The Human Body Is Built for Distance

Humans are built to run down prey over distance-

Most predators the size of humans are faster, so are the prey. This is not true over long distance, however. Primitive human hunters may well have simply run their prey to exhaustion. This is the idea in the article below.

The Human Body Is Built for Distance. By Tara Parker-Poper. New York Times.

I read this article about the same time I read about the crafty Montana ATV hunter getting his wolf. I immediately knew what I really didn’t like about his wolf hunt. His ATV! How we have fallen as hunters!

Because I’m 64, I do not jog anymore, but I walk and/or hike every day. After I read this and the ATV article, I went out, warmed up well and jogged a mile. I felt very good and not sore the next day.

As a people, too many of us need to get off our wheels and onto our feet.






  1. Jeff Avatar

    Sounds like a few of my elk hunts

  2. Dusty Roads Avatar
    Dusty Roads


    The article about the wolf hunter on the ATV was not posted on this blog. Here’s the URL for those interested in that:

    What I find unfortunate about hunters today is the lack of respect for wildlife/prey. Not many of us, Americans, NEED to hunt and I suppose that is why hunting is considered a “sport” these days. Sports don’t require much except and interest in whatever activity is being performed. Respect and fairness certainly don’t seem to be a part of the activity or the attitude anymore, especially when you only have to have a TV or an ATV to fulfill the “interest” part anymore. Must be one of the prime causes for obesity and rivalry to the extremes we see of late.

    One thing I learned from my Indian (Native American) friends is that respect matters, disrespect is shameful. I don’t see any respect on the part of the hunter in the story about the guy with the ATV and high powered rifle, all he wanted was to kill an animal for which he has little understanding or respect. Perhaps if he had to actually track the wolf on foot and armed with a smaller gauge rifle he would have been confronted with his purpose and lack of respect along the way.

    If he had to hunt by wearing out his prey, the wolf would never have been the focus of his hunt. Maybe he would have been glad to find a wolf kill and scavenge from that instead. Just a thought…

  3. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Dusty – hunters are a diverse group and choose to hunt for many different reasons. Myself wife and son hunt for food which once we process here at home feeds us 4 to 5 nights a week for a year. I have seen the road hunters and know none. However, I know they too eat what they kill – no packing out just drive up to it – that certainly helps with the bear habituation issue. They also may want to feed their families and do not have the time to devote to more involved hunting methods – still a green way to live. Some are too young, old or infirm to follow me thru this incredible country. As for the ATV, which I do not own, they are generally used to access hike and hunt country – clearly this was not the situation in the article.

  4. Jeff Avatar

    The sport is the chase and the stalk. Hunting elk on foot is a physically demanding activity beyond the abilities of most. Try climbing thousands of vertical feet off trail with 40 lbs on your back and an 8 pound rifle in your hands looking for an animal that has honed its skills avoiding wolves, cougars and bears some day. If you’re fortunate you get to take a shot at 30-300 yards in only a few seconds with a high powered rifle while your winded from the hike and the excitement of actually seeing a legal animal. Once you have a 400-600 lb animal on the ground the work really begins including gutting, skinning, quartering and numerous “laps” up and down the hill with 60-90 lbs on your back. Usually my elk is a few miles in and a couple of thousand vetical feet up from my truck. Watching the animal die is always difficult for me personally, though I love the hunt and my family enjoys eating quality natural meat for a year. If you haven’t ever pursued big game in rugged country don’t knock in until you give it try.

  5. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    well said.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You’re right about elk hunting usually being very demanding, and it should be. It’s something to proud of, to work hard, and to think and achieve the kill. You are recapitulating “primitive” humans. You learn how hard it was to get animal protein.

    That’s why many hunters get angry when someone shoots an elk in an enclosure, has the owner dress the animal, and go home to wherever and brag — to lie.

    Going beyond hunting, I think there is a general laziness and satisfaction with mediocrity that has crept into American culture when it comes to sports and other things.

    When I was in high school I was pretty good at throwing the discus and shot put in the local region; but I wasn’t a natural. I practiced and practiced. I was lucky to have a father who really was an expert coach at Utah State University to watch and help.

    I can remember some big guys saying, “well I could throw it that far if I practiced so much,” but that’s the point, isn’t it?

    I could shoot that elk if was crouched behind the log in the snow at 10,000 feet.

    I could have taken that photo of the triple rainbow if I was there.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan