A more Sci-Fi oriented version of the Talking Animal, where the creature's ability to think and communicate with people on an equal level isn't typical of their species, but instead the result of some Applied Phlebotinum at work. Perhaps the animal's intelligence has been artificially increased (or inversely, people can communicate with them in their Animal Talk) and/or their physical voice structure altered so they can pronounce human words, or they have been fitted with a Translator Collar; but these animals have come to be more or less accepted as equals in human society.
This rarely becomes an actual plot point; it's usually just an unspoken, world-building background detail so that the author can place a Talking Animal in the regular cast.
See also Transhuman and Polly Wants a Microphone.
open/close all folders
David Brin's Uplift. Major characters include uplifted dolphins and chimps. Technically, every sentient species has records of being originally uplifted from animals (or plants, or fungi, etc.), except for humanity and the original prehistoric Progenitors.
And the tradition of Uplift is so ingrained in 2 billion years of Galactic society that many clans refuse to believe that Humans, ul-Dolphin-ul-Chimpanzee, could be anything but "wolflings" abandoned by their patrons mid-Uplift. The mere suggestion that we might have evolved sapience on our own is usually considered a preposterous, laughable superstition, as impossible as claiming a deity sculpted us out of clay. At worst, the claim is blasphemy of the highest order.
On the other hand, the same traditions of Uplift also force them to give humanity a modicum of respect, as patrons of not one but two sapient species. Had humanity not by sheer coincidence started uplifting dolphins and chimps before First Contact, we might have been forced to become clients of another (likely abusive) species or even exterminated for ecological mismanagement.
Anime and Manga
In the Lyrical Nanoha series, this happens individually to animals with whom mages form a Magically-Binding Contract with to become their familiar. They gain the ability to take somewhat human forms and easily communicate with humans. This lasts for the duration of the Contract, but when it runs out, the familiar ceases to exist. For a familiar with an open-ended contract like Alf, this makes her a lifelong companion for Fate (and a longer lifespan for her), but giving a familiar a short contract like performing a single task is a good way to Kick the Dog.
The final episode of Gunbuster shows a dolphin as one of the crew of a human ship.
All There in the Manual: Noriko explains in one of the "Science Lesson" shorts that hyper-advanced human ships utilize cyborg dolphins as part of their navigation systems, alongside psychic humans.
Mars Daybreak shows that among the human colonists of Mars are a small number of porpoises/whales wearing Powered Armor that allows them to move on land and translates their speech. A talking cat also happens to be a member of the crew, which is not considered too unusual.
Guame would count as well. He was pretty much Lordgenome's version of Boota.
IGPX has a dog for Team Edgeraid, and Luca the cat for team Satomi. Realistic in that the only time we hear either of them talk is within the mech cockpits. As their lips don't move, there's probably a mixture of genetic modification and neural implants.
Ein from Cowboy Bebop. His intelligence was enhanced in a research facility, which, when he get lost, put a lot of money as reward for getting him back. He is smart enough to read, play chess, figure out stuff Spike and Jet can't and is even a better hacker than Ed. He doesn't talk though.
Iggy from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure is a hyperintelligent dog who can't speak, but can understand humans perfectly. Whenever he "talks", it's his internal monologue. He is also the user of a Stand — whose name is The Fool, ironically enough.
It's generally displayed that giving Stand power to an animal automatically upgrades their intelligence to or near human levels. Examples include the aforementioned Iggy, a bird of prey, an Orangutan, a rat, and even a colony of plankton. While readers aren't privy to the thoughts of any but the first and the last, they all display very human tactics.
The Team Rocket trio's Meowth from Pokémon, according to his backstory. In the movies, a good number of Legendary Pokemon (including Mewtwo, Lugia, Deoxys, and Shaymin) can speak via telepathy. Vocal speech is rarer, but Arceus, Darkrai and the Slowking from the second movie can all speak.
Tony Tony Chopper was a normal reindeer ostracized by his herd because he was born with a blue nose. He then ate the Hito Hito no Mi and gained sapience and the ability to take on a half-human/half-reindeer form and a human form. This also caused him to be abandoned by his herd and hated by humans, resulting in him growing bitter towards all humans save two until he met Luffy.
