Uplifted Animal

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Armies of super-genius giant-brained simians: further proof that Chemistry Can Do Anything.


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.

Examples of Uplifted Animal include:


Trope Namer[edit | hide | hide all]

  • David Brin's Uplift. Major characters include uplifted dolphins and chimps. Technically, every sapient species has records of being originally uplifted from non-sapient animals, except for humanity and the original prehistoric Progenitors.
    • The tradition of Uplift is so ingrained in 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 they might have evolved sapience on their own is blasphemy of the highest order.

Anime and Manga[edit | hide]

  • 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 occurs for the duration of the Contract.
  • 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.
  • Boota from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Due to Evolutionary Levels, this means he also becomes spontaneously Kemonomimi.
    • 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.
  • In Outlaw Star two super-intelligent cats help a human pilot a Combining Mecha.
  • Iggy from JoJo's 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.
  • 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.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • Kingdom is all about a group of genetically engineered dogpeople who keep fighting a race of giant insects after their human masters disappear.

Film[edit | hide]

"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 made sapient by receiving clothing like the other mice in the film.
    • And possibly all of the other mice.
  • Puggsy from the infamous 1992 film Tom and Jerry: The Movie for some reason has the ability to make other animals talk by saying to them, "The name is Puggsy. What's yours?"
  • The dinosaurs from We're Back! A Dinosaur's 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.
  • The Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets kicked off when this accidentally happens during the testing of a Alzheimer's treatment.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • '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.
      • More than that, 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 Steampunk technology is damn impressive.
  • In The Hitchhiker's 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".
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and related books have the eponymous Rats. Notable in its merely modern setting.
  • 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 Bad Eldritch 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.
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau is probably the Ur Example of "uplifting" in sci-fi, albeit not a particularly successful variant of the procedure.
  • 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 uplifted pigs 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.
  • 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.
  • Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis had man's best friend uplifted to child-like sapience.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • 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.


Tabletop RPG[edit | hide]

  • The Palladium RPG After The Bomb features a whole Crapsack World of these.
  • 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.
  • GURPS Transhuman Space has Doolittle Dolphins and K-10A Postcanines, amongst others.
  • Dungeons & Dragons wishes you to remember the spell Awaken.
  • 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.
  • 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 chimps, dolphins, parrots, crows, octopi and whales, all of which are entirely common player character backgrounds.
  • Traveller has uplifted apes and dolphins (though you hardly hear about them), and the Vargr were genetically engineered by the Ancients from wolves.
  • This is the backstory for the Thri-Keen in the Dungeons & Dragons Points of Light setting, uplifted from lowly sand beetles by a very powerful Primal Spirit.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Beyond Good and 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 scanario.
  • 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...
  • Inherit the Earth is set in a medieval world populated by Humanoid Animals and set against the backdrop of a ruins of human civilization
  • 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.
  • You can hear two gangsters talk about Dogmentation in Deus Ex Human Revolution.
  • Crash Bandicoot, who became this thanks to Doctor Neo Cortex's experimenting.
  • This is the backstory of Hatoful Boyfriend. In the fight against a particularly deadly breed of the Avian Flu virus, humans accidentally created a virus whom increased the intelligence of birds, 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 phenomenon is still ongoing: there are still wild birds, but even those are changing too.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Kevin and 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 among the citizens of Earth and its colonies Gorillas, Chimps, three species of elephants ("Ellies" - Elephas Maximus Sapiens, "Loxies" - Loxodontus Africanus Sapiens and more humanoid "Neophants"), some sort of a cephalopod and bears - polar ("Ursumari", from Ursus maritimus) and brown.
    • Uplifted dolphins have been mentioned, and some lizard-like uplift was briefly seen.
  • An Uplifted cat and dog appear in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire.
  • 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 please[1]
  • Epiphany has not only an entire world populated by Uplifted Animals, it shows that the gods uplifted said animals as a way to spite them.
  • 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.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • 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.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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.
  • The eponymous character of Martha Speaks apparantly gained her ability to talk from having alphabet soup go into her brain instead of her stomach. And you know how much trouble you can get into when things go to your head.
  • According to their show's Expository Theme Tune, Pinky and The Brain are sapient because "their genes have been spliced."
  • Fry's college roommate on Futurama was a monkey Uplifted by the hat Professor Farnsworth gave him. He eventually grows to dislike the his superintelligence and is happy at the end of the episode when the hat is damaged and makes him just smart enough to become an executive at Fox.
    • 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.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the title turtles and the master, Splinter are all once ordinary pet turtles (and rat), but were all mutated into their current forms after exposed to radiation coming from a leaking can full of TCRI ooze.
  • The cattle in Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa, thanks to a meteorite hitting their cow pasture.
  • The title characters of Road Rovers except Muzzle.
    • 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.
  1. as Florence puts it, with a total of 14 members the Bowman's Wolf gene pool doesn't even have a wading section.