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Culture, Biology, and Dietary Headcanons

mjangelvortex
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Lady of Ships and Birbs
Here we can discuss culture, biology, and dietary headcanons for not just the ponies, but for other various creatures as well.

Rules: This thread is mostly for safe for work headcanons. But lewd ones can be brought up too (as long as they're spoilered).



This thread mostly started due to a bit of a derailing on the Shipping Thread. So with that in mind, I wanted to copy-paste that part of the discussion here.



@Ranch
Do you think ponies eat meat??


@PonyPon
@Ranch
Not regularly.

There might be a social stigma against it, but they certainly shouldn't have any physical issue with it.


@Ranch
@PonyPon

They do obviously consume dairy with 0 issue. But I always felt the few times we saw meat on screen [AJ's ham sandwich for example] was just an animation error or miscommunication.


@Depressed Knoll
@Ranch
Unlikely. At most, it's eggs and milk.



@Ranch
@Depressed Knoll

@PonyPon

Maybe they can digest meat but not in large amounts? Like it won't kill them but if they go to Bubba's Steakhouse and pile up their plates with ribs at the all you can eat buffet they'd get sick.



@Frustration in Excelsis
No. At most, I headcanon pegasi as eating fish every now and again, but they can go without, and most pegasi don't eat seafood. The other pony races I see as strictly herbivorous with the exception of the earth and crystal ponies, who can eat rocks like dragons do — like Igneous Rock was shown doing in the episode where the Apples visit the pies — but even then, it's optional and rare (although I'd say less rare among the crystal ponies).


@Ranch
@Depressed Knoll

@Frustration in Excelsis

I say its possible just not likely that meat is a regular part of their diet. The show goes out of its way these days to give us meat substitutes. Or whatever comes close. Hamurgers are hayburgers for example. There is probably a lot of Vegetable substitutes for meat. A pony wouldn't find this strange or unappealing, it'd likely be natural for them. They can eat meat but choose not to (possible acception being seafood?) and if they do eat meat its likely not every day because of social stigma and maybe also health reasons.

I'm curious. Why do you think pegasi would be more inclined to meat more than the other races?


@Frustration in Excelsis
@Ranch

Not so much for any inherent reason in and of itself as much as… hmm, let's call it a headcanon of convenience.

I picked up the idea somewhere — I can't quite recall where, although probably over time from one or several fanfics — of pegasi being omnivores facilitating their ability to cross stretches of ocean. If this were the case, a pegasus would be able to cross vast stretches of sea by using clouds for rest and water and the sea — at least for a time — as a source of food.

I like this idea on its own merits, so I keep the bit about meat-inclined pegasi because it's required for it to work.


@mjangelvortex
@Frustration in Excelsis
@Frustration in Excelsis
That honestly makes quite a bit of sense. It could also explain why Fluttershy was able to feed fish to some of her animals. Maybe she catches and eats them herself once in a while. I think I might accept some of those headcanons of yours for my own sort of stuff. Mostly the fish and rock stuff at least.

As for me, I'd like to think that most ponies are vegetarians. Ones who are completely vegan are less common but not unheard of.

And there's a very small select few ponies that eat meat for a multitude of reasons. The first reason would be out of necessity due to health problems (like a deficiency of some sort). Some people have had to give up being vegan or vegetarian due to that sort of thing. Some real life horses and deer will occasionally eat meat for the protein or calcium too (or if they're extremely in a desperate need for food).



Another reasons a pony might go omnivore is if they have a spouse or family members that are non-ponies. I like to headcanon that dragons, dragon hybrids, and hippogriffs are omnivores while griffons lean towards having a more carnivorous diet but will occasionally eat plants and plant products (birds of prey and big cats eat meat so it makes sense). They might see their family eating meat and get curious on how it tastes and eventually try it.

So with that being said, meat eating ponies are not part of the norm and I can picture eating meat might even be taboo in certain places of pony society. That being said, ponies do keep non-sapient animals around for eggs, milk, finding truffles (in the case of pigs), and for making pet food (Winona and Opal have got to eat too).

I'm honestly glad this talk of meat came up though. Because I kind of have a bit of a pickle in regards to some OCs, namely Griffon ones. I was thinking of some foods for them to make and I accidentally was also going to have one of them eat beef (but thankfully I remembered that bovines are sapient in the MLP universe before making that mistake).

