I am about to start a Pathfinder campaign as a Gnome Cavalier and just discovered the wonders of Handle Animal. More specifically, the ability to raise wild animals as domestic pets and war beasts. I want to try to raise a large Cast of Hawks to follow me around durring the endgame and piggy-back off of my Tactician abilities, mainly Overwhelm (for bonus flanking) and Precise Strike (for bonus d6 rolls while flanking) with a nice coating of Stick Together(for mob tactics) for good measure. However, the rules concerning rearing wild animals are pretty open-ended, with the only restriction being "A handler can rear as many as three creatures of the same kind at once". So is there any upper limit of animals that I can rear, or can I lead a mighty army of Hawks into my final battle, enough to blot out the sun, and murder my foes with mighty 1-8 HP blows? Or just 36THP, that works too...

Also, how many trained creatures am I allowed to command in combat?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that 'rearing' is different from 'handling'. You can rear 3 animals at once, which means you can raise from infancy 3 animals. It says nothing on the number of animals you can command in battle, or rearing animals sequentially. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Nov 2, 2015 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage True, but it works directly out of the Handle Animal skill. I will definitely broaden the question, but I really want to know how many times/ how often I can rear creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Areadbhair
    Nov 2, 2015 at 23:32

3 Answers 3


There's a practical limitation on the number of animals that can fight for you. Telling an animal to attack someone (the "attack" trick) is a move action, unless you're specifically a druid and the animal is your companion. So, even if you have a hundred hawks behind you, you can only get two of them into the battle every round.

It may be possible to get around this problem by using the "defend" trick, which the animal will do by default without requiring instruction. If someone attacks you, in theory all hundred of your hawks might mob them in retaliation. I'm not sure if that's sufficient for your purposes.

There's not a hard limit on the number of animals traveling with you, so far as I know. D&D 3.0 said that a druid could travel while caring for "animal companions with total hit dice up to their druid level", or twice that if the druid is staying in one place and not adventuring. But you've asked about Pathfinder here, not 3.0.

But the worst problem you're going to face is a roleplaying one. If you claim you're bringing a hundred hawks into combat, what you're saying is that you spent two years of your life teaching hawks the "defend" trick, spending a week at a time on each one. What does that say about your character? What sort of person would do that?

Pathfinder has plenty of rules for how much money you can spend, but it doesn't have any rules for how many years of your life you can dedicate as preparation for a given combat.

At some point your DM will tell you they flat-out don't believe your character would do that. (Or, more formally: "If your character is that crazy, they shouldn't be an adventurer -- they should be a hermit living in the woods. Please roll up a more well-adjusted character for this campaign.")

Ultimately you're going to have to work the details out with your DM.

As a side note, this is a really fragile strategy: the first time you fight something with an area-effect attack (for example a cleric channeling negative energy) all your hawks are going to die. I recommend not investing too much of your character's resources into this plan.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The only thing I might add, is that additionally when PCs stretch what was intended and expected in the rules to such a degree that they should no longer get to ignore the busywork that is implied to happen in the background. A single person, tasked to care for and feed 100 hawks might be able to do so if he had access to thousands of pounds of meat, a few specially outfitted warehouses, and 8 hours of free time a day to spend doing so. But anything less than that, say trying to bring them anywhere or be busy doing anything else and you would expect most of them to fly off or die of neglect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jonathon
    Nov 3, 2015 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for such a thorough and precise answer! As for how this would work in my campaign, I forgot to mention that my cavalier is a Gnome that used to be a stablehand that decided to roam the world like the adventurers that frequented his town and bought a buttload of fancy weapons for the occasion. He is wild and excitable in every way. As for Dan, due to his connections, he could have good standing with some livestock farmers. However, I could just make this a crazy hermit boss for a campaign I've been dreaming up. Thanks again for the input! \$\endgroup\$
    – Areadbhair
    Nov 3, 2015 at 2:19

Commoners rear animals; adventurers don't bother

The question covers the limits of rearing wild animals using the skill Handle Animal: a single animal handler can simultaneously rear three of the same kind of animal. How long until the animal handler's actually domesticated these animals is up to the GM.1

But, according to the rules, the only advantage to rearing an animal—that is, raising the animal by hand essentially from birth—is that afterward the animal's domesticated. Officially, all that means is that folks that are untrained in the skill Handle Animal can make Charisma checks instead of Handle Animal skill checks to handle and "push" that domesticated animal. (While rearing the animal, the animal handler can simultaneously teach the animal tricks, but any animal handler can teach the animal tricks without rearing the animal, too.)

So, for example, a typical level 1 commoner without the skill Handle Animal can still save his miserable life by succeeding on a Charisma check (DC 15) to have a domesticated cat that knows the trick down perform that trick. (Unlike real life, Pathfinder cats are surprisingly easy to train, and, also unlike real life, commoners who don't train their cats in the down trick die.)

Rearing animals is for commoners who worry about their incompetent families getting overrun by their herds of dire goats. Rearing animals is not for adventurers. Adventurers grab any old animal (y'know, like a tyrannosaur or blue whale—and, yes, maybe literally), either convince (magically or mundanely) the animal to stick around or confine the animal, and just train the darn thing to perform tricks, domesticated or not. Because adventurers are hardcore that way and, if they're doing this, either have a bunch of ranks in the skill Handle Animal or know that they can kill the animal if it gets out of line. Or both.2

Commanding a group of animals

Handling an animal so that it performs a trick is a move action, but animals continue to perform a lot of their tricks after they've been handled, like the tricks defend and menace. A town can be locked down by a careful, skilled animal handler commanding cats (or dire goats) trained in those two tricks (and maybe down, I guess). (Every high-level animal handler should be disappointed that the quick runner's shirt only allows an extra move action to move.) However, the pair of move actions a typical character gets each turn is insufficient for managing a horde of creatures, and an adventurer's standard action is almost always better spent.

The GM may obviate the need for this move action and allow an animal to follow (generally and to the best of its understanding) the commands of a creature that can both communicate with it and to whom the animal's disposition is better than indifferent. The behavior of such an animal should be unpredictable, however—it is, after all, untrained and, if it's of value in high-level combat situation, probably undomesticated. The most likely way of achieving all this is through a combination of the spell speak with animals and either the spell charm animal or the extraordinary ability wild empathy.

1 The Player's Handbook (2000) for Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition provided slightly increased granularity with regards to training domesticated and wild animals and also provided a baseline time (1 year) for rearing animals that didn't otherwise have listed rearing times. The Player's Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 and, therefore, Pathfinder doesn't include such information.
2 Bear (ahem) in mind that this a ruthless rules analysis. The psychological and narrative impact of having reared an animal is beyond the scope of the rules. Also beyond the scope of the rules is the advantage to society if anyone can tell a domesticated dire goat down and have it, with luck, obey. Wild dire goats are stone cold killers.


Your ability to rear animals is also limited by your ability to find animals to rear. For creating a new character, animals should probably count against your wealth-by-level allowance. Once in game, you would have to ask your DM about availability, just as any other unusual good you wanted to buy in bulk. Hawks are probably somewhere in the 10-30 gold range. That's not bad, but there are much better things to spend your money on.

Also, as pointed out, you don't get to command your animal horde for free, and fireball or damage reduction will ruin your day.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .