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ETpro's avatar

Are humans the only predators to hunt for fun?

Asked by ETpro (34211 points ) March 24th, 2011

While predators such as cats will model hunting behavior in play, which can be devastating to baby birds and other easy prey, for the most part, predators kill to survive. They take prey when they need to eat.

Killing for the sheer fun of it works against their long-term survival, so evolution has selected for avoidance of it. Over hunting would soon kill off all the prey in a habitat, leading to a serious risk of starvation. Also, hunting is an inherently risky business. In any kill, there is a small but real risk that the prey might effectively fight back, injuring the predator. Even as powerful as an African lion or Bengal tiger is, a kick from a frightened buffalo’s or deer’s hoof might injure them seriously enough to prevent hunting till they starve. So they avoid unnecessarily risky behavior.

As sentient beings, quite a few humans don’t seem to follow the rules that nature has determined work best for long-term survival. Some of us kill for fun. We not only kill animals for fun, with no intention of eating them, but just as trophies or for bragging rights. We even kill fellow humans for fun. Witness the case of Corporal Jeffrey Morlock and his four fellow soldiers from the US Army’s 5th Stryker Brigade killing Afghan civilians for sport and collecting macabre body parts as souvenirs. Why aren’t we smart enough to behave at least as sensibly as a dumb animal?

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19 Answers

john65pennington's avatar

Simply answer. The good Lord gave humans a brain. Within our brain, the devil lays in wait to make us create an illegal act. He may even push us toward the act.

Animals, generally hunt for self-preservation. If animals are aware of the devil, that would be news to me.

janbb's avatar

We don’t need to hunt for food any more so it has become a recreation. Thinking about it though, I think domestic cats kill mice for fun and dogs chase squirrels. Is that just instinctual behavior or is it similar to our fun?

stump's avatar

I agree with jambb. Cats definitely hunt for fun.

theninth's avatar

Cats hunt for sport. Evidenced by the fact that a well-fed housecat will still go after birds and small rodents. There have been reports of big cats doing the same.

There are also apes that will kill one of their own as a warning, or out of jealousy, or in a rage.

Bottle-nosed dolphins will attack and kill porpoise. Dolphins don’t eat porpoise. They don’t eat the same food porpoise eat.

Also, “dumb” animal has nothing to do with intelligence. It comes from a time when “dumb” meant mute. “Dumb” animals don’t speak like humans.

hug_of_war's avatar

Kiiller whales have been known to kill seals (and flipping them in the air in the process) while being uninterested in them once they are actually dead. So no, this behavior is not restricted to humans, or even domesticated animals (who don’t have to worry much about survival)

jonsblond's avatar

Our dogs are blue heeler/black lab mix (two of the more intelligent breeds of dogs). They attacked a raccoon in our yard once. The raccoon would have been dead if we hadn’t called them off of it. Our dog literally had it in his mouth and was shaking it back and forth.

They also chase birds and other animals that come onto our property here at the farm. They come to us as soon as we call them, but if they were left to chase these animals they would have a lot of fun with them. We’ve had the dogs since they were born. We never trained them to attack other animals. We need to train them not to.

ucme's avatar

I see my opinion has more or less been aired, in the form of @hug_of_war‘s response. My thoughts exactly.

thorninmud's avatar

What humans bring to the hunt that other animals may not is ego. Other animals may get some dopamine release from hunting, and enjoy the adrenaline high, but a lot—not saying “all”—of human hunting is about feeling powerful, self-sufficient and masterful. That’s all about self-image, ego. Other animals are self-aware, but few if any others have made such an institution out of burnishing the self-image.

I never hunted, but I was a fly fisherman for awhile, and I did really enjoy the game of strategy that was involved in entering another creature’s habitat and using pure artifice to get past all of its finely honed defenses. Looking back on that, I see that it was all pure ego. It made me feel like a winner (in a game where the stakes weren’t very high for me, it must be said). Seeing that made me drop fishing for good.

marinelife's avatar

Animals mostly hunt for food (and to practice hunting for food).
So, on the whole, I would say yes, humans are the only ones who hunt for sport, and I wish they wouldn’t.

