeding pigeons.jpg
Wild pigeons feeding in San Francisco

Many types of birds can be semi-feral, including mute swans, mallards, and barbary doves. [11] Perhaps the best-known semi-feral bird is the pigeon, which people have been known to attract to their households for some 3,000 years. It is difficult to raise pigeons—they are monogamous, altricial, and require large spaces for flight—so a semi-feral method of trapping is presently the most efficient. From Egypt to West Africa large buildings have been constructed for the purpose of attracting semi-feral pigeons, some holding up to 1,000. [12]

Bagot goats live semi-ferally in Blithfield Hall in Staffordshire, England, where they were introduced in the 14th century. [13] Buffalo can become feral when abandoned; in northern Australia, they are raised for slaughter despite not being fully domesticated. [14] The semi-feral Corriente cattle were killed for poor-quality beef in the 20th century and are now often used in rodeo. [15] Semi-feral sheep have existed throughout Europe. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

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The cat is a small carnivorous mammal. It is the only domesticated species in the family Felidae and often referred to as the domestic cat to distinguish it from wild members of the family. The cat is either a house cat, a farm cat or a feral cat; latter ranges freely and avoids human contact. Domestic cats are valued by humans for companionship and for their ability to hunt rodents. About 60 cat breeds are recognized by various cat registries.

Horse Domesticated four-footed mammal from the equine family

The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus. It is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature, Eohippus, into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse. There is an extensive, specialized vocabulary used to describe equine-related concepts, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colors, markings, breeds, locomotion, and behavior.

Pet Animal kept for companionship rather than utility

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Donkey subspecies of mammal (donkey as a domesticated subspecies)

The donkey or ass is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries.

Domestication selective breeding of plants and animals to serve humans

Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that second group.

Rock dove Species of bird

The rock dove, rock pigeon, or common pigeon is a member of the bird family Columbidae. In common usage, this bird is often simply referred to as the "pigeon".

Feral formerly domestic animals which survive in the wild

A feral animal or plant is one that lives in the wild but is descended from domesticated specimens.

Tarpan Extinct subspecies of equines

The tarpan, also known as Eurasian wild horse, was a subspecies of wild horse. It is now extinct. The last individual believed to be of this subspecies died in captivity in the Russian Empire during 1909, although some sources claim that it was not a genuine wild horse due to its resemblance to domesticated horses.

Purebreds, also called purebreeds, are cultivated varieties or cultivars of an animal species, achieved through the process of selective breeding. When the lineage of a purebred animal is recorded, that animal is said to be pedigreed.

Feral cat domestic cat that has returned to the wild

A feral cat is an un-owned domestic cat that lives outdoors and avoids human contact: it does not allow itself to be handled or touched, and usually remains hidden from humans. Feral cats may breed over dozens of generations and become an aggressive apex predator in urban, savannah and bushland environments. Some feral cats may become more comfortable with people who regularly feed them, but even with long-term attempts at socialization, they usually remain aloof and are most active after dusk.

Exmoor pony horse breed

The Exmoor pony is a horse breed native to the British Isles, where some still roam as semi-feral livestock on Exmoor, a large area of moorland in Devon and Somerset in southwest England. The Exmoor has been given "endangered" status by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and "threatened" status by The Livestock Conservancy. It is one of the British Isles' mountain and moorland pony breeds, having conformation similar to that of other cold-weather-adapted pony breeds. The Exmoor pony is hardy and used for a variety of equestrian activities. In its free-roaming state, the breed's presence on Exmoor contributes to the conservation and management of several natural pasture habitats.

Domestication of animals mutual relationship between animals with the humans who have influence on their care and reproduction

The domestication of animals is the mutual relationship between animals and the humans who have influence on their care and reproduction. Charles Darwin recognized a small number of traits that made domesticated species different from their wild ancestors. He was also the first to recognize the difference between conscious selective breeding in which humans directly select for desirable traits, and unconscious selection where traits evolve as a by-product of natural selection or from selection on other traits. There is a genetic difference between domestic and wild populations. There is also a genetic difference between the domestication traits that researchers believe to have been essential at the early stages of domestication, and the improvement traits that have appeared since the split between wild and domestic populations. Domestication traits are generally fixed within all domesticates, and were selected during the initial episode of domestication of that animal or plant, whereas improvement traits are present only in a proportion of domesticates, though they may be fixed in individual breeds or regional populations.

