A common anthropological hypothesis is that prehistoric people domesticated wolves in large part to serve as hunting companions, and early Holocene burials of dogs suggest a special status that might reflect hunting assistance. Yet, the “hunting model” of dog domestication potentially overlooks the multifaceted costs and benefits of hunting with dogs in small-scale societies. This presentation draws on ethnographic research among lowland Nicaraguan horticulturalists to consider the conditions in which the use of hunting dogs would be ecologically worthwhile. Relevant factors include the behavioral ecology of prey species, the sedentism of human settlements, the presence of agricultural products to subsidize canine diets, the profitability of alternative foraging strategies, the apparently high mortality rates of dogs in rural settings, and the heterogeneity of hunting ability among dogs. These considerations suggest that dogs are valuable as hunting companions primarily when a unique set of conditions is evident.
Location and Address