In Judge Dredd, genetic experiments resulted in a group of monkeys as intelligent as humans that speak English, and who were eventually given human rights and their own ghetto in Mega-City One. Some of them went on to form a criminal gang.
Uplifted apes also appear in the Dreddverse series Insurrection. Originally a servile class in an ex-terrestrial mining colony, they join the mutants and robots (also slaves) alongside the human Judges in rebellion against Mega-City One.
Mr. Tawny in Captain Marvel started this way. He was an ordinary tiger raised from a cub as a child's pet and accused in adulthood as a man-killer. A Hermit Guru type lived nearby, who apparently was also The Professor; he had invented a drug that would allow Tawny to speak so he could defend himself. Tawny not only retained the ability to speak, he became very civilized and took to wearing elegant clothes, making him a Funny Animal. He got a job at a zoological museum and his stories dealt with everyday problems while the Marvels were off saving the universe.
Grease Monkey, a sci-fi graphic novel, has the uplifting of gorillas as part of its premise. The main character is such an uplift, who serves a space fighter mechanic on a space station. The almost Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that visited Earth had a pattern of this: to bolster the chances of other races to resist a separate alien menace that follows them across the galaxy, the benefactor aliens uplift animals suited to the task. Their standard process is to uplift one individual, allow him to learn about the dominant species (humans in this case) and then decide on behalf of his race. The gorilla said yes, and now all remaining gorillas are as intelligent as people (they found out about a lot of our bad points after the choice was made). The dolphin said no. He went with the aliens, and the rest of his species were left unaltered.
In Nikolai Dante, at some point in the past, a group of endangered species were given human intelligence in the hope of preserving them. They rose up and overthrew humans, with the result that Africa is now ruled by the houses of Numa (lion), Tantor (elephant), and Kong (gorilla).
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the title turtles and the master, Splinter were all once ordinary pet turtles (and a rat), but were all mutated into their current forms after exposure to radiation coming from a leaking can full of mutagenic ooze. (In a couple of the adaptations, Splinter was originally human, but the turtles are consistently turtles.)
Brute Force was a short lived 4 issue series about a scientist who uses cyborg enhancements to makes five animals intelligent and speak, and fight evil. Mostly people trying to destroy rainforests and polluting the ocean, and a team of evil cyborg animals. Pretty much a badass version of Captain Planet, though despite a few notable excellent fight scenes, it is notably (to quote Linkara) "So mind-boggling stupid that it's awesome" and says it's a true guilty pleasure.
"I was a dog, but because I was really good, they upgraded me to human. Uh, sort of."
Muntz' dogs in Up have been given the power to communicate in human speech, and to fly airplanes, among other things.
Gus from Cinderella is actually made sapient by receiving clothing like the other mice in the film.
And possibly all of the other mice.
The dinosaurs from Were Back A Dinosaurs Story are all made sapient by being fed magic cereal. Later, the villain devolves said dinosaurs back into their primitive selves to frighten everyone, and the only way for them to become sapient again is to have children hug them.
Planet of the Apes in general may be the Trope Codifier. Primates get this treatment in the franchise prior to its Reboot as well: the original novel features modified apes replacing humans as menial servants, a notion carried through in the original film franchise. The 2001 re-imagining features a space station where simians are being modified to carry out routine space piloting and other technical tasks.
Larry Niven's Known Space stories (e.g. World of Ptavvs) have intelligent dolphins that have learned to speak English. They interact with humans as equals; we manufacture artificial limbs and hands for them to use to enable tool-using. Actually, the dolphins were always intelligent. It just took humanity a long time to learn to communicate with them. The first thing they do once we do figure it out is, of course, filing a class-action lawsuit against humanity as a species for our whaling practices, something that they were evidently rather angry about (but unable to file complaint) since the get-go. (Not that the dolphins intend to actually win the lawsuit, since they find the legal wrangling far more fun than an actual settlement.)
