What is the difference between a tame animal and a domesticated animal?

The word “tame” is an umbrella term which includes “domesticated”, so the difference is that a “tame animal” describes a wider range of animals than the term “domesticated animal”. Also the word “tame” can be used in some non-animal contexts such as a person being tamed by another. Both words can have the same meaning depending on the sentence or context.

Tame or domesticated cheetah?
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Tame or domesticated cheetah?

A tame animal is one that does not pose a threat to humans whereas a domesticated animal is one which is socialised to humans and other animals and is as a consequence tame.

You can have a tame wild cat who has not been socialised and domesticated. By dint of their character an individual wild cat might be act in a tame manner when in contact with a person. It may be a temporary state of affairs but the previous sentence is an example of how the word “tame” is used.

Some wild cats are predisposed to behaving in a tame manner. The cheetah, snow leopard, Andean mountain cat, caracal and even the puma come to mind as possible candidates. The captive big cats owned by the notorious Joe Exotic were 90% tame towards him but I would not call them domesticated of domestic animals.

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The definitions of the words “tame” and “domesticated” overlap in their meaning but they are not identical:

Domesticated: (of an animal) tame and kept as a pet of on a farm.

Tame: (of an animal) not dangerous or frightened by people; domesticated.

Here are some sentences using these words:

    • My cat is domesticated.
    • It took her 18 months to ensure that the animal was domesticated.
    • The serval in the enclosure is not domesticated but I found her to be pretty tame.
    • The man tamed the lion by brute force.
    • My God, that bird over there is quite tame!
    • My husband is tame around me but a Rottweiler in the office.

Domesticated is a noun. To domesticate is a verb. Examples: He is domesticated (adjective). I domesticated the animal (verb). Tame is either an adjective or a noun. Examples: He is tame (adjective). He was tamed (verb).


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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