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The Ride skill rules says that a combat-trained bison, a CR-4 animal, costs 75 gp. A Handle Animal check of DC 10 seems to be all that you need to get a trained animal to attack. Can anyone buy a trained bison (or two) with her starting gold and use them effectively in combat 50% of the time?

Druids can do this most effectively, but fighters can afford two to start...

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This is pure speculation, but there is evidence that their price is wrong.

Bison and aurochs were priced on the Animal Archive Player Companion, along with many other domesticable animals, like several on this list on the SRD.

When reared from birth, the following animals can easily be ridden by Small or Medium humanoids, depending on the riding animal’s size. In addition, most of these animals can be purchased already trained for combat.

However, considering the description of both animals, I am inclined to believe their prices were swapped by accident during the writing of the book.

On aurochs, it says:

Aurochs (both singular and plural) are large herd animals similar to domesticated cattle.

While on bison, it says:

Bison are large herd animals. They can grow as long as 12 feet and as tall as 7 feet at the shoulder. Average bison weight 2,200 pounds. The bison’s statistics can be used for almost any larger herd animal, such as the buffalo.

By reading that, we can say the aurochs stats can be used for any common herd animals, like cows, bulls and other similar animals. While bison stats can be used by heavier herd animals, like buffalo and bison, as they are really similar animals.

As for aurochs, the core rulebook already gave us a price on domesticated cattle, 50 gp, with the following description:

Cattle

Price 50 gp; Weight 1,500 lbs.

Cattle are kept for milk and meat and used as beasts of burden. A bull is used primarily for mating. Other males are castrated and become oxen, which are used to carry loads and plow fields.

This price is the same as what was published for bison on the Animal Archive (50 gp), while aurochs were priced as 300 gp (6 times more expensive). And I honestly see absolutely no reason for them being so much more expensive when they have a lower value as cattle (1500 lbs vs 2200 lbs) and are probably harder to domesticate being more aggressive than aurochs and cattle. Even a leopard costs only 100 gp.

People being able to purchase animals has even caused a problem on Pathfinder Society a few years ago, especially when a first level character could start the game with a CR 4 combat-trained buffalo/bison (exactly the topic here), or a 100 gp leopard that could easily learn the attack trick, which caused a new rule to be added on the Additional Resources specifically about the Animal Archive, saying:

Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive

[...] Finally, a PC can only purchase an animal, mount, or similar creature if its Challenge Rating is lower than that character's level; creatures with a Challenge Rating of 1 or lower are exempt from this restriction, as are horses. [...]

If we compare the CR of several of those animals with their price, we will notice that they are priced relative to their CR, except for aurochs and bison:

  • Aurochs, 300 gp, 450 gp for combat trained. CR 2

  • Bison, 50 gp, 75 gp for combat trained. CR 4

  • Tiger, 325 gp, 500 gp combat trained. CR 4

  • Lion, 200 gp, 300 gp combat trained. CR 3

  • Leopard, 100 gp, 150 gp combat trained, CR 2

  • Boar, 100 gp, 150 gp combat trained, CR 2

  • Elk, 100 gp, 150 gp combat trained. CR 1

But considering the rules-as-written, this is perfectly legal and the price is official. Player Companions rarely get an errata, as they hardly, if ever, are reprinted. This has happened only a few times, noticeably with the first Adventurer's Armory and the Technology Guide.

However, with Ultimate Wilderness around the corner, it was previewed on 2017 PaizoCon that rules and stats published on both Animal Archive and Familiar Folio will be reprinted, and we could see an errata about this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That was ridiculously well thought out. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – dnavinci Jun 21 '17 at 19:30
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Yes, that is all correct, excepting the 50%—assuming by “anyone” you mean people without any training in Handle Animal, it becomes a DC 10 Charisma check, which would be a 50% chance at 10 Charisma but could be higher or lower depending on what the Charisma involved actually is.

Handle Animal is extremely effective at the lowest levels, but tends to scale poorly. Unless the animal is an animal companion or similar, it quickly becomes hopelessly outclassed by the opponents you’re facing, which means you have to continue to replace it. Even the biggest, most ferocious (most expensive) animals top out at about CR 12. It can still work well if you have a supply, since none of the costs involved are particularly onerous, but as you need to maintain larger and larger menageries it becomes difficult to justify constantly being able to find huge exotic animals.

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