Hunting game for food, clothing and shelter is a big part of the story of the human race. It predates the human civilization we know today in many ways. There are many discoveries that are being made that confirm that notion. An Asian fossilized spearhead discovered recently was dated at over 16,000 years old, for example. There is also evidence that we used larger animals for food almost two million years ago.
The earliest form of hunting involved, as far as the experts can tell, involved weapons like spears or bow and arrows shot from a distance. Believe it or not, our ancestors caught their food using the same method we use to catch the bus to work when we’re late. We ran after it. Before he learned to use long range weapons, early man had no other way of catching his dinner than being persistent and wearing it down over a long trek, sometimes even in the oppressive midday heat.
Some early hunters would chase antelope over 20 miles in heat over 100 degrees. Persistence hunting would be the order of the day. African hunters would chase a Kudu, which is an early version of the antelope, by startling the animal so it ran away. They would chase the beast at a fast pace, and, while the faster Kudu would always be further ahead, the hunters would catch up to it when it took time to rest in the shade. The hunter would eventually finish the animal off with a spear, but not until he was at close range. This type of hunting is still practised in Southern Africa.
With changes in human society, hunting evolved. As we began to grow our own food and keep animals, hunting became a specialized task. Not just the traditional masculine endeavour anymore, hunting became a specific duty with tradesmen acquiring precise training. The other trend was hunting becoming the sport and leisure domain of the upper classes. It was here that the English word ‘game’ became common.
Hunting has had other effects on our modern society as well. Various animals have been used to aid the hunter, but none has become as important to us as the dog. The use of the ancestors of the wolf to retrieve prey and be our loyal companions has set the dog apart. Its domestication, which took thousands of years, is considered a remarkable accomplishment. The tie between hunting man and dog goes so far back that the very word for hunting in ancient Greek is derived from the word dog.
Perhaps the most famous type of hunting is the safari, which was popularized by the American author Ernest Hemingway. The word itself is from the Swahili, meaning long journey, and the most common type of safari occurs in Africa. It was frequently several days or weeks of camping while stalking or hunting big game, but in a more modern sense, it also encompassed trips through African national parks to hunt or watch the big game.
Unlike their predecessors who ran their prey down years before, the modern African hunter often acquires a special licence and enlists the aid of local professionals. There is even a type of modern safari where no animals are killed. The photo-safari is exactly what its name implies and a Polish photographer first used the term ‘bloodless hunt’.