I kind of want to try going for goats and sheep too but I'm not too sure if I should. There was that one-off gag a while back with the talking sheep but the show seemed to contradict it by later having non-sapient sheep being kept as pets/livestock for the Crystal ponies. The goats Iron Will kept around seemed more like pets than actual assistants. Their eyes and behavior came off as rather animal like but at the same time, Grogar might appear in the show so I'm getting mixed signals on that as well. Same goes for deer. They're shown as pets in the show but the comics flops back and forth on them being non-sapient animals and being sapient and intelligent enough to have their own civilized society.

I want the griffons I have to have some hooved animals to eat. Not just for variety's sake for what I can have them eat. But also because I had the idea of ponies possibly being grossed out or creeped out at the idea of this sort of thing. So perhaps that oddity due to their differences in their diets might cause some griffons to be misunderstood by some ponies at first, before the griffons just reassure the ponies that they don't eat ponies and any rumors of that sort of thing is an Old Mare's Tale.

For now I'm thinking pigs and giraffes are okay. And antelope, sheep, and goats are maybes for me for now. But I wouldn't mind a second opinion or two on this.



@LightningBolt
@mjangelvortex
Griffons would certainly be carnivores, being hybrids of two of them already. Dragons can be whatever they want to be. No one mentioned them, but Hippogriffs could go both ways, same for Sirens. Seaponies or Sea Ponies are probably herbivores too.


@mjangelvortex
@LightningBolt
Can't believe I forgot the undersea creatures. Given those fangs, I can see sirens being omnivores or carnivores. Seaponies being herbivores makes sense too. So I agree with you on those points.

And I think we only had one Kelpie in the comics but given the folklore surrounding them, I think they'd likely either be carnivores or omnivores.


@LightningBolt
@mjangelvortex
Seaponies and Sirens have very distant ancestry to each other, and by extension, land ponies. While most Seaponies lived in oceans full of plant life, they were able to thrive and build huge populations. However, some Seaponies lived in barren underwater wastelands, and the only sources of food were fish and other sea creatures, so over thousands of years, those few Seaponies that could manage to survive off meat evolved and adapted to that way of life exclusively, holding a vestigial ability to still digest plants in critical times. They were also far less numerous in nature compared to their herbivorous Seapony cousins, and their rarity and the scarceness lead to them gaining longer lives from needing to so they could find mates.

Also magic and shit I haven't weaved in there yet, but yeah. Headcanons on aquatic ponies that I like way too much! Also there's unicorn Seaponies and Sirens but idk if they'd have Pegasus equivalents as, water, and Sirens can float anyway.


@mjangelvortex
@LightningBolt
For Pegasus equivalents to Sirens and Seaponies I do have two different ideas. For the Seaponies, there are some Hippocampus artwork and statues that gives them wings or fin like wings.

So perhaps, maybe their Pegasus equivalent can breach from the water and glide (kind of like how flying fish do).

As for a possible Pegasus counterpart to Sirens, there's the Ceffyl Dŵr. They're water horses capable of flight and shape shifting (like the sirens) and they can also turn into mist.


@Frustration in Excelsis
@mjangelvortex

Yeah, I heard about livestock and deer eating meat. Biologically, it makes sense that they're able to metabolize it — it's a lot easier to make meat out of more meat than it is to make meat out of plant matter. The issue with eating plants is that they tend to be very fibrous or waxy, and depending on the situation reinforced with lignin or silicate crystals. Cellulose, especially, takes a lot to digest. That's why most herbivorous mammals have huge grinding molars and long, complex guts, and that's also why cows chew their cud — it's all about extending the digestion system to break down all that fiber. Birds achieve the same goal with enlarged crops where they grind food with swallowed stones before passing to the stomach, and termites rely on a truly potent intestinal flora.

The difficulty with meat, by contrast, is mostly down to chasing down and subduing ornery animals that object to being eaten. Once it's past the mouth it's a lot easier to process.

Anyway, in regards to MLP: dragons I tend to see as omnivorous in the sense that they need a balance of meat and gems, and possibly other stony material. They can also eat fruit and processed sugars fine, although they can go without, but more fibrous stuff gives them trouble. And also gas. In regards to potential next gens… hmm. I could see an earth dracony having the same overall diet as their dragon parent (because, as I said, I see earth ponies as partially lithivorous in addition to being herbivorous), with a greater tolerance for plant matter. Unicorn and pegasus draconies might have more varied or complex diets. Perhaps they might have issues with finding proper food because they're a mix of species with such different diets and feeding strategies — that's not an issue I see raised in next gens with draconies, but it seems like an interesting one to me.

