Any creature which has been trained specifically to fight alongside its handler, like an attack dog or equivalent.
Generally speaking, in order to qualify as an attack animal the creature must:
- Not act (or at least it must not be supposed to act) without explicit instructions from its handler beyond a normal routine. This usually entails something with animal level intelligence which can be trained to obey.
- They must be acting at the command of their handler (it's not enough for someone to throw their victim into a cage full of lions, they have to be able to make the lions attack them).
- The "creature" does not technically need to be an animal (semi-intelligent drones or golems, artificial biological constructs or magical, elemental beings are all fair game).
- Not be sent out to act on their own (like when summoning a bigger fish), since they're essentially a weapon, not a character (a good analogy would be that you send out soldiers armed with swords, not swords on their own).
This trope is likely derived from domestic animals which were used for their attack abilities (dogs being the most obvious). See the Real Life
section for more details. Using a "weapon" like this often implies that a character is either nature loving and generally an all around good person
who animals trust
, a genius (possibly mad
) who can create or control such things or evil, by virtue of "enslaving" them.
A subtrope of Living Weapon
. Sister trope to Animal Assassin
. The Weapon of Choice
for The Beastmaster
and the Nature Hero
(although they might as easily avert this trope by making them actual characters). When everyone uses these and only has them attack one another then you're almost certainly in a Mons
series. Contrast the Cool Pet
, Loyal Animal Companion
and Robot Buddy
, who are usually characters in their own right rather than just weapons, though they can overlap if the animal in question (biological or robotic) is also supposed to serve as a non-human warrior (especially if they're a military
animal, or their master is an action-oriented superhero
) in addition to being a pet/loyal companion/friend. If they're picked up and have their body used as a literal weapon, see Equippable Ally
. Related to Weaponized Offspring
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Anime and Manga
- In One Piece, Doctor Vegapunk has apparently done extensive research into the nature and abilities of Devil Fruits, even making inanimate objects able to eat them. There have been a gun and a sword who have respectively eaten the Inu-Inu (Dog-Dog) Fruit: Model Dachshund and Zou-Zou (Elephant-Elephant) Devil Fruits respectively, resulting in a dog that sneezed explosive baseballs and an elephant that could transform into a sword. Of course, this being One Piece, it basically turns out just how you would expect.
- Shirahoshi, the princess of Fishman Island, is the current incarnation of the Ancient Weapon Poseidon, which allows her to control Sea Kings.
- Earlier and more straight examples included Mohji the Beast Tamer (who leaves all the fighting part to his giant lion pet) and Ohm the "Sky Breeder", who combines his deadly morphing sword with his extremely well trained giant dog Holy (so well trained, in fact, that he can even stand up and do kickboxing).
- The Tailed Beasts are a sort of cross between this and a Superpowered Evil Side. The Great Nations attempted to control them by placing them in hosts, and used them as walking nuclear deterrents.
- Straighter examples, however, exist in the Inuzuka Clan's ninja hounds who are an integral component in the families fighting style, and in Kakashi's dogs who sometimes fight with him.
- Among other things, Humanforms and the titular Xam'd in Xam'd: Lost Memories.
- Ginga Nagareboshi Gin: Bear hunting dogs
- Basilisk's Hotarubi is a Ninja Action Girl who can send out insects to do her bidding and has a pet snake thar she can command as well.
- The trope takes place in Private Actress's Boarding School two-parter, where a murder of Creepy Crows under the command of a Beta Bitch named Mai are vital in the death of a girl that she, her Alpha Bitch Kana and the Girl Posse were bullying and the posterior attacks on the titular "private actress" Shiho (who inflitrates the school to investigate the girl's death and on the Girl Posse member Maki who's about to go through a Heel-Face Turn.
- Valerian features a number of creatures classified as "living weapons", most notably the iconic Scnarfeur, essentially an entire species of Bratty Half Pints with explosively caustic spit and instinctive hostility towards all living things due to originating on a Death World. They can be tamed by binding their head gland down, which turns them docile and allows them to develop a human-like personality, but they remain classified as animals and releasing the head gland will again revert them to their original state.
- Word of God states that the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise are these. They were created by the Engineers, or "Space Jockeys" as they're nicknamed, in preparation for their genocide on mankind, who they also had created, but their experiment with the Xenos and other stuff went wrong before they could use them.
- The Darklords' armies in Lone Wolf use several vicious species to augment their forces. The Drakkarim train warhounds called Akataz and Giaks occasionally use Doomwolves as mounts. Giant flying predators like the Kraan and even bigger Zlaanbeasts are also put to good use. The Vassagonian forces Lone Wolf faces early in his career favor warhounds and giant birds called Itikar.
