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Despite being predators and carnivorous, JK writes that Thestrals are not in any way threatening to humans and can be domesticated.

My problem with this is, not all Thestrals are domesticated and as natural predators it is unlikely they pose no threat to humans at all. While humans are rarely attacked by wild animals, it does in fact happen.

Furthermore she pictures Thestrals as naturally obedient creatures, which predators never are. Even domesticated pets such as dogs have to be trained.

My question is, how can a dangerous predator and carnivore not be a threat to humans, despite humans falling into their prey range? (Thestrals have no issue preying on larger animals, being huge and invisible to most).

  • No species of animal is naturally obedient as such, whether predatory or not; that is learned behaviour in every species that displays it, including humans. She describes them not as obedient, but as docile and easy to train (more to do with intelligence), neither of which is at odds with being a predator—compare dolphins. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 19 '15 at 0:10
  • @ Janus Bahs Jacquet - I read "reward all who trust them with faithfulness and obedience" more on the lines of trained dogs. I realize that such behaviour is learned and not a natural occurrence which was one of my problems with this article to begin with. Your description is much more fitting/and or understandable for me. – RMT Jul 19 '15 at 14:54
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In addition to Richard's quote from J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them simply describes Thestrals as "black, possessed of the power of invisibility, and considered unlucky by many wizards." Yes, the Ministry at one point classified Thestrals as "dangerous"; however, the imperfections of the Ministry could fill another seven novels! Anyhow, when Umbridge points out the Ministry's classification of Thestrals as "dangerous", Hagrid attempts to clarify:

‘Thestrals aren’ dangerous! All righ’, they might take a bite outta yeh if yeh really annoy them –’

Shows ... signs ... of ... pleasure ... at ... idea ... of ... violence,’ muttered Umbridge, scribbling on her clipboard again.

‘No – come on!’ said Hagrid, looking a little anxious now. ‘I mean, a dog’ll bite if yeh bait it, won’ it – but Thestrals have jus’ got a bad reputation because o’ the death thing – people used ter think they were bad omens, didn’ they? Jus’ didn’ understand, did they?’

Order of the Phoenix - page 396 - Chapter twenty-one, The Eye of the Snake - Bloomsbury

There is nothing I know of in canon that suggests Thestrals are typically mad, bloodthirsty carnivores, who run amok through the forests of Britain, looking for random humans to victimize. J.K. Rowling did not characterize Thestrals as typically dangerous to humans because Thestrals are her creation and she gets to choose their demeanor. However, within those confines, I think it's safe to assume that, like any being, there are circumstances under which a Thestral might get aggressive toward humans. For example, if a human taunted, deliberately injured, or withheld food from a Thestral, the Thestral could conceivably attack. Hagrid says as much in Order of the Phoenix, as noted above. In canon, the Thestrals are depicted as shy, docile, and tame. See the picture below.

Harry and Luna feeding the Thestrals in *Order of the Phoenix*
Harry and Luna Feeding the Thestrals by Rob Bliss, from Harry Potter: The Creature Vault by Jody Revenson

In Order of the Phoenix, in chapter seventeen, Professor Grubbly-Plank does confirm to Harry that Thestrals occasionally eat birds.

Another consideration is the possibility that Thestrals are carrion beasts, who forage instead of hunt.

  • 1
    Or maybe like dolphins who for some unfathomable reason like humans and are known to have saved humans from drowning. – RMT Jul 19 '15 at 13:28
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    I never thought that Thestrals were mad, bloodthirsty carnivores, just carnivores and like most carnivores large enough to eat a human, potentially dangerous for humans. The way Grubblyplank spoke about Thestrals going for small critter sounds more like hunting instead of foraging to me. You could be right about it though, I had not really thought of it before, but it would suit their connection with Death. – RMT Jul 19 '15 at 13:38
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The pottermore article you've referenced describes them as kindly and gentle toward humans, even in their undomesticated state.

Thestrals have a somewhat macabre reputation. In centuries past the sight of them was regarded as unlucky; they have been hunted and ill treated for many years, their true nature (which is kindly and gentle) being widely misunderstood. Thestrals are not marks of ill omen, nor (their spooky appearance notwithstanding) are they in any way threatening to humans, always allowing for the fright that the first sight of them tends to give the observer.

Note that it's perfectly possible for them to be carnivorous (eating small rodents and birds, for example) without being man-eaters:

‘Hmm,’ said Professor Grubbly-Plank, her pipe waggling slightly as she talked. ‘Looks like something’s attacked her. Can’t think what would have done it, though. Thestrals will sometimes go for birds, of course, but Hagrid’s got the Hogwarts Thestrals well-trained not to touch owls.’ - HP: OoTP

And as a matter of fact, they don't appear to be obligate predators at all:

As he crossed the dark yard, the great, skeletal Thestral looked up, rustled its enormous bat-like wings, then resumed its grazing. Harry stopped at the gate into the garden, staring out at its overgrown plants, rubbing his pounding forehead and thinking of Dumbledore. - HP: DH

  • In fact, we don't see a single actual instance of any thestral displaying any kind of predatory behaviour at all throughout the series—if I remember correctly, the incidental remark by Grubbly-Plank is the only indicator anywhere in the books that they are (occasional) predators at all. At all other times, they are only seen and described as either grazing or as scavengers. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 19 '15 at 0:02
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    I remember a scene were Hagrid fed them large bloody chunks of a cow. Being as big as they are and carnivorous, I merely extrapolated from what we know from other carnivorous animals. Even cats who eat mostly rodents and birds are considered predators. – RMT Jul 19 '15 at 13:25
  • I did not remember them grazing, thanks for pointing that out. Do you think that they are omnivores like humans or more like cats who only sometimes eat some grass? – RMT Jul 19 '15 at 13:41
  • @RMT - Grazing would imply omnivorous. – Valorum Jul 19 '15 at 13:44
  • I don't think that thestrals would mostly go for small critters and rodents, since they can be hardly satisfying or filling for them. – RMT Jul 19 '15 at 13:46

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