After a war, people got to hard work rebuilding their homes. They set up houses, started farming food, and etc..But some groups of people chose to hunt and gather their food instead of making it. These “Tribesmen” as they are often called, are looked down upon by other more powerful nations, including the Midwestern Empire,Western Federation, and the Florida Republic, who see these tribesmen as primitive savages. But I wondered if these tribesmen’s lifestyle could have any advantages. So my question is, is there any advantage of being a hunter gatherer instead of agriculture? What are the pros and cons of both?

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    $\begingroup$ Hunter-gatherers tended to have lower rates of obesity and --when food is available-- tended to eat a somewhat healthier diet than comparable early agricultural societies. The lifestyle generally wasn't worth those meager benefits -- there are good reasons our ancestors took up agriculture and never looked back. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 20 '18 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ I just wanted you to like compare the benefits and cons of both $\endgroup$ – Bryan Feb 20 '18 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Advantage for whom? For the individual, possibly; it depends on where one tries to hunt and gather -- Siberia is one thing, and Amazonia is quite another. For the society, the major disadvantages of hunting and gathering are the abysmal population density, and the impossibility of developing any kind of advanced technology, science, art and so on. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 20 '18 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ Florida Republic: If you have ever spent a summer in Florida without air conditioning, you'll know why those folks are going to migrate out of Florida as fast as they can trudge. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 20 '18 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ Depends - does the "Hunter Gatherer" job description include "Poacher" ? In other words, if they were to hunt & gather from farmers' land then it could be very advantageous, there would be plenty of food available without requiring the work that goes into farming. $\endgroup$ – colmde Feb 21 '18 at 11:59

11 Answers 11


There are very few advantages to being a hunter gatherer, even less if you are surrounded by agricultural communities.

Hunter gatherers have smaller, weaker groups, few assets, no industry, no land as such and little cohesiveness in defense or anything else beyond the extended family group. So they are easy targets for belligerents looking for slaves or sacrificial victims.

The advantages would be the ability to live off the land, general health and fitness and strong family ties. Most of their skills are not particularly useful outside of their lifestyle though.

This has been proven many times, hunter gatherers in prime land are marginalised and forced out into less desirable habitats and in most places either exist on the fringes or have assimilated or perished altogether.

Farmers are tied to the land, if encroached upon they have to fight, so they're prepared for war, and they steadily expand their demographic. Hunter gatherers won't fight much, they'll just move on, fine if there are places to move to and pressure lets up, but meanwhile the farmers keep expanding, eventually only the fringe areas where farmers don't want to go is left. If later an important resource is found to exist in the fringe area, the hunter gatherers will be forced out even of that eventually.

The whole of Europe was hunter gatherers, none left now. The American West would be a great example because it shows how the expansion into hunter gatherer territory can happen. Some farmers died, but they eventually took over.

  • $\begingroup$ I note that a number of tribes in the American West were already farmers or part farmers/part hunter gatherers. The famous warrior tribes were mostly hunter gatherers. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Feb 21 '18 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding famous because they fought battles over large areas when they ran out of places to go. Any farmers would stay and fight and lose all in one battle, big difference. But I wouldn't call any of them farmers. Good point though, one advantage of hunter gatherers is that living off the terrain they can avoid enemies easier. Farmers are tied down so it's all or nothing for their individual communities. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Feb 21 '18 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ Even the places you can't farm get taken over by herders instead. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 28 '18 at 2:30

Longer life and better health

Hunter gatherers in prime territories, such as places that became cradles of civilization, lived a long time. While infant mortality was high due to various reasons, if you survived to adulthood, the hunter gatherer could be expected to live 70 years. Overall life expectacy was around 40 years.

In a study of the life expectancy of skeletal remains over thousands of years, 19 of 21 societies undergoing the transition to agriculture had significant losses in life expectancy, height, and dental health as measured by enamel on teeth.

Compare the hunter-gatherer's life expectancy of 40 years with Sub-saharan Africa in 1960. Certain regions, like Mali, though agricultural and somewhat exposed to modern medicine, still had life expectacies under 30.

  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn That is a tense error. I meant that Mali had a life expectancy under 30 in 1960. Occam's razor, buddy, instead of using capital bold, you should probably just assume a typo... $\endgroup$ – kingledion Feb 20 '18 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ "if you survived to adulthood ... Overall life expectacy was around 40 years." Who says that agriculturalists didn't live to 70 if they survived childhood? (Many of my "pre-sanitation" ancestors lived into their 70s.) $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 20 '18 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ "you should probably just assume a typo." It's the internet; therefore I assume very little. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Feb 20 '18 at 7:33

Less work

In a hunter/gatherer society people have to hunt and gather just until they find food. Once they find food, they can stop and do something else.

