Dwarf Fortress: How to Raise and Train Animals

Animal Farm in Dwarf Fortress

Raising and training animals in Dwarf Fortress will provide your people with a steady supply of meat and leather, but if you’re having trouble figuring out how to get more, you’re not alone. 

You may have already mastered plant farming in Dwarf Fortress, but if you want some leather and other food goods, like milk, you’ll need to learn how to raise and train animals. Luckily, doing so is easier than you think. Here’s how you can set up a massive animal farm in your game. 

Like many things in Dwarf Fortress, animal farming can reach higher levels of complexity as you advance through the game. You’ll gain more varieties of animals, which may open access to additional resources or materials.  


Creating a Pasture

The first step of running a successful animal farm is setting up a Pen/Pasture. To do this, click Zones (z), then select Pen/Pasture. Click and drag over a grassy area so that your animals have an area to graze. 

Creating a Pasture in Dwarf Fortress
Creating a Pasture

From here, you can assign your specific animals to that Pasture, so they congregate there. Click the Pasture Zone, then click the ➕ icon to assign animals there. Select the checkmark next to the animal(s) you want in your Pasture. 

Assigning Animals to Pasture Dwarf Fortress
Assigning Animals to Pasture

In Dwarf Fortress, you won’t need to build a fence or walls to keep your animals in the Pen. However, enemies can attack and kill your animals, so consider enclosing them to keep them safe. 

Maintaining Your Animals

The most important aspect of maintaining your animals is ensuring green grass for them to graze on. They will starve to death if you set their Zone underground or in an area with no grass. 

You should save young and healthy animals for breeding and leave them alone until they reach Elder status–in which case you can butcher them for food and leather. 

Understanding the Pets/Livestock Menu

Like all creatures in Dwarf Fortress, each animal that you have has feelings, wants, and desires. You can access this by left-clicking the animal or accessing the Citizen Information Menu (u). From here, hit the Pets/Livestock tab to narrow the list to all your owned animals. Hit the 🔎 icon if you want to look at the breakdown of individual animals in your Fortress.

From here, players have a few options for what they can do with their pets, including: 

  • Assigning an owner
  • Set the animal for butchering
  • Gelding the animal for misbehaving 
  • Assigning a trainer
  • Toggle war training 
  • Toggle hunting training
Pets/Livestock Menu Actions Dwarf Fortress
Pets/Livestock Menu Actions

Certain actions, like War Training and Hunting Training, will only be available to certain animals, like dogs and elephants.

Breeding Your Animals

To breed animals in Dwarf Fortress, you’ll need to get a male and female variant of the same animal. Then, assign them to the same Pasture, and they will breed over time. You will receive a notification in the top left of your screen when one of your animals has given birth. 

Breeding Animals Dwarf Fortress
Breeding Animals

As you get more animals, they will breed more frequently. This can explode the pet population over time, which can provide a steadier stream of meat and leather to your Fortress. 

Getting More Animals 

In the Steam version of Dwarf Fortress, there are two main ways to catch animals. One method includes setting up cages and traps to catch land animals; the other way is by trading with merchants at your Trading Post. 

You can build cages at the Metalsmith’s Workshop and Carpenter’s Workshop. To catch more animals, build a cage first, then set the Catch live land animal task at the Butcher’s Shop or Vermin Catcher’s Shop

Catching live land animal Dwarf Fortress
Catching live land animal

A surefire way to get more animals is by taking advantage of “Goods for Next Year” when a merchant visits. Select all the possible animals; the next year they come, they will bring more animals to you that you can breed to get even more. See our Trading Guide for more details.

Wooden cages will only catch smaller animals, which can’t be used for meat–so keep this in mind. Build metal cages if you want to catch bigger animals.

Dwarf Fortress can feel complex. See below for more of our guides on the game: 

How to Craft Jewelry | How to Transfer Save Files | How to Equip Weapons and Armor | Dwarf Fortress Beginners Guide | How to Fish | How to Make Drink | How to Create a Militia and Squads | How to Make an Office | How to Build a Bedroom | How to Trade and Build Trade Depots

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