Working animal Animal domesticated, that is kept by the humans and trained to perform tasks

A working animal or draughtanimal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be pets or draft animals trained to achieve certain tasks, such as guide dogs, assistance dogs, draft horses or logging elephants. Most working animals are either service animals or draft animals. They may also be used for milking or herding. Some, at the end of their working lives, may also be used for meat or other products such as leather.

Farm cat domestic cat that lives primarily out-of-doors

The farm cat, also known as a barn cat, is a domestic cat, usually of mixed breed, that lives primarily out-of-doors, in a feral or semi-feral condition on agricultural properties, usually sheltering in outbuildings. They eat assorted vermin such as rodents and other small animals that live in or around outbuildings and farm fields. The need for the farm cat may have been the original reason cats were domesticated, to keep rodents from consuming or contaminating grain crops stored for later human consumption. They are still commonly kept for their effectiveness at controlling undesired vermin found on farms and ranches, which would otherwise eat or contaminate crops, especially grain or feed stocks. Farm cats hunt the initial rodent population, and pheromones keep further rodents from filling the void.

Wild horse Undomesticated four-footed mammal from the equine family

The wild horse is a species of the genus Equus, which includes as subspecies the modern domesticated horse as well as the undomesticated tarpan, and the endangered Przewalski's horse.

Dog Domestic animal

The domestic dog is a mammal, a member of the genus Canis (canines), which forms part of the wolf-like canids, and is the most widely abundant terrestrial carnivore. The dog and the extant gray wolf are sister taxa as modern wolves are not closely related to the wolves that were first domesticated, which implies that the direct ancestor of the dog is extinct. The dog was the first species to be domesticated, and has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes.

Feral horse Free-roaming horses of domesticated horse ancestry

A feral horse is a free-roaming horse of domesticated stock. As such, a feral horse is not a wild animal in the sense of an animal without domesticated ancestors. However, some populations of feral horses are managed as wildlife, and these horses often are popularly called "wild" horses. Feral horses are descended from domestic horses that strayed, escaped, or were deliberately released into the wild and remained to survive and reproduce there. Away from humans, over time, these animals' patterns of behavior revert to behavior more closely resembling that of wild horses. Some horses that live in a feral state but may be occasionally handled or managed by humans, particularly if privately owned, are referred to as "semi-feral".

Dog behavior internally coordinated responses of individuals or groups of domestic dogs to internal and external stimuli

Dog behavior is the internally coordinated responses of individuals or groups of domestic dogs to internal and external stimuli. It has been shaped by millennia of contact with humans and their lifestyles. As a result of this physical and social evolution, dogs, more than any other species, have acquired the ability to understand and communicate with humans, and they are uniquely attuned in these fellow mammals. Behavioral scientists have uncovered a wide range of social-cognitive abilities in the domestic dog.

Free-ranging dog any dog that is not contained

A free-ranging dog is a dog that is not confined to a yard or house. Free-ranging dogs include street dogs, village dogs, stray dogs, and feral dogs. The global dog population is estimated to be 900 million, of which 83% are unrestrained.

The history of horse domestication has been subject to much debate, with various competing theories over time about how domestication of the horse occurred. The main point of contention was whether the domestication of the horse occurred once in a single domestication event, or that the horse was domesticated independently multiple times. The debate was resolved at the beginning of the 21st century using DNA evidence that favored a mixed model in which domestication of the stallion most likely occurred only once, while wild mares of various regions were included in local domesticated herds.


  1. Long 2003, p. 446.
  2. Bradshaw 2012, pp. 9, 167; Ossola & Niemelä 2017, p. 90.
  3. Blench & MacDonald 2006, p. 315.
  4. Toukhsati, Bennett & Coleman 2007, p. 141.
  5. Toukhsati, Bennett & Coleman 2007, p. 132.
  6. Arlin 2005, p. 73.
  7. Ransom & Kaczensky 2016, p. 123.
  8. Serpell 2016, pp. 409–410.
  9. Sandøe, Corr & Palmer 2015, p. 206.
  10. Serpell 2016, p. 410.
  11. Lever 2010, pp. 79, 88, 110.
  12. Blench & MacDonald 2006, pp. 326–329.
  13. Roots 2007, p. 177.
  14. Hill 1988, pp. 5, 41; Roth 1997, p. 321.
  15. Lewis 2014, p. 96.
  16. Long 2003, pp. 527–528.


Morland, Carole S. (2008), A walk on the Wildside, Hayloft Publishing Ltd, ISBN   9781904524588