- J. R. R. Tolkien liked this trope. Lord of the Rings contains trolls, műmakil, wargs, fell beasts, etc. Apparently Morgoth originally bred Smaug's ancestors for use as living weapons as well.
- Wheel of Time:
- Trollocs, Myrddraal, Darkhounds, Gholam, Draghkar, and Jumara (collectively called Shadowspawn) all created by Aginor to be living weapons of the side of the Dark One.
- Most warrior cultures, especially Borderlanders, also train war horses, which are described as being just as deadly as their riders.
- The Seanchan have this as their hat, training War Elephants, lizard-cat hybrids, and a couple different breeds of Giant Flyer similar to pterodactyls or drakes or wyverns. They also enslave female magic-users and keep them on magical leashes that keep them from acting without explicit orders, considering them no different from any other Attack Animal, although from an outside perspective they'd be more like Battle Thralls.
- The Heralds of Valdemar series has the Shin'a'in battlesteeds. Unlike your average warhorse, these have been bred over centuries to be the ultimate fighting mount (possibly with some magic help at the beginning). Smart, obedient, and capable of distinguishing and killing enemies without any direction, they make a deadlier team with a human than another human would. They're also good at tasks such as guarding camps and equipment, finding water in the forest, and carrying injured riders to get help. What they aren't good at is being pretty; looks had no priority in the breeding program and the steeds resemble roughly-carved horse-shaped granite.
- Both Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter's works feature a plant designed to grow on the Moon, taking all its necessities from the lunar soil, and to germinate by firing its seed as a projectile. In Clarke's short story, the inventor unwittingly leans over the thing just as it germinates, with obvious results. In Baxter's novel Space, a similar creation is transplanted to Mercury, where it takes over the entire surface of the planet and plays the central role in Humanity's Crowning Momentof Awesome against the alien invaders.
- The Leviathan series utilizes this as one of the main motivators of the plot itself. The entire Allied side (Darwinists) use genetically-engineered super animals as war machines. Not to mention the living airship...
- In the web-novel Domina, the "fey" use bio-engineered monsters as weapons. They're too crazy to use them effectively, though, so they usually just throw a few out when they're bored.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky. When Johann Braun goes on his survival test, he takes along his pet, a big, lean, heavily muscled boxer dog named Thor with unfriendly eyes. Interestingly, they're both killed only minutes into the test.
- Andre Norton's Beastmaster novels, such as The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder. Hosteen Storm was a Beastmaster who could telepathically command several animals. One of them was a sandcat named Surra who was highly effective in battle.
- In the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound Of The Baskervilles, a hound is specifically raised to look like the Hound of legend. It's used by its master to kill Sir Charles Baskerville via literally scaring the old man to death, and said master also intends to use it to kill Sir Charles's nephew and heir, Sir Henry.
- Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth stories starring Pip and Flinx. Flinx has a pet Alaspinian minidragon named Pip. Pip can spit an acidic poison into opponent's eyes to blind and kill them and can also amplify Flinx's psionic powers.
- In The Dark Tower, main character Roland must defeat his instructor in single combat and can only bring one weapon to the duel. His weapon turns out to be his hawk, David.
- In The Horse and His Boy, Bree tells Shasta that as the war horse of the nobleman Ahoshta, he was trained as an attack animal and acted as such. While he does tell Shasta about his adventures, he always ended them by saying that he'd rather go back to Narnia soon and fight for the Narnian troops as an equal member of the army, not just as a warrior's steed.
- In the Ciaphas Cain novel "Duty Calls", one of Amberley Vail's entourage is a former Commissar called Simeon who ended up in the penal legion and hooked up to a Combat Drug Injector (giving him multiple addictions). While he still acts like a normal(ish) human being, Vail can control him by controlling the drugs he's being given.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire skinchangers are known for this. After bonding with an animal they become able to inhabit it directly, but they can also command it to an extent. The Stark children and Jon Snow are all bonded to direwolves though Sansa's was killed before her abilities developed. The most common skinchangers are wargs, who bond with (dire)wolves, but we've also heard of shadowcats, eagles, bears, ravens, cats, goats, and boars.
- The Targaryens used dragons for this, and Danaerys is trying to, though she may not have enough control over the dragons for them to qualify as yet.
- Subverted in Frasier. Martin has been staring at photos from an unsolved murder years ago. When he goes to take a break, Frasier glances at them and concludes a trained monkey was used to kill the victim. When Martin solves the case, Frasier assumes he was right about the monkey, but we learn it was a crooked cop.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Prom", Andrew has hellhounds, which his brother Tucker bred and trained to attack the people at said dance. Not to mention, as Andrew will remind you, he trained flying demon monkeys to attack the school play.