An agricultural society has to spend all its time tending the fields and animals. It has to weed the crops regularly and protect the animals from predation. It has to grow enough crops to provide food and seeds even if the harvest is small. It has to maintain larger herds than currently needed so that next year it adds to the herd. When put together, an agricultural society is more work.

Of course, in return for this additional work, the agricultural society has more control over its food supply. In the worst case, it can eat its seeds and slaughter its herds and become a hunter/gatherer society next year. In the best case, it can plant extra crops and trade them to early industrial artisans like blacksmiths. Shifting from an agricultural society to an industrial society provides more leisure time than the hunter gatherer society. But the actual agricultural society prior to the industrial society is more work.

If a hunter/gatherer society runs out of food, its options are basically to move somewhere where there's food or take food from someone else, like the local agricultural society.

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    $\begingroup$ No, some agriculture is labour intensive for long periods but most are not, you plant, you harvest, in between there is little heavy maintenance. My breadfruit tree gives fruit without me doing anything. My avacado and mango trees have never been pruned after their first 2 years. Bananas I plant once a year or so and then just leave them until ready to eat. Root crops the same. I didn't even plant my pumpkin patch, it just appeared, probably grew from discarded seeds. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Feb 20 '18 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ For much of the year, sheep just need to be watched, in countries with no large predators they're often just left on the hills to fend for themselves. Grain fields also just need to be watched. There's very little work to be done much of the time, when there is work to do there's a lot of work to do, but it's highly seasonal. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 20 '18 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ What takes up a lot of time for agriculturists is breaking new ground: clearing trees and rocks, prepping the fields, and so on. If you aren't pushing into the frontier, working established fields and pastures, then you have a lot more free time. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Feb 20 '18 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ Hunter gatherer is not less work. If food isn't plentiful, you spend almost all of the day looking for food. If food is plentiful, increased population over a couple of generations will take care of that. Farming and ranching puts food where it can be easily and quickly gathered. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 20 '18 at 21:57
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    $\begingroup$ @ShadoCat "Farming and raching puts food where it can be easily and quickly gathered." ... until the increase population over a couple of generations takes care of that as well =) The age old problem doesn't go away. We just try to move it again, and hope that this is the magic time where it goes away! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 21 '18 at 18:48


These groups of people would have not have any assets to defend! So if they are attack they could flee. Villagers would have to defend their village.

They would have to migrate, to where the food is, and so they would actually form connections with all the traders of the villages on their route.

They could gather knowledge from all the places they visit.

The connections they form in this group might be stronger.

However they would not advance very much as a group. The hierarchy would be fix in time! Not open to change.

They would be prone to steal, cheat and kill. They would have a law system of might makes right! And that is what would make them hated. And therefore more isolated from other cultures...

They are a target for brigands, when they set up camps, or even when going somewhere. Because although they migrate the routes are more or less the same. Some might take note of their routes...


Having crops and livestock allows them to obtain wealth!

Living in one place allows them to build fortification to defend themselves from attackers!

They would evolve a social and law structure, and overall just evolve! They would develop new techniques and professions and so much more. Because this is the model formed societies the way we see them.

The only disadvantage I see is that they WILL be a target, because wealth draws attention!

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    $\begingroup$ "They would be prone to steal, cheat and kill." How so? That doesn't seem like a good way to maintain any form of group cohesivity. "although they migrate the routes are more or less the same" Citation needed. It'd seem more natural for a hunter-gatherer group to follow their prey as it moves about, than to follow fixed migration routes. In general, you make some interesting points, but you might want to expand on the reasoning behind the assumptions you make which are the ones that lead to your conclusions (e.g., "more isolated from other cultures"). $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 20 '18 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling they have a different idea of ownership, little discipline in terms of keeping promises with outsiders, no strong ties outside their little groups and also tend to xenophobia, so from their neighbours viewpoint, they steal, kill and cheat. $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Feb 20 '18 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling They are prone to steal, cheat and kill, because the concept of property wouldn't exist for them in the same way. They have little more then the clothes on their back so the concept that you own the crops you plant might escape them. And if it happens that some might object to them taking what grows in the earth they might be aggressive. People have been socialized into obeying rules however a migrating people lacks that pressure! In my opinion. And it looks like Kilisi had the same perspective as I did! $\endgroup$ – Cbm.cbm Feb 20 '18 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Part 2 I based the assumption that they have clear routes on the animal kingdom. Animals that migrate have routes. And it stands to reason that they would move depending on the seasons. So at the same times in the year. And the places they move to should be the same each year. Because they would need to fill the same requirements! $\endgroup$ – Cbm.cbm Feb 20 '18 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Cbm.cbm Much of what you've written in your two comments is good clarification that could improve the answer. I really encourage you to Edit your answer to incorporate it, then consider deleting the comments (as they will then hopefully be obsolete). $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 20 '18 at 13:54


Not all climates will support farming... poor soil, harsh weather, and a variety of other factors could make settlements unfeasible until a certain technology level is reached. Sometimes the only route of survival is hunting migratory animals and moving with the animals is required.


