“Hunting or Fleeing”

That was the heading on a side-bar in an archaeogenetics book I’m reading. The question concerned modern humans’ adaptations that enabled us to stand upright and walk preferentially on our hind legs. Me being me, and having read about hunting big game, my thought was “the difference is . . . 2.3 seconds. Or less, if it is a Cape Buffalo.”

I AM smiling. Creative Commons Fair Use. Original source: https://cannundrum.blogspot.com/2014/07/cape-buffalo.html

Even the dedicated plant eaters on the African continent will track you down and turn you into pulp if you earn their ire. The Cape Buffalo . . . was born with an attitude that only gets worse as they age. Cape Buffalo spend their free time premeditating murder, or at least mayhem. Slow hunters? “Target acquired, gore, hook, and trample at will.” It would not surprise me at all if some naturalist discovers a secret Cape Buffalo score-board, where the buffalo list the number of humans et al that they’ve removed from the gene pool.

I suspect ancestral humans spent a goodly amount of their days avoiding wildlife as well as stalking and killing it. It is only in very recent history, in a few specialized environments, that humans have become the only apex predator. I’ve been out in the not-so-wilds of the US and have been stalked. Once it was by a young bobcat. Once . . . I don’t know, but I didn’t linger, either. Mountain Lions were not supposed to be in that area. Alas, mountain lions don’t read press releases or Fish and Wildlife monthly bulletins. I’ve been chased by a pack of feral dogs once, and I can attest that I was no longer at the top of that food chain. (I also discovered I could climb a cliff like a pro when truly inspired. I’d just as soon avoid that inspiration, thankyouverymuch!)

Heck, when I was in grade school and on a Civil War battlefields trip with my parents and Sib, we found a large warning at Manassas/ Bull Run Battlefield. A doe had treed a hunter. She proved to be rabid (!) and the park rangers were telling everyone to stay the heck away from the deer, and to back away slowly, then quickly, if we saw one by daylight. Yes, Faleen, Bambi’s lady friend, had tried to kill a hunter.

The difference between hunting and fleeing? A couple of seconds, especially if the bow-string snaps, or the spear just makes the critter angry. Imagine our intrepid paleohunters sneaking up on a Large Beast. One eases to his feet, aims, and throws.

Thunk. “Roooaaaarrrrr!” Thud, thud, THUD!

“Um, Thag, I think you missed the kill spot.”


10 thoughts on ““Hunting or Fleeing”

  1. Robert Ruark, one of the famous African hunters, described Cape Buffalo:

    “They look at you like you owe them money.”

    Cape Buffalo Banking: “Cheat the buff and get the horns.”

  2. Not just that Far Side, but the paleontologists voting to rename the stegosaurus’ tail as the “Thagomizer.”

    I’ve been in a couple places where all wildlife sounds stopped and remained silent. Time To Go. Retraced my steps and got out as fast as I could without making a lot of noise or abrupt motions. Didn’t want to attract anything’s attention at dusk.

  3. Feel like an apex predator? Cross a field holding a ‘domestic’ bull. Ferdinand he isn’t!

  4. I just “love” the people who claim that humans aren’t the chosen prey of “large predator”.

    Maybe humans aren’t the first choice of “large predator” but that doesn’t mean that “large predator” won’t kill/eat humans.

    It’s “really fun” when the people are talking about extinct “large predator”. IE No records exist to say that they did or did not hunt humans.

    Of course, any large animal (predator or not) can be dangerous to humans in the “right” situations.

  5. Sniff… Obviously those folks haven’t met longhorns up close and personal either… In Vietnam the Water Buffalos were the same way. The Vietnamese used them as ‘guard dogs’… sigh…

  6. Does not have to be large either. Ask any landscaper who has dealt with swans, geese, and homicidal chickens. And please don’t get me started on alpha mares defending their territory. My brother still has nightmares after 40 years of Twilight hunting him in the pasture.

    • The local pediatricians occasionally have to treat toddlers with goose bites. The kids got too close to the Canada geese at the big park/pond near the science museum, and . . .

      • Goose bites? They should count themselves lucky — Canada geese, like swans, have fairly solid, extremely powerful wings and can use them for others things besides flying. Rumor has it that a solid hit from an angry Mute Swan’s wing can break a grown man’s arm. On a small child, it could well be lethal.

        As for large dangerous animals of the herbivorous persuasion — the mammal that kills the most humans annually in Africa is one such. Nope, not the water buffalo. It’s the hippopotamus.

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