- Highlander had an episode with an immortal named Kanis, who used his pack of dogs to bring down his quarry. Duncan managed to throw a wrench in things when Kanis tried it on him, using a female dog in heat.
- In an episode of Bones a dog is used by its owner to kill a vet looking into dog fighting. Booth & Brennan are quite clear that a person killed him using the dog as a weapon.
- Alex's landlord, Jim, in the Doctor Who episode "Night Terrors" has a mean dog which he uses to threaten Alex.
- Eaglebones Falconhawk from The Aquabats! Super Show! can summon an invisible female bird called The Dude. So far, The Dude has only helped Eaglebones without clear instruction twice (once in "EagleClaw!" to take away his brother EagleClaw's guitar and once in "Showtime!" to take SuperMagic PowerMan's headband after Jimmy the Robot removes it from Space Monster M's head) but in her other appearances she follows this trope.
- In one episode of Columbo, a man uses his trained Doberman Pinschers to kill at the command word "Rosebud". Columbo turns this on its head by having the dogs retrained, so that when the culprit tries to get rid of Columbo the same way, all he gets is a savage face-licking.
- Destroy The Godmodder: Several have done things like this, several small attack dragons have been summoned in the tvtropes session.
- Very early in the life of Garfield, Jon tried to train the eponymous feline into an attack cat, but only succeeded in getting himself mauled.
- Warhammer 40,000's Tyranids are an entire species created to serve as weaponry, controlled by other species, which are seen as the same family as the weapons.
- Also from Warhammer 40,000 are the Orks. They are believed to be created by a group of beings called Brain Boyz as a weapon against the Necrons. They are quite effective weapons against them, unfortunately the same is true of everyone else. Of course technically the Brain Boyz were themselves created to be their controllers by the Old Ones.
- Squigs are small, aggressive critters that Orks frequently keep as pets and train to attack people on command. The largest of all squigs is the massive Sqiggoth, which grows to be as big as a Baneblade tank.
- The Chaos Demons have beastly feral demons that are more animalistic. Khorne has Flesh Hounds a cross between a dog and a lizard, Nurgle has Beasts of Nurgle butt ugly wretches that have dog like intellect, Tzeentch has Screamers flying manta rays with tusks, and Slaanesh has Fiends of Slaanesh which are centaur like creatures with lobster like claws and scorpion tails.
- Forgotten Realms prehistory says wyverns were created as weapons by Aearee (ancient bird-like creatures). Local Precursors are called "Creator Races" for a reason.
- Wizards constantly try to customize some or other Hybrid Monster or The Undead for that purpose, though it rarely ends well. Akhlaur has "cat-man warrior" project, for example.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Early editions allowed Player Characters to buy war dogs that would fight alongside the party. Since they were almost as effective in combat as a 1st-level character, they could greatly increase a party's chance of survival at low levels.
- Druids and rangers have the "animal companion" feature, granting a creature who loyally serves the character during adventures. It's more an extension of the character as opposed to its own entity, automatically scaling in strength as its master gains experience.
- Sourcebooks also allow characters to construct various types of golems.
- Stormbringer Companion supplement, "Sea Battle at Melnibone" solo adventure. One of the opponents Elric faces during the battle is a sea captain who has a war hound of Chalal fighting at his side.
- Mongoose Publishing's Starship Troopers - The Roleplaying Game. Neodogs have cybernetically enhanced teeth and jaws, allowing them to enter combat alongside their handlers. In the original Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers novel, neodogs did not have such augmentations and were used for intelligence gathering, not fighting.
- Hordes pits two warlocks and their armies against each other. Warlocks come in many flavors, but all share the ability to direct and give orders to their warbeasts, ranging from bipedal War Elephants and lightning-fast warpwolves to monstrous dragonspawns.
- BIONICLE: The Order of Mata Nui used trained Energy Hounds, most notably one in Mahri Nui named Spinax. Also in Mahri Nui, Toa Jaller had a Hahnah crab that, at least in his toy set, was equipped with a gatling cannon for him.
- Besides dogs, many warhorses were like this, trained to bite, kick, or stomp at their rider's command.
- In Britain, there is a stereotype associated with "chavs" of them owning vicious dogs which they use to threaten people with.
- It's actually a pretty common steteotype in regards to gangsters of almost all countries. For the time being, their preferred "breeds" tend to be Pitbulls.
- The Roman Army had large units of war dogs. However, unlike almost any other types of military units and weapon technology, there are no known reports that describe their tactical use in great detail. Either they were mostly for show, or the Romans didn't want their enemies to know about them.
- War Elephants
- In India, this was taken a step further by amputating the tusk tips and replacing them with huge knives.
- In Ancient Egypt they did this with trained cheetah and sometimes other big cats.