Adaptability (and the benefits that come from it)

  1. Will make the most out of the available resources.

  2. Sense of survival will be greater than anyone else.

  3. Will have to be intelligent to not only survive in the wild, but also to be able to co-exist along side powerful nations. Otherwise, they will just get absorbed into the "system" of the powerful nations, and you know, have less freedoms.

  4. Knowledge of the natural world far more superior then a common "city" dweller.

  5. Not dependant on government hand outs or welfare systems.

  6. If there's another war, and civilization is destroyed as an outcome, these people will most likely be the last survivors on earth.
  7. Also, there is a very good chance they will know how to cultivate their own food, even if it's on a small scale. They have to be conscious enough not to deplete any resources, so as to give it time to replenish and grow again (or give an animal population some time to reproduce more).

There are really no advantages to being a hunter-gatherer over a more organized society that farms crops or raises animals for food.

The hunter-gatherer leads a nomadic and risky life. Because they don't cultivate food or domesticate animals, they must continually move to find more food. They may find it. Or... they may not. If they don't, it's lights out.

Because they don't store food in any great quantity, they can't implement plans for problems, such as a long period of bad weather, or disease wiping out their staple foods. The hunter-gatherer is at the mercy of the weather... if it gets really bad, they can't gather or hunt, while the more organized societies have cached their crops and can draw on that stored food when conditions aren't optimal.

Because hunter-gatherers roam about, they don't tend to build homes of any substance, that they'd just end up leaving when the nearby food ran out. Consequently, they are exposed more to the elements. A minor illness turns into a major problem. They are also limited in where they can live, and will compete with other hunter-gatherers and other organisms in an area that's rich in food. The cultivators can live anywhere that plants can grow.

In the hunter-gatherer society, everyone is engaged in finding more food. There are few resources to expend on more specialized functions, like improving their knowledge of healing, or maybe drawing maps so that they can navigate better.

This leaves them at a disadvantage when coming up against a more advanced and specialized society, that has the food reserves to ride out an extended conflict, plus dedicated soldiers whose main job isn't to gather food, but engage in conflict.

When humans first learned to cultivate crops, they could do something hunter-gatherers never do... plan for the future. They knew where their food would be... their fields... and they knew how much they could get, so they knew they could survive beyond the current season. Because they cultivated crops, one person could produce enough food to feed many, so some members of the society could pursue advancement instead of just survival. And because they stored the crops they raised, they could ride out tough periods.

Save a few isolated tribes in resource rich areas, hunter-gatherers are all but unknown today. They simply can't compete with the more advanced and specialized societies.


In certain ways the stationary cultures have the advantages of a more stable food supply and the allowance for specialization. They are going to be more populous than the hunter gatherers, and will develop faster than small roving bands. Lots of other answers detail this better than I could.

So shy would some be Hunter/Gatherers in your proposed post apocalyptic world? IN a word, philosophy. They may want absolute freedom, or maybe just wish to be entirely self sufficient.

An agricultural society is going to have rules, codified or not, that will govern behavior within that society. Those rules are going to form the foundations of your established colonies. I see your proposed nomads as being rebellious sorts.

Your hunter gatherers are probably going to come from the same kinds of folks that we consider to be Doomsday Preppers. Preppers come in different types. You have the ones that stockpile what they can and plan to hunker down, then you have the "live off the land types". Both can work in your scenario. They will go to the open places on the map and either settle down in a defensible position or just go out and keep going.

Just to clarify, your Hunter Gatherers probably won't be pure hunter gatherers. THe more prosperous will be more like a nomadic tribe of herders, maybe like the Mongols They will keep animals, but will be tied to a range of land more than specific plots. They might trade with established settlements, but for the most part they will be on the move with the food animals. Their diet will probably consist more of what can be hunted or fished in the summer and be augmented by the herd animals in the winter. Socially, they will be loose family tribes or clans with few, if any, codified laws. They get the freedom of not being tied down, with reduced risk of food supply problems based on their herds.

You may also get pure hunter gatherers. These will be the loners or maybe small family groups. This will be highly risky, but they will also have maximum freedom. Simple disease or whims of weather will wipe out a small group.

So for some of your roamers, maybe you could look at the histories of the Mongols. For the individualists, think storybook prospector or fur trapper types.


The key to answering this question lies in its premise - that the hunter-gatherers are (some of) the survivors of a war; they are the product of the society/ies that waged the war, not a marginalised group that has already been pushed into marginal habitats by agricultural people.

