Leading anthropological theories characterize pastoralism as a relation of protective domination in which humans drive, protect, and feed their livestock and dispose of its life. On the basis of ethnographic fieldwork performed among six different husbandry systems throughout North Asia, we challenge this interpretation by showing that indigenous techniques tend to rely preferentially on animal autonomy and a herd's capacity to feed and protect itself. In defining five modes of herding, in each of which the proportions of human and animal agencies differ, we explore the issue of the stability of the herder-livestock bond in a nomadic context with loose human intervention. Our argument is that the shared nomadic landscape is the common ground that enables a balance between animal autonomy and human-animal engagement in cooperative activities. We propose the notion of intermittent coexistence to describe the particular kind of human-animal relationship built and maintained in North Asian husbandry systems.