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I am a UK livestock farmer, now aging. When I was fitter in my 50’s it would take me about 15 minutes to run a young cow down till she slowed for a rest
I have seen the San bushmen of the Kalahari run down an animal over a long distance on Youtube. Are you suggesting the footage is fabricated? They were filmed by David Attenborough no less. Is he in on the plot?
Hunting the animals in their prime may have actually been an advantage. Other predators chase the old and young because they are slower in a sprint but a primary component to persistence hunting is heat. The larger animals in their prime may have been easier to catch persistent hunting if they overheat faster.
Early humans might have had a slight advantage over other animals in certain conditions when running.
Early humans had a huge advantage over other animals in all conditions with intelligence. That probably points to hunting via ambush, chasing off cliffs, using fire (perhaps later) etc.
I think a lot of people who are attached to persistence hunting are either runners (hey, I am too) or just like the idea that we can do something physical better than other animals.
I wondered about this so looked up Timothy F. Kirn’s qualifications.
He apparently has NO tertiary qualifications in anything (or not that he admits to), but was a sub-editor of a Medical Journal.
“He apparently has NO tertiary qualifications…”
What, exactly, is a “tertiary” qualification, as opposed to, say, a primary qualification or just a plain old “qualification”?
Not commenting on whether he’s right or not, but ‘tertiary’ means university/college. Primary means primary school (I think this is called ‘elementary school’ in the US), secondary = high school, tertiary = post-high school. A quick google suggests tertiary education might be called ‘higher education’ in the US??
But anyway yeah he’s saying the guy doesn’t have a degree. But he checked the writer – who is a communications person – not the scientists involved, so it’s not really relevant.
Timothy Kirn is a writer / communications professional. It doesn’t matter if he has a relevant degree, he’s reporting on research, not doing the research himself.
He’s citing research from Henry Bunn, a paleoanthropologist, and Travis Pickering, who both do have tertiary qualifications. Their article on this is in a peer-reviewed journal: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047248407001327
Getty Images has two video clips from an 8 hour hunt of a Kudu in the Kalahari where the antelope was chased to exhaustion and then speared as described by in a previous comment. I’ve seen another picture of this type of hunt with a different antelope standing in exhaustion unable to run any further. Pretty sure it was in National Geographic. Link: https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/video/kudu-antelope-collapses-from-exhaustion-as-san-stock-video-footage/1B05614_0046?uiloc=thumbnail_same_series_adp And I found an 7 minute video of what is likely the source of the Getty clips on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=826HMLoiE_o It was a BBC film about the San Bushmen of the Kalahari and specifically about persistence hunting…
Dr Bunn had evidently never actually seen an animal hunted in Africa. They don’t run over the horizon, they run a short distance until they feel safe. Then they stop and look back. As the pursuer nears, they begin running again. As any runner will tell you, this constant changing of pace will exhaust the prey far faster than the hunter.
Furthermore, the tracking skills I’ve seen demonstrated by Khoi San in Southern Africa, one of the modern groups who do, in fact, still employ this technique, are nothing short of phenomenal. And Northern Namibia and Botswana, their territories, are by no means cool.
Dr Bunn had evidently never actually seen an animal hunted in Africa. Thay don’t run over the horizon, they run a short distance until they feel safe. The they stop and look back. As the pursuer nears, they begin running again. As any runner will tell you, this constant changing of pace will exhaust the prey far faster than the hunter.
Can’t recall exactly but I saw a documentary in wlhich a film crew followed a hunter in the Kalahari who did in fact run down some kind of antelope. In the end it was lying on the ground, exhausted; he apologized to it and then killed it. Of course it ran out of sight repeatedly, but he was able to track it on hard ground — not only is it easyi to guess where an animal will go, but there are countlesss documented cases of people, from native Americans to modern expert trackers, following what seems to you and me like invisible traces. I have personally been able to follow deer scent a short distance under good conditions.
The Khoisan people of the Kalahari do chase down their prey normally antelope, however this normally follows after they have shot the animal with a poisoned arrow. They are one of the few stone age people’s left in the would and are more master trackers than persistence hunters. The animal doesn’t become exhausted from running the poison just takes a while to take effect.