Thus consider who would most likely adopt such a lifestyle - presumably those already most suited to living off the land. It would seem logical that these 'new' hunter-gatherers would be drawn disproportionately from the military, and even from special forces (and even if not disproportionately initially, a few seasons of unsuccessful foraging by the less experienced would result in this distinction).

So, for these people, a hunter-gather lifestyle offers the advantage of near continuous training in the abilities necessary to operate as a guerrilla army/armies. High levels of physical fitness (at least in terms of endurance/stamina), passing undetected through various habitats (or they don't get to eat - they'll need some level of animal protein), stalking and ambush skills (depending on the nature of the available weaponry).

If this persists for multiple generations, the initial ex-military composition and outlook could generate a culture that reinforced resilience, stealth, self-sufficiency and mutual support - essentially the skills valued in small teams of real-world special forces.

They would still be subject to the constraint faced by all hunter-gatherers, that their numbers are limited by the availability of food within their hunting grounds, and so would rapidly come to be outnumbered by the food-rich urbanite agriculturalists (although the hunter-gatherers would likely enjoy better health: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/17/tsimane-of-the-bolivian-amazon-have-worlds-healthiest-hearts-says-study). Of course, these hunter-gatherers would also be the most skilled at raiding the supplies of the agriculturalists!

If this scenario played out over generations, one could envisage a situation where these hunter-gathers would be valued as scouts, or special forces operatives, by the agriculturalists - agriculture-based civilisations typically end up going to war with one another. Or perhaps the hunter-gatherers offer such services in exchange for non-incursion into hunting grounds, and might be able to influence balance of power between their neighbours.

One thing that is unlikely to happen in this post-apocalyptic scenario is the pushing of hunter-gatherers into increasing marginal habitats: they start with the military advantage, and will likely maintain it unless or until the urban societies develop more advanced technology (assuming, of course, the hunter-gathers can't just steal it...)



Hunter-gatherer societies survived for thousands of years (millions of years perhaps, depending on how you describe early humanoid groups). Civilization, if you define it as agriculture, is inherently destructive of it's environment and quickly outgrows the carrying capacity of the area, necessitating constant expansion. Civilization is also much more fragile to large scale events, particularly to each other, as they have networked support systems that are necessary for maintaining their technology. H-G tribes can contract significantly without losing their "culture" because it is designed to be maintained at the lowest possible level (i.e. each individual can replicate most, if not all, of the technology and lore necessary for survival). Contrast this with an advanced civilization, where no one individual could possible know enough to reproduce even a small fraction of the technology and mythology of that society.

So a decision to stay at the H-G level could be a long term survival choice, designed to allow the organism to survive on the planet for tens of thousands, even millions, of years in an ecological balance. Versus the climate change and resource depletion we are witnessing right now due to our civilization which may see an end or at least significant reduction in our standard of living, a H-G society may have more long term sustainability. This would be appealing to folks that can see the ruins of the previous civilization all around them.

The amish/menonites are sort of like this. They exist within a more technologically advanced civilization but deliberately adhere to less advanced goals. Of course they enjoy the protection/tolerance of the greater society, while most H-G cultures get quickly wiped out once they encounter a more advanced civilization (one that is usually desperate to exploit the resources of the land the H-G tribe is roaming around on). So a H-G society is unlikely to exist adjacent to more advanced civilizations unless they inhabit a really undesirable plot of land.


Some people simply like living a simple life (think Henry David Thoreau). Other than that, the cons vastly outweigh the pros. When people are constantly on the move, spending all of their waking hours tending to their own needs, it's difficult to develop specialization of labor. That is, Person A is good at butchering animals, tanning hides, etc., while Person B is good at metalworking, so each does what he is good at, and then they trade, which mutually benefits both. That kind of labor specialization and trade is what makes a modern economy possible, which in turn enriches everyone. I'm not saying a nomadic lifestyle makes this impossible, but eventually the people with certain trade skills will need to settle down somewhere that they can open a work shop, preferably with access to raw materials and a place to turn a water wheel.

Certainly there are examples of nomads who have developed a high culture complete with art and learning, but city life makes all of that a lot easier.

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    $\begingroup$ "Nomad" and "hunter-gatherer" are different concepts. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 20 '18 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ OK, noted. I think my point applies to both though - probably even moreso for hunter-gatherers, because that implies a subsistence level of living. $\endgroup$ – Charles Burge Feb 20 '18 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ "Some people simply like living a simple life" - Anyone who thinks either traditional farming or hunter-gathering is "a simple life" is delusional. It's similar to the way a modern high-tech worker might look at a tradesperson or heavy equipment operator and daydream about having a "simple job" instead of endless volumes of paperwork. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Feb 21 '18 at 16:04

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