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From Dwarf Fortress Wiki
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This article is about the current version of DF.
Note that some content may still need to be updated.

A bestiary is the set of creatures known and documented by an adventurer or NPC. Whenever you encounter an animal in the wild that's different from everything you've seen so far, its entry gets added to the bestiary. You may browse the bestiary to get (usually summary) information about all the creatures you've seen.

As an adventurer; your starting bestiary is limited to what your parent civilization knows, and if you're an outsider, it's empty. Most NPCs you first encounter have an empty bestiary; that is, they do not know what things are, including cats and dogs, or indeed any common domestic animals. Historical figures may have some knowledge of the animals they have encountered during their worldgen and post-worldgen history, but it will never be as expansive as that of a standard adventurer.