A tame animal is an animal that is relatively tolerant of human presence. Tameness is the quality of an animal being welcoming towards the presence of humans, either naturally (as in the case, for example, of island tameness) or due to human intervention (as the result of animal training).
Taming is the deliberate, human-directed process of training an animal against its initially wild or natural instincts to avoid (or attack) humans, so that it instead learns to become tolerant of humans. The tameability of an animal is the level of ease it takes humans to train the animal. Tameability may vary among individual animals, breeds, or species.
In other languages, such as Spanish, the word for taming is the same as the word for domestication. However, in the English language, the two words refer to two partially overlapping but distinct concepts. For example feral animals are domesticated, but not tamed. Similarly, taming is not the same as animal training, although in some contexts these terms may be used interchangeably.
Taming implies that the animal tolerates not merely human proximity, but at minimum human touching. Yet, more common usage limits the label "tame" to animals that subordinate themselves to humans sufficiently that they do not threaten, much less injure, humans who do not harm them or their companions (e.g., offspring or siblings), or at least who threaten to do so. Tameness, in this sense, should be distinguished from "socialization" wherein the animals treat humans much like conspecifics, for instance by trying to dominate humans.
Taming versus domestication
Domestication should not be confused with taming. Taming is the conditioned behavioral modification of a wild-born animal when its natural avoidance of humans is reduced and it accepts the presence of humans, but domestication is the permanent genetic modification of a bred lineage that leads to an inherited predisposition toward humans. Human selection included tameness, but without a suitable evolutionary response then domestication was not achieved. Domestic animals need not be tame in the behavioral sense, such as the Spanish fighting bull. Wild animals can be tame, such as a hand-raised cheetah. A domestic animal's breeding is controlled by humans and its tameness and tolerance of humans is genetically determined. However, an animal bred in captivity is not necessarily domesticated. Tigers, gorillas, and polar bears breed readily in captivity but are not domesticated. Asian elephants are wild animals that with taming manifest outward signs of domestication, yet their breeding is not human controlled and thus they are not true domesticates.
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