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Hunting Dogs

21 September 2016

Dogs are an extremely useful as hunting companions of humans. They seem to be the difference between getting food on the plate and going empty (making do with berries and roots). I've seen it argued dogs are more valuable as a hunting tool than the bow and arrow – or certainly a modern equivalent. When you watch one of those TV mock-ups that place modern people in a wild environment and leave them to see how they procure food for the pot they never seem to use dogs – which is a false premise as dogs can hunt out game a darn sight quicker than a human, and follow it by tracing its scent (although humans can be good at tracking as well, especially a wounded animal). Once the prey has broken cover the bow and arrow comes into its own. This is an arguable point of course but the debate has come up at www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/09/prehistoric-japanese-graves-provide-best… … and the research of one scientist into the role of dogs in the past. She makes the point a dog can sniff out a wild pig in next to no time, which turns out to be pertinent on Honshu Island in Japan where Jomon people appear to have hunted wild boar with dogs in what was thick forest. They used dogs as early as 9000 years ago and they buried their favourites with grave goods such as shell bracelets and deer antlers. This veneration of the hunting dog came to an end around 2500 years ago, with the introduction of agriculture (and presumably the arrival of newcomers from Korea or China). Dogs quickly became just another food resource and their bones were casually cast aside. The article is in September's Antiquity (2016) journal and also makes the point dogs were useful in other ways, warning sleeping people of the approach of other wild animals or humans. They still provide this service to humans and are rewarded with a tin of dog food rather than the bones and offal of hunted animals.

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