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Assume that a species of bigfoot-type animal/person exists. Most of this also applies to ogres or trolls, whatever big dumb giants your particular setting has.

My world's specs:

They range 7-10 feet tall, and are much stronger than humans, and thus require much more food. Their size also causes them to produce more heat, as noted in How to make a realistic 'giant', which could be a problem seeing as they're often covered in enough hair that they don't need clothes.

They are smart enough to use tools, but can't figure out how to make any particularly complex or neat ones. As a rule of thumb (hehe), their tools and structures are made of one or two raw materials you could pick up from the forest floor; dirt huts with branch roofs, log-clubs, leaf-and-fern nests, etc.

They do not have complex language, but grunt at each other like non-human apes.

Basically their intelligence is in a weird middle-ground between sapient and beastly so the characters and audience/readers/players/etc. can debate about it.

I also want mine to be loud and smelly for gross-out factor, but it would give them some have trouble sneaking up on anything.

Here's the bit I can't figure out: How are they even alive? What do they eat that can't outpace them? What sorts of environments would they thrive in?

Assume that they have roughly the same nutritional needs as humans, but scaled up as appropriate for an animal who's about a tonne of dumb muscle. So they probably are omnivorous.

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  • $\begingroup$ What's the most important difference between those animals and real-life gorillas? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 21 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP I'd say actively predatory behavior. They're more closely related to humans so they need meat, and they need even more calories than any other great ape. $\endgroup$ – Maddock Emerson Sep 21 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ I think you described the neanderthal except for the stature $\endgroup$ – Censored to protect the guilty Sep 21 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Censoredtoprotecttheguilty: The Neanderthals were humans just like us. They were not beast-men. (And the people of European of Asian descent have some Neanderthal ancestry, meaning that we are their descendants.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 21 at 15:27
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Cold climates only

As noted in the question, the heat budget is a potential problem. A massive body will build up considerable heat, yet the ability to dump heat to the environment is dependent on surface area. This can be seen by looking at the body shape and size of elite distance runners - all of them are slender and many ultramarathon runners are relatively short. The reason for this is that the ability to keep running or even walking quickly is dependent on the ability to lose heat at the same rate that muscle work is generating heat. The squared / cubed rule dooms ogre endurance prospects.

Without adding a heat sink structure to their body (eg elephant ears) ogres cannot compete effectively with smaller humanoids in temperate or hot climates. The net effect of this is that ogres in these climates would have a strong evolutionary preference to select for small stature, so that after sufficient generations they would be... the size of real-life humans!

Since a human-sized ogre is more the domain of the Politics stack exchange, a more suitable climate for large ogres is needed. Somewhere that the ability to retain heat is of evolutionary value - in other words, somewhere really cold.

Let us consider the ogre / yeti to be a large, hypercarnivorous creature that can travel for miles over the ice and has adaptations such as a specialised fur coat and subcutaneous fat that allows it to survive swimming for long distances between ice floes. In other words, the yeti is basically a polar bear, filling the same ecological niche. The yeti's body is less specialised for either swimming or land movement compared to the polar bear, but the yeti compensates by being able to manufacture basic snowshoes for land travel, flippers for swimming and harpoons for ranged hunting.

As for the loud and smelly attributes - they are only quiet when they are hunting and rancid seal fat rubbed all over the body for extra insulation will definitely meet any civilised being's definition of smelly.

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How are they even alive? What do they eat that can't outpace them? What sorts of environments could they live in?

Humans are pretty lousy sprinters. Cats, foxes, dogs, cow, boars, deers... name one herbivore which can be outrun by a human in a short sprint. There is none! Yet we managed to hunt any herbivore/carnivore. How?

  • Group work
  • Long run resistance
  • Tool making

If your ogres have similar capabilities and are carnivores/omnivores, they can manage to survive: you don't need an AK-47 to hunt down an elephant, our ancestors captured mammoths with sticks and stones.

If they instead are only herbivore, your description of them is not far from a rhinoceros, including the horrible character.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're suggesting large groups of yetis ganging up on a large animal and clubbing it to death? I do like that image... But I'm not sure how much of that sort of coordination is doable without being able to speak, write or sign. And I don't think these big heavy brutes could pull off persistence pursuit - I imagine their weight and necessarily aggressive movement would cause them to have lower stamina. $\endgroup$ – Maddock Emerson Sep 21 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ Considering a pack of sabretooths, direwolves or lions could take down an elephant/mammoth/megafauna without any ability to speak, write or sign, I imagine your yetis should be fine. $\endgroup$ – Kyyshak Sep 21 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ @MaddockEmerson maybe check chimp hunt monkey they do a good coordinate hunting, even scouting and wage war to gain territory. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Sep 21 at 9:31
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They are scavengers.

They steal the kills from other predators and they eat carrion. They are big so they can fit a lot in their stomach at once. Eating carrion is why they stink.

They can throw rocks.

Surprise! They look like slow bears. But they can huck a skull sized rock like a major league pitcher. That lets them kill unwary prey from time to time.

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Apart from tools and opposable thumbs and the fact that they are bipedal, you can just think of them as elephants. How did elephants survive ? Their size and thick skins make for good defense, they live in groups, and they eat plants which is much more readily available. But that doesn't sound very interesting now.

But here is an even simpler and more boring possible answer: Nobody hunts them. The lack of natural predators can be a good reason for survival. It might be because they taste horrible or that the other predators found them not worth the effort of hunting. Of course since some predators do exist, they cannot proliferate, but still survive well enough if left alone.

And finally they are too dumb to form bigger tribes and make kingdoms, carry out infighting and wars, and tribal conflicts are too small scale or even non-existent if they are territorial. So they haven't wiped themselves out.

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