As for non-sapient ungulates to serve as food for predators… well, all equines and bovines seen so far have been sapient, so that's two groups I'd stay away from on principle. In the unlikely situation that we'd see, oh, quaggas or onagers or wisents or gaurs, they'd almost certainly be sapient. Maybe deer? That one comic arc had them as sapient, but both the show and the Ponies of Dark Water arc treated them as animals, so that's… weird. Giraffes do sound safer, and I suppose also okapis. Maybe tapirs?

Or else, there are these creatures called musk deer and chevrotains. The latter especially are both small — around cat sized — and physically very similar to the earliest ruminant ungulates, or at least more similar than their various bigger and more specialized relatives. I could see them being the setting's monkey equivalent, insofar as being seen by the sapient ungulates as a smaller, intelligent but not sapient and alike but unlike version of themselves, like we see other primates. They'd be animals, so theoretically okay to eat, but other ungulates might find it unnerving, like some people find eating monkeys and apes unnerving.

On this general subject, does anyone else have strong opinions on how changelings and changeponies feed? I have a fairly complex headcanon on the subject to try and reconcile with what's been seen on the show, but I'd like to hear what everyone else thinks. Also, I really don't want to drag this post on too much.


@LightningBolt
@mjangelvortex
I like the sound of that, I did a report on flying fish in school so I always found them cool. Evolutionary advantages to that would probably be in eating bugs that fly across the surface of the water, which isn't a bad skill to have. Of course in fictionland it's just cool, but I like things to exist with reasons beyond just "it looks cool" hence my reasoning for trying to make sense of Sirens in FiM and making believable diets for all the main species.

@Frustration in Excelsis
Maybe we should make a 'Dietary headcanons' thread? :P

I'd be up for it, but to answer your question, I haven't thought of anything specific for Changeling diets, but I have theorized them rarely doing what Chrysalis did, but more so just living the lives as ponies or whatever and making friends with others to channel love that way, often playing roles as cupids to pair two ponies up for that sweet sweet delicious love. However they rarely get themselves involved in pairings as lovey dovey emotions tend to fuck with shapeshifting and risk blowing their disguises. Some ponies don't care of course, but others are deathly afraid, mostly because of Chrysalis's army.


@LightningBolt
@Frustration in Excelsis
I could nerd out about my stupidly specific species headcanons for hours. (And that's not even getting into my undead headcanons. (oh lord I need to finish those vectors)

The only reason I'm not recommending any of the myrid of headcanon threads that already exist is that those tend to be focused on canon characters and lore, while I'm more into extended universe and species lore. History, legacy, future, past. I like to play with the possibility of how things work.


@mjangelvortex
@LightningBolt
I'm glad I could help.

They might also catch seabirds like what some Orcas do. They will sometimes catch them when they get close to the water to catch fish. (They even have been seen setting bait up for the birds by making their own chum by leaving behind chewed up pieces of fish.)

And I don't blame you. I like adding a bit of realism in fiction too sometimes. It helps give these worlds a bit more weight and familiarity there.

@Frustration in Excelsis
The Musk Deer and Chevrotains sound like perfect animals for the carnivores to eat to me. Now that you brought those two up, perhaps Dik-diks would be good too. Thank you for your suggestions.

As for you question on Changelings, we have seen them eat actual food now that they've gone through their metamorphosis. But I have a few ideas that I don't mind sharing with you.

@LightningBolt
A dietary headcanons thread sounds like a perfect idea to me. Maybe we can even copy paste our comments from here over to there.

EDIT: Maybe call it "biology and dietary headcanons"?




And that's how Equestria this thread was made! If you made it this far, congrats! Have a pony and a cookie.

Anyone can feel free to chip in and add their ideas. Have fun! :D
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Ponies can eat whatever they want, but eating meat is taboo because they have this whole friendship thing they like to stick to and pretty much everything is sapient, even the "lesser" creatures, like the ones Fluttershy tends to. So, they don't do it.
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For the biology/evolutionary stuff, Bat Ponies are a subrace of Pegasi. While known for being Luna's guards for hundreds/thousands of years, they can also be regular ponies too, just that the genes necessary for getting their unique wings, fangs, pupils, and fluff are recessive and rarely pop up. They occur more commonly in mixed race foals for whatever reason, but there's no guaranteed way to have bat Pony babies unless two bat ponies mate, which isn't common in most places. For all intents and purposes, their passive magic and skills are the same to those as Pegasi, just with added night vision and echolocation. Bat Ponies can also be 'Earth Ponies' or 'Unicorns' in even rarer situations.
Ranch
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Yeah that is a big issue with the idea of meat eating ponies. Almost everything a human consideres a source of protein is sapient in pony world. Save chickens and pigs…I mean we've never seen one talk soooo far.

