Herbivores Are Friendly


Lex: Sh. Sh. Don't let the monsters come over here.
Dr. Alan Grant: They're not monsters, Lex. They're just animals. And these are herbivores.
Tim: That means they only eat vegetables, but for you I think they'd make an exception.

This trope, along with Predators Are Mean, are a fairly common approach to Carnivore Confusion in fiction. Basically, all the villains are carnivores and all the herbivores, particularly if they can talk, are heroes.

Like Predators Are Mean, this trope has been around for such a long time that it may be one of The Oldest Ones in the Book. Herbivores Are Friendly often, but not always goes hand-in-hand with Predators Are Mean.

This trope and Predators Are Mean are so strong culturally that people assume that many Real Life predators (whether omnivorous or carnivorous by nature) are mean, evil, and nasty, and all the herbivores are cute, cuddly, and friendly.

This trope is not Truth in Television for the most part. The most dangerous animals in the world are actually big herbivores; the hippopotamus and the elephant are known to attack and kill humans even without being provoked. In other words, just because an animal won't eat you, doesn't mean it won't hurt you. Conversely, house cats and domesticated dogs are inherently carnivorous, while the omnivorous whale shark is never a threat to humans.

Temple Grandin's book, Animals in Translation, explains that domesticated cattle can be a lot harder to handle compared to most wild felines. A bull or even a cow may attack a person in order to exert dominance, but a tiger will not do so unless its prey drive is triggered, as it is a solitary animal that does not care about social hierarchy.

One common exception for the herbivores, when they are portrayed as dangerous in fiction, is when they go on an Animal Stampede.

Goes hand-in-hand with and opposite of Predators Are Mean. Often associated with Carnivore Confusion. Subtrope to Good Animals, Evil Animals and Always Lawful Good.


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     Comic Books 
  • Atomic Robo: Zig-zagged in "The Trial of Atomic Robo". Doctor Dinosaur's latest killing machine is the "omnisaur" — half Triceratops, half Ankylosaurus and half Stegosaurus. Robo points out that those are all herbivores.
    Dr Dinosaur: Herbivores. What was I thinking? Oh, right! The super-beams!
    Robo: The what? [omnisaur starts glowing]

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The herbivore dinosaurs in Terra Nova are shown to be playful in the pilot episode. The main character's youngest daughter even feeds them treats.
  • Spoofed in Dinosaurs as the herbivores are presented as dinosaur versions of hippie pacifists and marijuana users, which becomes a problem when the son Robbie (think Lisa Simpson's version of the series) becomes an herbivore.
  • Mix with Our Werebeasts Are Different in Grimm: all the herbivore-based Wesen like the turtle-like Genio Inocuo and the sheep-like Seelengut are esentially harmless.

  • Brian Jaques's Redwall series often shows this. Squirrels (not entirely herbivorous), hares, and other herbivores, and a few omnivores such as badgers, mice, and hedgehogs, are the heroes, where wholly carnivorous species such as weasels, stoats, wild cats, snakes, hawks, ferrets, foxes (actually omnivorous, but still predatory), and the like are the villains. This is rather odd considering the fact that the most prominent species, the mice of Redwall, are omnivores but never eat any meat besides fish. One would reason that they never eat any intelligent creatures, but there has been at least one intelligent talking fish in the series.
  • Discussed in March Upcountry: Captain Pahner sees a large herbivore on an unfamiliar planet and tells his troops not to fire. Prince Roger shoots the thing anyway, because he has actually been on safari and knows that herbivores are not harmless (and because he hadn't figured out the com software yet and hadn't heard the order).
  • Played around with in Dinoverse. In the first set of books, the Leptoceratopses abduct Candayce and shove Janine around, and Candayce figures out that they were trying to protect her - she's in the body of a Leptoceratops and they don't understand why she's hanging out with a Tyrannosaurus rex. Similarly, when they encounter a Triceratops herd, it is hostile in defense of its nests, but is less so later, realizing that a little Leptoceratops and a wounded Quetzalcoatlus aren't threats. The Ankylosaurus met later on is friendly to the boy in the Ankylosaurus body, but wary at best of all the others.
  • The Hork-Bajir from the Animorphs series are, when free from Yeerk control, naturally docile and unintelligent creatures who use the numerous blades on their bodies to strip bark from trees for food. A community of Hork-Bajir who escape the Yeerks become close allies of the Animorphs.

    Myth and Religion 
  • Some Christian sects in the United States, such as those behind the Creation Museum (Answers in Genesis) believe that this was the literal truth of life on Earth pre-Fall. It's stated that animals before the Fall were friendly herbivores (one diorama depicts a T. rex chomping on pineapples) and that predation and carnivorism, being based in violence and killing, are by-products of the Fall. The Texas-based Creation Evidence Museum believes the pre-Fall atmosphere made creatures live longer, made them more intelligent and thus made them nicer. This have proven contentious, so any discussion of these views (positive or negative) best adhere to the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment.