I saw the same. And the most common sense assumption is that early humans hunted animals any way they possibly could. When ambush made sense, presumably that is what they did. If persistence hunting was possible and energetically advantageous, then why not. The human potential for distance running is without a doubt the greatest among mammals. A horse can beat a good runner over 22 miles, sure. But what about over 100? Or 150? I’d put my money on the ultra-marathon runner or a Tarahumara runner over the horse at very long distances. Whether persistence running was common is certainly a good question. What isn’t in doubt, however, is that humans are built to cover great distances at a slow speed. Whatever the precise evolutionary history of the many traits that allow for this, it is simply the case that we were born to run and we do it exceedingly well.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Using their smarts they tried to deliver a mortal strike to an animal but with unsophisticated weapons rarely being able to kill immediately, they then followed the wounded animal until it fell. We haven’t changed and still prefer to always take the easiest way.
Horses had been breed by humans for endurance. They are the absolute worst animal to test for this hypothesis.
Horses were the oil industry of pre industrial civilization. They had to endure long distances, move armies and cargo. The weak one died.The strong ones were breed.
That’s why horses are not at all a model for an antelope to be hunted by exhaustion.
Horses sweat, antelope and other prey animals don’t, so the horse/human race proves nothing. Seems more likely that early humans first injured animals along known trails, then running an injured animal to exhaustion. Don’t underestimate the tracking skills of indigenous peoples either…rocks moved, grass blades out of place, perhaps even scent and sound. Many wilderness backpackers, self incuded, have experienced a state of heightened senses after a time on the trail alone and away from the sense-numbing cacophony of modern civilization.
but lions dont sweat so using them as an example doesn’t work.
from the write up I don’t see how persistence hunting is a myth
Meh. Your headline and intro oversell your evidence. You’ve certainly not established that persistence hunting is a myth — merely that it has evidence against it as well as for it. You’ve made assumptions about the way persistence hunting works, which may not be valid. You’ve made assumptions about what East Africa looked like 400,000 years ago, which may not be correct. You’ve drawn a lot of conclusions from one pile of bones, aided by supposition of the parallels between human and big cat hunting. It’s enough to argue that the case is far from closed, and you could reasonably say you have given reason to be skeptical of the hypothesis. But you are a long way from being able to conclude you’ve shown it’s a myth.
This is the kind of breathless overselling that ruins the reputation of science journalists.
Well put. Am I more skeptical now than I was after reading Christopher McDougall’s book, ‘Born To Run’ (a great read, btw; changed my whole approach to running…and walking for that matter)? Yes. Is persistence hunting demonstrably debunked here? No.
I concur. I especially disagree that persistence hunters would choose to hunt the weak or old. A muscled prey in its prime might well reach heat exhaustion quicker…and a smart hunter employing this tactic would seek the best possible reward/effort ratio. This is supposition on my part, and so too is that of the researcher.
Very interesting perspective and well written
Paleolithic hunters, were probably even more effective gathers than they ever were hunters and while small game is evasive and hard to catch big game is dangerous unless it can put into a situation where man has the advantage. I would suggest that man chased only wounded game and was an opportunist in his hunting endeavors. At most they used a stone tipped spear which was more of a defensive weapon than an offensive weapon usable and only at very short range resulting in close contact with the prey. They would have been more successful if they funneled prey by erecting obstacles to their escape that directed them into a location where a hunter armed with a spear could effectively take down the animal at very short range with minimal risk to himself. Man would have been inclined to use traps and dead falls more often because they didn’t require his attention and multiple traps could be used at once more effectively than a single hunter at any one location.
Primitive humans were probably a lot smarter than we give them credit for. It would be ludicrous to expect them to waste any more energy than they had to when obtaining their food. The calorie math of running after big game just doesn’t make sense. Ambush hunting makes sense. Driving prey into rivers where they can be more easily slaughtered makes sense (in fact, I know someone who hunts feral pigs that way). Like you said – trapping – makes sense. I also question whether their tracking skills were as bad as the Henry Bunn assumes. A child, brought up in a primitive environment, would have no trouble tracking in soft earth. By the time that child reached maturity, following trails on harder substrates would be second nature. While this would equip them with the skills to follow their quarry, it would also allow them to know where they were going to be. Animals are like any modern human who follows habituated routes to work, the supermarket, etc. Game uses the same trails over and over again. Knowing that, it’s not that much of a leap to expect that humans could set up shop and meet them when they came sauntering back.