What about sheep? Have we seen talking sheep? (they are sapient in my headcanon and while humble, are pretty rich because of the fabric industry)
mjangelvortex
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I didn't get to answer Frustration In Excelsis' Changeling question earlier, so I figure I might as well answer here. Since the reformed Changelings have been seen eating actual food, I like to headcanon that they're omnivores but they have an affinity for bugs and nectar. And like before, they can still feed off of love but in a more healthy manner since they went through their metamorphosis and are sharing the love.

Before the metamorphosis, any good-hearted Changelings could do what Lightning Bolt mentioned earlier. They play matchmaker whilst in disguise and then they feed off the love. I also had the idea of the more daring Changelings like Kevin and Thorax would open up and reveal themselves to the ones they trust and perhaps they ask if they could feed off their love. If the pony (or other creature) consents, then the Changeling feeds. If not, they probably wait and try again with someone else.

Neutral Changelings could probably impersonate a famous celebrity and go on "tours" and feed off their fans love and leave before any suspicions arise.

Evil Changelings act like Chrysalis and classical Changelings from folklore. They'll either:
a) Impersonate your romantic partner
b) Impersonate your child (usually younger changelings can do this)
All the while the originals are kidnapped some where.

EDIT: I also recall someone a while back mentioning that feelings of lust are like junk food to a Changeling. They can feed off of it but it's not as good and nutritious as love.

Speaking of bugs and nectar, I picture Bat Ponies loving to eat those as well. But they also like eating fruit and possibly meat as well.
Background Pony #D451
@LightningBolt
For the biology/evolutionary stuff, Bat Ponies are a subrace of Pegasi. While known for being Luna's guards for hundreds/thousands of years, they can also be regular ponies too, just that the genes necessary for getting their unique wings, fangs, pupils, and fluff are recessive and rarely pop up. They occur more commonly in mixed race foals for whatever reason, but there's no guaranteed way to have bat Pony babies unless two bat ponies mate, which isn't common in most places.
Interesting… so, in that case, most pegasi would have genes for bat pony traits, just not as active parts of their genetic material? Because if that's the case, it might actually explain what happened to Fluttershy in "Bats!". Specifically, Twilight's spell might have accidentally affected/activated dormant genes that already existed in Fluttershy, resulting in her bat transformation.
mjangelvortex
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@Ranch
@LightningBolt
There was a sapient sheep for a one-off gag way back in Sisterhooves Social. But The Crystal Empire seemed to retcon that. I'd like to think that sheep and goats aren't sapient based on what we've seen there.
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On the whole "eating meat" thing, IIRC horses can eat it just fine, but due to being obligate herbivores they lack the metabolism to gain effective nutrition from it. So it's basically junk food for them.

On top of that there's been records of horses hunting, killing and eating smaller animals, so yeah it's not impossible and has happened.
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Worldbuilding Addict
Anyway, regarding my view on changeling feeding:

I don't think they feed on love, as such, or at least they don't digest/metabolize it in any real sense. I take this view mostly because otherwise, changeling society becomes a perpetual motion machine of sorts, a closed loop. If the changelings are generating love to sustain each other, but the energy they use for everything — magic, living, and making more love — is the love they take in from their fellows, where does the energy come from? I'm aware MLP is a very high-magic setting and all, but out of personal preference I prefer to avoid breaking the law of conservation of energy if I can.

So the way I see it, changelings use love like most life uses water. When something drinks water, most of it isn't metabolized — some is, water molecules are used up in a number of biological processes, but a great deal of it is used simply to provide an environment where life can occur. Organic life can be thought of as a very complex system of chemical reactions in a slightly acidic water-based solution. The various molecules and processes of life need to have a watery environment to move around and interact properly, and if no water is present or too much is lost, the lifeform desiccates and dies. All organisms have ways of keeping water in, but no system is perfect and some needs to be taken in from time to time to top off the tanks, so to speak.

Similar thing with changelings and love. They don't digest it, but need to be "saturated" with love energy for their biology to work. I assume that the reason they're like this is because the biological advantage of having access to abilities related to love magic is worth the cost (perhaps that's what fuels their shapeshifting?) Of course, some leaks out from time to time, and some is used in various processes, so intake of fresh love is always needed. The actual energy to generate love from each other comes from eating physical food.