'Superchimps' or 'simps' (an in-universe misnomer - they're uplifted monkeys, not apes) appear in some Arthur C. Clarke works, including Rendezvous with Rama. Clarke also used this theme with respect to humanity itself in 2001. The Sufficiently Advanced Aliens took a tribe of apes and manipulated their intelligence, planting the seeds of modern man. They then took a modern man, and uplifted him to create a Star Child.
In Cory Doctorow's short story, I, Rowboat, one of the hobbies of members of the transHuman race (and some robots) is uplifting individuals of a species to see what happens. The main antagonist of the story is an uplifted coral reef. By the end of the story, we find that the reef has been uplifted several times in the past and each time manages to kill itself off before regenerating in a non-sentient form.
In Alan Dean Foster's Taken trilogy, one of the main characters is a dog named George who has been abducted by aliens and given human-level intelligence and the ability to communicate.
A variation of this occurs in Garth Nix's fantasy series The Keys to the Kingdom. The Raised Rats were brought to the House by the Piper, who gave them speech, intelligence, and made them much bigger. They are a rather mercantile people who trade their services for information (although they also remain loyal to the Piper), and their Steam Punk technology is damn impressive.
In The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy people came to the conclusion that it was unethical to kill animals and eat them, so they genetically engineered creatures so that they would A) want to be eaten and B) be intelligent enough to verbally express this fact, thus removing any guilt one might feel while eating meat. Arthur Dent is horrified, of course, and opts to have a salad instead. The creature in question is extremely offended by this rejection.
In the climax of Perelandra, Tor announces as part of his plans for the new civilization of Venus that they will raise up the brighter species of animal until they become hnau — Old Solar for "sapient beings".
Draffut in The Empire of the East and the Book of Swords series was a dog who was altered into an intelligent, bipedal, super-powered giant by advanced medical technology. Paradoxically, he was later worshiped as a god by human beings.
W. Michael & Kathleen O'Neal Gear's Dark Inheritance uplifts chimps and bonobos in a modern setting. The authors are anthropologists so it goes into a lot of technical detail of how it was done, differences in psychology, various problems with zoonotic diseases, issues with uplifted chimps dealing with un-uplifted chimps, difficulties with something with the raw physical power of a chimp and the mentality of a human, and a lot of technical details. The chimps and bonobos in this cannot talk, only communicate via sign language or using a keyboard. It also shows various stages in the uplift process with different levels of change.
The Choblik race from the Star Trek Novel Verse. Choblik today are cyborgs; they were previously merely smarter-than-usual woodland creatures. The "Great Builders" installed their implants, artificially giving them sapience. This unknown race of Builders are considered the Choblik equivalent of "gods". Torvig Bu-kar-nguv from Star Trek: Titan is a Choblik.
In Star Trek: Vanguard, it's revealed that the Tholians were also originally this, gaining sapience after being "domesticated" by the Shedai.
In David Weber's Empire from the Ashes Trilogy, cyborg cybernetic implants are standard issue for everyone, with advanced equipment for the military. Dog-adapted cybernetic enhancements are paired with genetic tinkering to make dogs smart enough to play chess, talk with a implant and the strength to hew Imperial Marines to shreds. Oh, and they have undying loyalty to the Imperial family.
One otherwise extremely intelligent race in A Fire Upon the Deep relies on an archaic piece of cybernetics to give them a long-term memory, a device they're still so grateful to their ancient benefactors for that they consider tampering with its design tantamount to heresy. This turns out to have been a Really Bad Idea when its revealed their mysterious benefactors were actually the Big BadEldritch Abomination of the novel, using them as part of a Thanatos Gambit through a Mind Control back door feature of the devices.
The Dean Koontz novel Watchers features an uplifted golden retriever with near-human intelligence. He can't talk, so he spells out words using a few games worth of Scrabble tiles.
Babar The Elephant, due to him spending his entire childhood living in Paris, France ever since his mother was killed by hunters actually started to become more and more sapient over time. Eventually he makes all animals sapient because of this.
