Is there evidence that early humans hunted by running in packs over long distances to wear out their food?

Answer by Rory Young:

This is known as persistence hunting and I have done it. The most important evidence that humans persistence hunted in the past is the fact that we can do so today…The ability to long distance persistence hunt or even run really long distance is not a common one. The only African predators that do so (other than man) are African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus or Painted Wolves)

It is almost certain to have been used by early humans and is a theory for our having evolved the ability to run long distance.

I have hunted Impala in this manner some years ago. I noticed that when spooked they would not run far. I had also seen a tame Impala that sometimes walked with us on anti-poaching patrols had absolutely no stamina or endurance. Clearly they have evolved to quickly outrun predators and then recover.

One day I had to kill an impala for the pot and so instead of the usual bullet a game scout and I ran one down. It was not that difficult.

The San people of the Kalahari still persistence hunt to this day. They will often combine endurance running, tiring out an animal, with stalking after leaving it to settle once it is exhausted.

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2 thoughts on “Is there evidence that early humans hunted by running in packs over long distances to wear out their food?

  1. “Bipedalism — It is often stated that human locomotion was an adaptation to running on the open plains, which is illustrated by expressions such as ‘Savannahstan’, ‘endurance running’, ‘born to run’, ‘le singe coureur’ etc., even on the cover of the most influential scientific journals. Verhaegen et al. (2007) disproved in detail all endurance running arguments (Bramble & Lieberman 2004) that our Homo ancestors during most of the Pleistocene were adapted to running over open plains. When we analyse human locomotion into more elementary components, the running ‘explanation’ appears to be a just-so interpre­tation (cherry-picking): Bramble & Lieberman (2004) interpret every locomotor trait in humans as having evolved ‘for’ running, without even considering possible wading or swimming scenarios. A comparative approach shows that, for each trait, semi-aquatic scenarios provide more parsimonious explanations (Table 4 in Verhaegen et al. 2007 google ‘econiche Homo’), and that extant human running is a secondary and conspicuously imperfect adaptation which evolved late in the human past, for instance, we run maximally 32 km/hr over short and 20 km/hr over long distances, about half as fast as typical open plain mammals.” (Hum.Evol.28:237-266, 2013).

    Human Evolution soon publishes in 2 special editions the proceedings of the symposium on human waterside evolution ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 1 (end 2013)
    Introduction – Peter Rhys-Evans
    1. Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes – Stephen Oppenheimer
    2. Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water – JH Langdon
    3. Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective – Stephen Munro
    4. Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism – Algis Kuliukas
    5. The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis – Marc Verhaegen
    6. The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions

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