A while ago I watched a David Attenborough documentary that showed a bushman man running a Kudu to death. It was pretty amazing stuff – by persistently chasing the kudu through the heat of the day he was able to exhaust it to the point of collapse.
I was very impressed (and sorry for the Kudu) but assumed that this was highly unusual.
It turns out that in ancient history persistence hunting (as it is known) was actually very common. In fact some anthropologists believe humans hunted in this way before they had tools such as spears and bows.
Our bodies are so well adapted to endurance running (especially in hot conditions where prey easily overheat) that these anthropologists believe persistence hunting was an evolutionary force in humans. It seems we are specifically evolved to be able to run a large antelope into heat exhaustion.
Some examples (many more in the other articles):
- Running on two legs is slower in a sprint, but more efficient over long distances
- Humans have toes that are far shorter than all other primates. This has been shown to be a big advantage – but only when running over distance
- Hairless bodies and our all over sweating allows running in the heat. Antelope aren’t nearly as efficient at getting rid of heat – they must stop to pant
Interesting stuff. Here is another short article on the subject.