Tiger on The Web

Red in Tooth and Claw: The Predator Therianthrope View of Predator/Prey Dynamics

by Tigris

Published: 28/11/2023

Last Updated: 28/11/2023

It's widely recognised that the therian community is dominated by wild predatory species. It always has been. Wolves, big cats, even dragons, have been very common theriotypes to see around. It's an understandable occurrence, and one I can't exactly argue about... I am a tiger after all. Humans have always held large predators in some esteem, either through vilification or veneration. Such beasts - or others derived from them - are often figures in folklore, iconography, and are a subject of awe for many. Domesticated carnivores such as the dog and cat are very popular companion animals most of us adore or grew up alongside. Many of us live in a society that puts human beings at the same level as or above these apex predators, and especially above prey animals. It makes sense that these would be the species most are drawn to when it comes to therianthropic identity.

With these creatures, however, comes the influence of human ideas and desires, human-ascribed traits and personalities drawn from experiences with those mentioned above. Many of these therianthropes subconsciously wish to feel more powerful or more untamed than they are in reality. The human concept of the wild predator is therefore one that is alluring. The human concept of the prey, then, would be less so. One of the more common 'aesthetics' so to speak, adopted by the (adolescent) wild canid or felid therianthrope, is that of bloodied carcasses, greyscale images of cold wilderness, exposed bones and meat, poems about decay and solitude. Therianthropy blogs that border on being simply gore blogs, complete with posts detailing those blood-soaked fantasies. The carnivorous therianthrope, perhaps feeling their own pulls to violence, the grotesque, and horror, and a wish to be 'free' literally or metaphorically, projects that onto the animal. The wolf represents freedom, barbarity, an innate connection to others - a vehicle to channel their affinity of the concept of breaking bones between their jaws or putting their nose into the carcass of an animal they themselves brought down; a way to fill a wound that alienation from humanity has opened up. It's not a bad thing by any means. It can be a healthy rationalisation to make.

Yet, this bloodthirsty idea of such predators seeps into the wider view of herbivorous species, and the treatment of prey animals in general. The idea of the predator as an indomitable beast prevailing over the weak and unintelligent, an animal that thinks of nothing but slaughtering its next meal in the most sadistic manner possible. A view that ignores how animals truly act. In many, if not all, large predatory mammals, a majority of hunts end in failure, after all. The prey are not walking sacks of meat that put up no resistance, they are animals with rich and interesting lives like any other. They are quick-witted, admirable, creatures, ones whose might and dignity has been kicked aside not only by therianthropes but by many people in general. Hunts don't always end in failure simply because the animal got away. The wildebeest gores the lioness. The elk's kick breaks the wolf's mandible. The porcupine barbs the leopard and disorients it for several days. The hare evades the talons of the eagle and it crashes to the ground. These are things that happen more often than you'd think. These are things the predator has to account for - they are not invincible, and failures of any kind can and do cost them their lives. Prey species, especially ungulates, are formidable. They have to be. The most dangerous animals in the world, by frequency of attacks rather than hypothetical lethality, are often herbivores: hippopotamus, elephants, and cattle, for example, are notoriously aggressive animals. They do not simply stand idle chewing in a meadow somewhere, waiting to die docile under claws, they have temperaments and bodies built specifically to defend themselves against threats. They are agile and strategic: the cheetah may be the fastest land mammal, but the gazelle it preys upon possess superior stamina and often outmanouvre them. Species who do not run or fight often turn to rather impeccable forms of camouflage and display that keep them completely hidden from sight or trick predators into believing they are much larger, dangerous, or toxic than they truly are. The view of herbivores as feeble is both a disservice and unrealistic. I sometimes wonder how many therianthropes would discover themselves to be a herbivore if they were better aware of them in reality rather than the average modern human's anthropomorphised concept.

I've been part of a few therian packs in my time. These packs tend to house said carnivorous animals, and mostly attract social wild canids like wolves, but are theoretically open to all. Due to the wolf dominance, most conversations will of course apply to wolves. I recall one conversation about yearning to kill and dismember a (live) rabbit with their teeth. A casual conversation in plain view, mind you. I got the feeling throughout it that they genuinely did not see the rabbit as an animal worthy of empathy, a lower species than the wolf. Drawing out the animal's suffering appealed to them. It made me wonder what would have happened if a rabbit or hare therian had joined that pack? Would they have been othered, intentionally or not? Would they have been harassed, made to witness degrading descriptions of their species? Would their presence among their species' natural predators be treated as a joke? Is it fair to push these animals aside, discourage others from questioning said species because the only tough and aggressive animals are large predators like wolves, and alienate them from close-knit groups because you can't see them as anything other than cowards to toy with, if a sentient being at all?

I don't believe there's anything immoral about nature, or hunting, or especially being a predatory animal. Animals kill, die, and consume each other. It's how life is. I know many therianthropes whose only experience with their wild theriotype is through documentaries that sensationalise the hunt, it would make sense for such scenes to then leave a large impression on their own experiences as that animal. It's very common for predatory therianthropes to feel instincts one might consider unsavoury and inhuman: those of eating raw meat off the carcass, killing an animal with their hands and teeth, or scavenging from decaying corpses. I don't believe there's anything wrong with that as well. I have my own (a lot of this is written from experience, actually, rather than berating something I've only seen). I don't believe one must endeavour to absolute realism to be a therianthrope, either; one's theriotypes can have any purpose and any related experiences, even if those contradict or are uncommon in the existing species. Applying human thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to an animal in personifying your therianthropic species can also be a valuable tool in understanding your own identity even outside of therianthropy. What I'm trying to say, then, is that it becomes inappropriate when such ideas warp one's view of the natural world and affect their interactions with other therianthropes. A community dominated by and mostly serving self-important carnivores is not going to be welcoming to the herbivores, is it?

It's a strange mindset to witness... I can't speak for the prey animal side of this, but I know how I feel about the topic as a carnivorous therianthrope. Hunting animals was a necessity, an instinct ingrained in me. I knew that without feeding on meat I would die and so would my offspring. As a tiger I didn't feel powerful or dominant for it. I didn't yearn to bathe in blood and viscera and sink teeth into flesh, I derived no pleasure from it, it was just something natural that I had no feelings about. Now, as someone with a human experience, someone who's pondered this topic for a number of years, I feel a deep respect for those animals. I see them as part of my soul, even. They sustained me. How could I then look down on them? I recall a time where I too wanted to embrace that same egocentric, gore-striken, aesthetic of a wild cat, to turn my feline instincts into nothing but feeding an edgy trait, but I've since grown out of it. I still feel those instincts of course, coupled with a human affinity for cruelty and returning to a wild state, but it isn't something I publicly wish to entertain due to that same respect. Studying and observing animals closely has opened my eyes to the beauty - the courage - of herbivores, ungulates in particular. For a while now I have represented myself in artwork as an antelope. I have been considering the unicorn, the legendary ferocious custodian of the woodland, as a hearttype. The archetype of the livestock guardian dog is something I resonate with heavily, also. Perhaps then I feel the treatment of such animals very close to my heart, regardless of my theriotype.

I am curious about how herbivorous therianthropes have felt about the therian community in general, especially if they feel carnivorous therianthropes have othered or belittled them. It's not something I have much personal experience with, and this essay feels empty without.