As for food, they're omnivores tending to carnivory — sort of the opposite of us. Whereas a human can subsist on an all-vegetable-and-dairy diet more easily than on an all-meat-and-dairy diet, for the 'lings it's the other way around.

In regards to specific foods, they like eggs and various sorts of arthropods the best.



@LightningBolt

Regarding the fangs, I don't think the ones in "Luna Eclipsed" had any, actually.

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Relatably, my undead pony drabblings that a wrote a few months ago in a pastebin, but I'll copypaste it in here for readability too.

The three main races of pony have three distinct 'default' undead states. Earth ponies become zombies, pegasi become vampires, and unicorns become ghosts. Bat Ponies are a subrace of pegasi and thus become vampires too. These states are achieved either via a curse to a mortal, self-inflicted, second or third party, or a more natural approach when dark magic invades a corpse(?) Cursed and natural undead, while being similar in appearance, have slightly different traits to them. Cursed undead cannot turn others into undeads, and they retain the same appearance and memories as they were when alive. Natural undead can turn others into undeads, usually via biting, and their appearance and memories vary. Natural undead may also lack the proper organs and thus natural zombies can become braindead and crave what they lost. Other races can turn into other undeads that are not their usual state via advanced magic. It's worth noting that Alicorns, Changelings, and Sirens, even if the latter two are disguised as ponies, cannot be turned into undeads naturally by any means, curses still work. An Alicorn's natural undead state has yet to be observed.

Cursed Zombies start out looking indistinguishable from normal ponies, the only difference at first is the lack of a pulse. Over time, their bodies start to get weaker as their lack of ability to heal naturally or regenerate at all causes them to slowly deteriorate and fall apart. As they are already dead, they can stay moving until they no longer are capable of doing so by any means. Passive earth pony magic keeps them together as long as possible. They can produce a near-endless amount of blood and are famous for this trait. The blood can sometimes be different colors other than red in some circumstances. They sometimes have a lingering scent of rotting flesh to them, but it's not as strong as you'd think. Their organs, aside from heart, still work to some extent, but are a lot slower and generally have to be forced, they can also be taken out and out back in the body at will. Water is not friendly to zombies, as it tends to flood their inside and slow them down. Salt water is even worse and can cause them to deteriorate faster. Natural zombies start out deteriorated and may lack organs.

Cursed Vampires lose all ability to produce body heat, so they grow extra fur on their ears, legs, and chest to compensate. They grow fangs if they had none before, and grow longer fangs if they already had them. They become weaker in the sun, and it can cause permanent damage to them if they stay in it too long. Artificial light does not have the same effect. They require blood to keep moving, regular food and liquids will not achieve anything. Zombie blood is acceptable. They can produce a numbing venom from their fangs if they need to. They no longer age and become essentially immortal, provided they stay away from sunlight and fire for the rest of eternity. They can temporarily transform into a bat if the conditions are right and they have enough energy. Bat Pony vampires have the same traits as Pegasus vampires, just with additional echolocation and less effort needed to become a full bat. Natural vampires are less emotional and caring.

Cursed Ghosts are more like magical wisps than ghosts, they lack a physical body and their looks and power depend entirely on how powerful they were as a mortal. Stronger unicorns can hold a stronger form and resist their essence being scattered. Weaker unicorns are more like small clouds and can more easily fade away from a small gust of wind. Because they have an incorporeal body, they are able to fit through any space they can, and as they retain unicorn magic, they can teleport through objects with ease. If they somehow lose parts of themselves, they can usually bring them all back together, but if they are unable, they may fade away into the air, magic is what keeps this from happening usually. Natural ghosts are rarely ever anything but weak wisps, unless they were especially powerful when alive.

Changelings and Sirens can be cursed into any of these undeads if they were masquerading as a pony at the time, depending on what race they happened to be.


I wanna do more with this, and I have already done some of this stuff with zombies, but I need to vector vampires and ghosts still.

@Frustration in Excelsis
I like!
mjangelvortex
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Lady of Ships and Birbs
@Frustration in Excelsis
I actually like the comparison you made with love being kind of like water to them.

@LightningBolt
These sound really cool. If you ever vector these, they would be really neat for Halloween posts once autumn rolls along.

The both of you put a lot of thought into your headcanons. I like them a lot.
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