There are "hyperpigs" in the Revelation Space series by Alastair Reynolds. Their origins are obscure - no one now knows who gave them intelligence and language, or why. In a more common variation of this trope, there are also many species of uplifted primates.
It is suspected that they were a side effect of genetically engineering pigs to be human organ donors... though whether the final uplift to sentience was deliberate tinkering or just an accident is never mentioned.
Cordwainer Smith's 'Instrumentality' series features the Underpeople, and their struggle for equal rights.
Perry Rhodan - Genetic modified apes. The terran government wants to give them the right to vote, but they refused repeatedly.
The residents of Santa Chico in Fallen Dragon prefer Transhumanism and this trope to terraforming; Instead of replacing the original climate, fauna and flora with Earth equivalents, they exchange traits until they can coexist.
S. Andrew Swann's Moreau Series where animals are second-class citizens in mid-21st Century.
In Simon Hawke's Wizard series, thaumagenes are augmented pets created by Magitek-powered genetic engineering. All are sentient and capable of speech, and some also exhibit Mix-and-Match Critter or Mechanical Lifeform traits.
In the Dragaera novels, the reptiles known as jhereg were rendered intelligent and psychic as a sideline-experiment by the Jenoine.
The Tortall Universe has a fantasy version. A woman named Daine is the daughter of a human woman and a god who is both human and animal - as such, her powers are mostly about talking to and shapeshifting into animals, but she is also a bridge between humans and beasts. All animals in her general vicinity gradually gain more and more human-style intelligence, though it happens faster if she talks to them. It can happen very quickly if one tastes her blood or she deliberately fills them with her magic. When trying to help an underprotected refugee camp in Lady Knight, she permanently alters its population of cats, dogs, and sparrows so they can understand the situation and help. They and the humans work out a set of signals, though it's shy of a language and Daine notes it's better for humans to keep to simple words and ideas when talking to them.
Jonathan Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music features several. Most notably, the uplifted kangaroo, Joey Castle.
Similar to Cordwainer Smith in Will Shetterly's Chimera genetically engineered animals are somewhere between slaves and second class citizens, the Heroine is a Jaguar Woman named Zoe Domingo created to be a sex slave.
Sirius, by British philosopher-turned-SF-writer Olaf Stapledon, was one of the first attempts to seriously imagine what it might be like to be an uplifted animal—to try to get inside the head of such a creature. In this case, the first of its kind, a dog, named after the "dog star", Sirius.
In earlier books, Gaspode the Wonder Dog is uplifted twice, by two different mechanisms (the latter being the result of magical detritus). It appears that all dogs are sentient in some way, but Gaspode has human level intelligence and can actually speak Morporkian.
There's also Quoth the Raven, who appears to be substantially brighter that most birds, and can also speak to humans.
The Camels are a borderline case... they're highly intelligent mathematicians, but it isn't clear whether they naturally evolved that way or were magically granted sapience.
And speaking of spaience, there's The Luggage, a malevolent animated item of travel baggage made from sapient pearwood. Given that it is ambulatory and capable of reproduction, it might be considered a sort of uplifted tree (though as happens so often in the Discworld, the trees themselves seem to be intelligent, after a fashion...).
In Andre Norton's Catseye, the animals are of human intelligence, though they can communicate mentally only with Troy and with whoever has the controller.
In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, the wolverines are part of program that introduces mutated and highly trained animals to Survey Teams. The wolverines are the first fielded from their species, and Shan thinks they are more intelligent than they guessed.
Live Action TV
The eponymous character of the PBS children's TV show Zoboomafoo (a sifaka lemur) is actually made sapient by being fed a different snack.
It's actually implied that Zoboomafoo (Or "Zoboo" for short) is sapient to begin with, but just doesn't like to talk until after he's had his snack.
Dolphins and Orcas are considered somewhere along the lines of Noble Savages and allies by the Good seafaring civilizations of Rifts. Their governments actually produce Powered Armor that can be used by Dolphins and smaller whales, and assigned when they're working for them.
The Ringworld game by Chaosium (based on Larry Niven's book series) has dolphins as playable characters. They can move around using powered suits.
