In the midday heat of the central Kalahari, Louis Liebenberg found himself taking part in the final days of a tradition dating back 2-million years. The anthropologist was near a place called Lone Tree, tracking a healthy kudu with a band of San Bushmen, when the decision was made to run the animal down.
Initially, Liebenberg was told to go back to camp as chasing game in 40°C plus heat bought with it the dangers of heat stroke. But the academic convinced them to let him tag along — a decision that nearly cost him his life.
For the next couple of hours, Liebenberg watched as the San tracked the animal at a run, as the hunt developed into a tussle between the fleet-footed kudu and the hunters with the advantage of a far more efficient cooling system.
Every time they caught up with the animal, it would run off. But the kudu’s exhaustion and heat stress began to show in its tracks — it was kicking up more sand and its stride was shortening. It tried to seek shade in
One of the hunters, !Nate, got close enough to the kudu to easily kill it with the thrust of a spear. But he gave up on his quarry when he realised that the academic they had reluctantly invited on the hunt was showing signs of heat stroke. Liebenberg had to be helped back to camp.
The anthropologist had become one of the few outsiders to experience what has since been known as a persistence hunt. What he observed convinced him that humans had probably evolved the feat of endurance running over 2-million years to chase down game.
Understanding that humans are running beings allows scientists to reassess the capability of all humans.
Liebenberg asked the San why, after years of extensive study, no one knew about persistence hunts. They replied that no academic had ever bothered to ask. People only wanted to know about their bows and arrows, they said.