What is the Difference between Feral Wild and Domestic Animals

Many people are confused by the term “feral” especially when compared to the words wild or domestic. To start with we shall define them each then discuss the differences.


A wild animal is one that was born wild and has been living wild. Any kind of animal can be wild, if its mother not owned at the time of its birth. It may be a species that can be domesticated or a species that is not suitable for domestication. If a feral animal (see below) were to give birth, the offspring would be considered wild but of a normally domestic species.


A feral animal is an animal that at one time was a pet, or livestock, but for whatever reason is currently living as though it were wild. All feral animals are species that can be domesticated, and were themselves domesticated prior to living on their own.


Domestic animals can be livestock or pets. Some examples of animals which have been domesticated are dogs, cats, cattle, and llamas. You will note that while dogs and cats are typically friendly, some other domestic animals are not. Specifically domestic animals are ones which have been selectively bred by humans for generations. By this definition we see that humans have shaped the evolutionary course of these animals which we refer to as “domestic”.


Wild animals are generally distrusting of humans and will fight or flea if pressed by people. Some animal species are considered unsafe for domestication and will always remain wild or in captivity in cages. It must be noted that living in zoo situations is not the same as domestication.

Some wild animal species do not do well in captivity, they fail to reproduce with much success, and in general cannot tolerate crowded conditions many domesticated animals live in.

Feral animals, being animal species that can be domesticated, and indeed who were domestic themselves, may not have as much distrust of humans as a truly wild animal.

Feral animals are sometimes more dangerous than a wild animal due to their lack of fear in regards to human structures. A feral dog, for example, will be less frighted of approaching a dwelling in search of food than a wild one. A pack of feral dogs might be more likely to attack a child than a pack of wild dogs.

It is possible to catch a feral animal and return it to life as a pet, or to being part of the herd (as in escaped livestock). It takes a longer time to tame a wild born animal assuming it is of a species that can be tamed at all, as not all wild animals can.

Domestic animals should be properly cared for, vaccinated, dewormed, and so forth.

Wild animals are never vaccinated, dewormed, and so on.