    Video Games 
  • Zig-Zagged in the Monster Hunter series. Most herbivores, like Aptonoths, really are friendly and peaceful. Herbivore bossmonsters like Diablos? Not so much.
  • Inverted and played straight in Dinosaur King where while the heroes normally use herbivorous dinosaurs, one exception is a Carnotaurus.
  • Subverted in Dino System Unless attacked, most herbivores are usually quite placid and ignore the player. Which can make it all the more surprising during survivor mode when a calm male Triceratops enters breeding condition and suddenly starts trying to kill the human survivor.
  • Spore has creatures evolving. The first two stages (Cell and Creature) are spent deciding on a creature's diet. Later stages have the creatures evolved more, with their own moralities. Herbivores tend to be nice and social, carnivores tend to be hostile, while omnivores tend to be neutral and economic.
    • Spore plays with this somewhat. When you advance to a new stage, you get bonuses and special abilities depending on how you spent the previous ones. Killing and eating your rivals would tend to give you combat bonuses when you acquired sapience, while socializing with other species and eating plants would give you social abilities instead. So if you began your evolution as a carnivore, you were encouraged to develop into a warlike civilization, while herbivores would be encouraged to play peacefully. However, you could defy this by simply not making use of your bonuses in the Tribal and Civilization stages.
  • Subverted in Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4. 3 has water buffalo that generally keep to themselves, but if you walk through their territory, they'll most likely chase you down and try to ram you. 4 has yaks which are pretty much just reskins of 3's water buffalo, as well as rhinos and elephants. The rhinos basically act the same way as the yaks, only they're faster, tougher, and do a lot more damage. The elephants, on the other hand, will not bother you at all unless you attack them — they'll even let you ride them, provided you have the necessary perk. However, once provoked, these elephants are very dangerous — and you can use this to your advantage, pitting them against your enemies and even riding them into battle.
    • Despite the subversion in Far Cry 3, the binoculars identify animals as herbivore and predator, giving a clear distinction on which animals can attack. The identification is based on whether or not they're aggressive as opposed to their actual diet (e.g. Buffalo are tagged as predators.)
  • Mammoths in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are mostly peaceful, just don't annoy them or their giant owners. Otherwise, it's played very straight: bears will attack you on sight; deer (which are covered on Real Life) flee from you on sight. Unless, of course, you have any active buff preventing animals from reacting to your presence.
  • Downplayed with the gurns, druffalo and brontos in Dragon Age: Inquisition. They won't attacked if they aren't provoked, but they'll fight tooth and nail if wounded.

  • Kevin & Kell likes to subvert this often. Kevin and Kell's daughter is a rabbit that eats meat. Kevin himself is generally friendly, but is not above punching predators trying to eat him. In fact, for a mini-arc it ended up a problem for Kevin as one of predators sued him for "breach of nature, rabbits should run". And was retorted "breach of nature, predators should eat rather than sue". And it should be pointed out that Kevin's ex Angelique, genetically a rabbit (but posing as a rat), is one of the most vicious characters in the comic.
  • Subverted in Freefall; Sam's Bizarre Alien Biology is edible and appetizing even to Terran herbivores.
  • Parodied in this chapter of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, which provides the current page image. It depicts a man expecting this to be the case, and getting stomped flat as a result.
  • Double-subverted in Schlock Mercenary, Xeno Team is approaching a group of large stick-like alien creatures that appear to be eating moss, Ebbirnoth cautious the rest that herbivores can still be dangerous, and then it turns out the big things are actually carnivorous.
    Ebby: Let's just stick with "everything's dangerous until we've killed it."

    Western Animation 
  • Something was said about this in the Magic School Bus episode where they went back in time and saw dinosaurs.
  • The Wild Thornberrys Zig Zags it. Eliza easily makes friends with plenty of herbivorous animals, but she also encounters some aggressive ones as well, such as hippos and water buffalo which are true.
  • The Simpsons often subvert this trope quite realistically.
    • In "Little Big Mom", Lisa tried to approach a herd of deer because they look harmless, but when she gets close enough they turn ferocious and try to attack her.
    • Lampshaded in "Four Women and a Manicure" when the Wicked Witch of Snow White mocks a group of cute woodlands critters, most of which are herbivores. The critters proceed to gang up and tear the witch apart as she screams in agony.
    • Doubly subverted in a school video starring Troy McClure in "Lisa the Vegetarian",note  where he convinces Bobbynote  that it’s okay to eat meat. McClure warns Jimmy that “if a cow had the chance he’d eat you and everyone you care about,” as ominous music plays and the camera zooms in on a cow’s face. However, the cow’s face is so placid, that the idea of a threatening cow seems ludicrous.
    • In "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story", Lisa's story-within-the-story has her encountering a goat in the forest, hoping it'll be friendly to a fellow herbivore, until it chases her into Mr. Burns' mansion. It turns out it was trying to bring back her necklace which she'd lost in the woods.
  • Marina's best friend in Saban's Adventures of the Little Mermaid is a seahorse (in a setting where all marine predator animals are evil).

    Real Life 

  • Species living in an environment without predators are indeed often very docile. The Dodo of Mauritius evolved on an island without predators and was noted for having no fear or aggression toward humans, who promptly ate them into extinction. Herbivorous species that are accustomed to the presence of predators, however, often avert this: while some herbivores will flee danger as a first resort, others can be very aggressive, and will often be the ones to attack first if threatened or surprised. Herbivores such as hippos, rhinos, bison and even cattle have well-deserved reputations for being dangerous to approach, and even deer can turn on you if you startle them.
  • Some species of herbivore play this straight with each other, roaming in multi-species herds. Usually this is a sign that their dietary preferences are slightly different (e.g. grass vs. shrubs), and that each species in the group has a different well-developed sense (scent, hearing, sight) with which to detect herd members' mutual predators. Less competition, more chance to pick up on danger that way.