In the Ravenloft D&D setting, the darklord Urik von Kharkov began life as a black leopard, but was transformed into a human by an evil wizard for use as a shapechanging assassin. That was just the start of his troubles.
This is the backstory for the Thri-Keen in the Points Of Light setting, uplifted from lowly sand beetles by a very powerful Primal Spirit.
In the d20 Modern system we are given the Moreau, which are genetic/magically uplifted animals from tigers to rats to orcas used for military purposes.
In the Urban Arcana setting, it is possible to give sentience to an animal or plant, increasing his/her Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma, and even giving him the ability to speak. Doing so is a complex incantation, and serve little purpose except for the more creative players/game masters.
Haltan ata-beasts and san-beasts in Exalted are an example of this.
Sidereals can uplift their animal familiars, turning them into little gods.
Eclipse Phase has uplifted apes of all kinds, dolphins, parrots, crows, octopi, orcas, whales, and pigs all of which are entirely common player character backgrounds. Though actual biological neo-cetaceans aren't too common after the Fall since there aren't very many oceans left, a lot of them had to re-sleeve in more common human morphs.
Uplifted elephants are mentioned, but they went extinct during the Fall.
There are also "smart" animals such as dogs, cats, rats, and monkeys who tend to have vocabularies of less than a hundred words.
Traveller has uplifted apes and dolphins (though you hardly hear about them), and the Vargr were genetically engineered by the Ancients from wolves.
Beyond Good & Evil is set on an alien planet inhabited by humans all manner of sapient animals, such as pigs. It is not explained where they came from however uplifting seems to be the most likely scenario.
When the dolphins' most noble traits, among them Intelligence, are stolen in Ecco The Dolphin: Defender of the Future, they turn into dumb animals. Humans artificially uplift them in the Man's Nightmare levels. Well, the story was written by David Brin...
The cybernetic S'pht in Marathon were uplifted so long ago, they weren't even aware of being cyborgs, imagining their machine implants to simply be organs like any other. On examining naturally sentient creatures after first contact, they're horrified at the realization that the “birthing operation” may be all that separates them from from the brutish beasts of their homeworld.
The space stage in Spore allows you to use a Monolith item to uplift a species on a planet, causing that species to, after going through the creature, tribal, and civilization stages, become a new space empire that you can deal with.
This is the backstory of Hatoful Boyfriend. In the fight against a particularly deadly breed of the Avian Flu virus, humans created a virus to annihilate birds, who were unwittingly spreading it. But while the virus killed plenty of birds it increased the intelligence of the survivors, doves and pigeons among the first affected. By the time the story begins, humanity has been vastly reduced and the society is now dominated by the entire columbidae genus, with other species having joined the uplifting - the Prime Minister of Japan is a shoebill stork and the first puffin to hold office has recently been elected. The phenomenon is still ongoing: there are still wild birds, but even those are changing too. Feather Fingers is in effect, the birds seem somewhat larger, and they live longer, though pigeons still have decidedly shorter lifespans than humans.
In SimEarth, it is possible to do this to any creature, including prokaryotes, carniferns, and trichordates.
Dragon Age features the Mabari. A very large, muscular dog breed, they were bred by the TevinterImperium using magic and meant as war dogs. They have high enough intelligence to strategize and to understand complex human speech (but are ultimately still dogs in personality). When they were used to invade the Alamarri tribes (the ancestors of modern Ferelden), the dogs turned against their Tevinter masters and sided with the Alamarri. The Mabari has been a symbol of Ferelden ever since. In the second game, Varric has managed to teach the Hawkes' mabari how to play a card game, and the pooch is apparently quite good at it (except when he wags his tail when he has a good hand)
In Kevin & Kell, it is suggested that birds were uplifted in our far future. When Humans ruined Earth, the birds went back in time and used an intelligence ray to uplift all animals, leading to animals evolving in the place of humans.
Schlock Mercenary features Gorillas and Elephants among the citizens of Earth and its colonies. In addition, a couple of intelligent chimps have been seen (one of whom was a corrupt judge), and uplifted dolphins have been mentioned.
