How early humans hunted animals

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Hunting as a source of food

Hunting has had a decisive influence on human culture over the millennia. In the past, everyone was allowed to kill an animal, but under feudalism the hunt became a sign of the privileges of the nobility and the supposedly divine order of estates.

Hunting is as old as humanity itself. Our ancestors first used it as a source of food. Meat was at the top of the menu, skins were used as clothing and the bones were used to make weapons and jewelry.

With the settling down of people, the keeping of domestic animals and the reclamation of the soil, livestock and arable farming became the determining basis of nutrition. The hunt lost its original function.

Hunting in the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, the sovereigns established so-called ban forests on their territories. Hunting was one of the favorite amusements of the noble rulers.

A distinction was made between stalking, par force, chase, bait and driven hunt. And pretty much everything that moved in the forest was shot: red deer, wild boar, hares, foxes, bears and wolves.

Even rag hunts, in which the game was rounded up in front of hanging rags in the forest, or hunting with trap pits and nets were known and popular. The foresters took on the care and maintenance of the forests.

Hunters talk in their own language

At the same time, the hunter's profession was born. Like all guilds, the green skirts developed their own technical language, the so-called Waidmann language. She recorded situations and actions from the everyday life of the hunters and described them powerfully and in strong images.

The hunter's language also figured out the reactions of the animals and the body parts of the game. The hunter's Latin has its own logic, which is not immediately communicated to the uninitiated. This is where the tradition of "breaks" belongs, signs that the hunter represented by broken branches in the forest.

The tradition of breaks has become superfluous in the age of mobile phones. In the past, the fractures were vital. Warning breaks made the hunter aware of dangers, especially in remote mountain regions.

Only the breaks when killing game are still carried out out of respect for the animal, such as "the last bite" when the hunter puts a branch in the mouth of the dead deer.

Hunting in the early modern times

From the early modern period onwards, the sovereign did not only limit his hunting rights to the marked and well-known prohibited forests as before, but wanted to extend the hunt to the forests of his entire territory.

With the development of the high and low nobility, a division of the hunt into high and low hunt resulted in parallel. Hare, deer and pheasant were allowed to be shot as small game by the lower nobility, while the hunt for deer and wild boar was reserved for the high nobility.

Last but not least, the excessive hunting passion of some sovereigns led to damage to fields and meadows.

The farmers often had to suffer from hunger due to the unbridled hunting fever of their sovereigns, as the hunting party riding through fields and meadows often destroyed the seeds or crops in the fields. The serf farmers were also forced to do hunting duty for their masters.

Poachers, often poor farmers of the region, who violated their master's right to hunt, felt the entire harshness of the law. In the worst case, a repeat offender faced the death penalty.

The oppressive situation of the peasants also contained political explosives.

At the beginning of the 16th century the peasant wars broke out. The historian Thomas Nipperdey remarked: "Who was actually preparing the revolution? - The deer that grazed in the cornfields at night did it; it was they who planted the poor farmer's first liberal ideas."

The hunt from the 19th century to the present day

In Germany it remained with the well-known feudal hunt until 1848. It was only in connection with the revolution of 1848/49 and the constitution of the Paulskirche that the first democratic government in Germany succeeded in abolishing feudal hunting rights on foreign land.

With the expansion of the law through a Prussian initiative in 1850, hunting was tied to one's own property. A minimum area - today it is 75 hectares - was necessary in order to be able to exercise the right to hunt.

In the 1920s there were new regulations on hunting law at the state level. Among other things, roe deer may no longer be shot with shot.

Conventional hunting sees its current function in the sustainable care and maintenance of the forest. The hunting associations see hunting as a natural use of the game population for humans.

In addition, the hunt regulates the number of game and thus makes its contribution to protecting the forest from browsing. Opponents of the hunt accuse them of hypocrisy, as the game population is kept extra high by additional feeding in order to have an argument for the hunt ready.