12Oaks's avatar

One flaw in this theory is we can’t ask animals questions, and they can’t talk, so a lot of what we believe about their behavior is pure speculation, a lot rooted in what someone wants to believe. Not unlike an archeologist speculating on the behavior on certain ancient tribes based on some found remains ala Bones.

YoBob's avatar

Heavens no. Many domestic animals hunt for sport/fun. Ever seen a dog chase a squirrel? Once and awhile they actually catch one and it is rare that the squirrel lives to tell the tale.

Like humans, just because they are domesticated does not mean they don’t still retain their predatory nature. For example, I had a problem last fall with an animal that was getting into my chicken coop and killing my chickens. The reason I knew it was a domestic animal rather than a wild one was because it was not eating the chickens, it was simply killing them for sport and leaving the carcass in my yard. Were it a wild animal the carcasses would have been at least partially eaten, but these showed little in the way of damage other than having their throats torn.

Turns out it was the neighbors cat. Caught him read handed (clawed).

YoBob's avatar

BTW, just as a side note, most hunters I know eat what they harvest. Further, wild game harvested by a hunter is more echo friendly, heather, and more humane than commercially raised meat. The fact that those who hunt also find it enjoyable does not make it any less morally acceptable nor does it make them any more or less noble than any other omnivore that provides for their dietary preferences.

janbb's avatar

@YoBob Although I still find the idea of hunting personally abhorrant, I have come to agree with your position.

SpatzieLover's avatar

We have/had cats that hunt for fun.

We have a cat now, that “hunts” through our picture window for fun. We like to call this event “Kitty TV”. She watches the chipmunk, moles, voles, and songbirds and pretends to get them.

We’ve had cats kill mouse families and line them up outside our home.

We’ve had outside cats (not owned by us, but we do feed them when they shine around) that kill our voles for fun maybe voles are particularly taunting? and leave them lined up in our yard.

No, I do not think humans are the only mammal to kill for a trophy…or just for the “fun” of it.

theninth's avatar

@YoBob did you know that fox have been known to kill chickens and take only the head? Not saying it was a fox in your case, since the actual bandit was caught, but it does actually happen!

YoBob's avatar

@theninth I did not know that. I am told we have foxes that live in a river bed that runs thorough our neighborhood, but I’ve never seen them.

ETpro's avatar

Thanks to all who answered. I have a much clearer understanding of the hunting instinct from the discussions and thoughts you offered.

@john65pennington While I don’t believe in a devil, I certainly do recognize temptation and evil as facts affecting the human mind.

@janbb, @stump, @theninth, @jonsblond & SpatzieLover Maybe domesticated cats and dogs hunt for practice. They are well fed, but never know when their instinctual hunting skills might be needed to keep them alive.

@theninth other great apes do kill their own for social order, as do big cats. Lots of animals that fight for mating rights may kill their own. But nothing like the story linked to in the details of the question.

@hug_of_war & ucme True—and occasionally Sea World trainers too.

@thorninmud Some hunt just to eat. But there is no question the big game hunter obsessed with having a stuffed head of every large animal on Earth on his den wall is in it for ego gratification.

@marinelife I would appreciate your thoughts on what @YoBob had to say about hunters.

@12Oaks I take your point, but since we can observe them in action rather than just via a few pottery shards and bones of kills left by an ancient campfire, I like to think we can discern a whole lot more about animal psychology than an archeologist can see into the behavior of our Neanderthal cousins.

@YoBob A very good point about many hunters. I guess I was thinking of those who clearly kill for thrill and often dispose of the meat so part of the carcase can be turned into a trophy.

12Oaks's avatar

@ETpro Absolutely. No question about that. We still can’t read minds of animals, though, so a lot is based on speculation. (I just like picking on Bones, that show is so funny).

ETpro's avatar

@12Oaks I know what you mean. My wife just loves the archeology programs on the History Channel, and some of them leave the scientist in me just rolling my eyes and biting my tongue. She can’t abide me criticizing this and that ancient astronaut theory. :-)

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