Freefall also has this... Chimps were the first to be uplifted, but it didn't work very well, since they turned out to be natural sociopaths. Main character Florence is an uplifted Wolf, part of an experimental breed - only 14 of them exist so far. That may be all there ever will be- they're actually only a prototype for a future race of uplifted alien animals. However, if THEY have anything to do with it, they'll eventually be a full species. This seems fairly likely since Florence is a main character AND terrifyingly intelligent.
However, the members of Florence's breed are not equal members of society: They are legally property. In practice, she is treated as an equal by most of the humans around her, but she has no more legal rights than a toaster. One of the things keeping her and others of her kind from doing too much about this too quickly is that they want to become a species — and for this they need to impress the humans, who can choose to help them or wipe them out as they pleasenote as Florence puts it, with a total of 14 members the Bowman's Wolf gene pool doesn't even have a wading section.
UNA Frontiers has the G.E.M.'s, Genetically Engineered Morgans, a gene-tinkered breed of horses incorporating cetacean and wolf genes to boost their intelligence and alter their behavior from "herd" to "pack" mode. An unexpected byproduct was the eventual development of psychic abilities as well, allowing a few of them to draw on the brain power of associated humans.
Sheldon: One of Sheldon's early experiments resulted in his pet duck Arthur gaining human intelligence and the ability to speak.
Krosp the talking cat from Girl Genius was given human intelligence by a Mad Scientist who intended him to become the "Emperor of All Cats" and use his cat army as spies and saboteurs. This didn't work, because cats can't understand complex concepts and have very short attention spans. (Presumably they wouldn't take orders well either, even from another cat.)
Fifine - Eventually Fifine and company find proof of the existence of humans, only to discover that they are all the descendants of uplifts. Animals were uplifted to be the companion to the last human child.
Orion's Arm takes the idea of making unintelligent species intelligent(as in, human-level) to an extreme, with over 138,000 Earth species as well as alien species uplifted, including even plants, fungi, protists and colonial prokaryotes.
In The Powerpuff Girls, Professor Utonium accidentally does this to his pet chimpanzee, who would become the girls' arch-enemy Mojo Jojo. Mojo's first scheme (chronologically) is to do the same with all of the primates in the local zoo, creating a swarm of villains themed on their species, such as Hota Wota, a Japanese snow monkey. The Talking Dog may be an example too.
A post-revival episode introduces Dr. Banjo, an orangutan and creationism activist.
In The Amazing World of Gumball this can happen to not only animals but also plants and things that aren't alive at all because of the world they live in, although it seem a lot of them are just this way because their parents were. Darwin, who was a pet goldfish before sprouting legs, is the only character explicitly stated to have gained intelligence this way.
The Leopard Men from The Legend of Tarzan were all made sapient by Queen La's dark magic. When La is killed in their second appearance in their show, the magic spell cast upon them is broken, and as a result they all turn back into ordinary leopards.
It's later revealed that General Parvo is an uplifted cat.
It's implied that Muzzle cannot be fully "uplifted" due to being completely insane. Turns out it's because he was driven insane by a shoddy knockoff of the uplifting technology.
In the episode with Homer becoming an astronaut in The Simpsons, one of the secrets NASA considered revealing to boost their popularity was that all of the chimpanzees they sent into space came back superintelligent. The idea is shot down by one of the heads of NASA who is one of these chimps.
In Johnny Test, Johnny's pet dog Dukey was originally filthy and untrained, and Johnny had no desire to train him, but also wanted him as his best friend. So his Super Genius SistersTM genetically modified him to talk, walk on his hind legs, and be "very civilized" (they also made him a master martial artist and accountant). Dukey became the sidekick for all of Johnny's adventures. He's also the voice of reason, not just to Johnny but his sisters as well. constantly calling their experiments unsafe, insane, and that everyone on the show is pretty much nuts.
While the chimeras used in research are not new one study took human glial cells and astrocytes and implanted them in mice, they are not exactly talkative yet but they perform much better than non upgraded mice in mazes and intelligence tests.