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Summary

In my world, I have created a species of anthropomorphic wolves, who are nomadic hunter-gatherers. They are like humans in some respects and like wolves in others, but with some minor physical differences unique to them, as they do not live on Earth. When they hunt, they rely upon their teeth and claws rather than the traditional spear or bow, and I am wondering if they would be able to accomplish this, considering their mixed physiology. Unfortunately, the research I have done has not proved helpful, so I now turn to the people here.

Conditions

  • Animal mindset and instincts, with human intelligence and reasoning
  • Large, paw-like hands capable of manipulating objects
  • Claws are tough and non retractable, teeth are carnivorous
  • Excellent jaw strength, comparable to a wolf's
  • Pack hunters, place strong emphasis on teamwork and cooperation
  • Long, human-like arms with flexible joints
  • Strong muscles
  • Digitigrade legs
  • Move upright most of the time but assume an "all fours" position when stalking prey
  • More speed and agility than a human
  • High stamina, able to run at a steady pace for long periods of time
  • Can run fast for short bursts when pursuing prey
  • Chest larger and deeper than a human's, greater lung capacity
  • Patterned fur that blends into surroundings, providing camouflage
  • Tail for balance
  • Good jumpers
  • Prey includes large herbivores similar to elk and bison
  • Typically hunt on flat, open plains

Question

Would these creatures have enough of an advantage to be able to hunt and take down their prey without weapons, or would their human qualities (moving upright, for example) only hinder their efforts?

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes they could. Normal wolves can hunt, and humans make a sport of hunting unarmed. I don't see why a combination, with mostly the benefits of both parts, would have any issue with this. $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Aug 23 '16 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ That reminds me of Codex Alera's Canim, who are close to what you describe. You might want to have a look at them. $\endgroup$ – Evpok Jan 5 '17 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ I must second the recommendation to check out the Codex Alera! $\endgroup$ – akaioi Aug 28 '17 at 7:13
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No reason why they wouldn't be able to hunt effectively. In the wild, chimps will hunt monkeys and other small animals for meat as a supplement to their diet. They are structurally similar enough to humans to be used for comparison. Chimps would probably have smaller teeth than your anthropomorphic wolves and are likely slower on flat land. It really depends on what they are trying to hunt. The larger the prey, the more likely they would need tools to take it down. Of course, being wolves, they would probably be pretty good at working as a team against a single target.

One thing that wolves in the wild do is run down a lone herbivore they have cut off from a herd. They can continue to chase an animal until it is exhausted thanks to their incredibly efficient running physiology. Your guys will probably lose a lot of that open terrain running advantage in order to have arms that are good for tool use. That kind of begs the question: if they have developed tool-adapted arms that hinder their ability to run like conventional wolves, why accept the worst of both worlds by not using tools to hunt?

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  • $\begingroup$ The decision to have these creatures hunt without weapons stems from a desire to have them better fit in with their surroundings and be more like their wild counterparts, despite their differences. It is good to know that they can manage it, at least to a degree, but this species is still a work in progress, so I may in time find a better solution. $\endgroup$ – user19500 Aug 24 '16 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ chimps actually use tools to hunt, they carve sharp spears out of branches... $\endgroup$ – Charon Aug 24 '16 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ I've read about tool use among chimps, however, my understanding is that they do NOT hunt EXCLUSIVELY with tools, which implies that a good part of the time, they are doing it with their natural "weapons"; teeth, fists, fingers, etc. $\endgroup$ – JBiggs Aug 24 '16 at 14:04
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Humans use weapons to take down prey for two main reasons:

  1. Because our apemen ancestors didn't have carnivore teeth and carnivore claws, they used sharp sticks and sharp stones as a substitute. (Also we are not as strong as chimps, so not quite as good at bodily ripping some hapless antelope fawn or colubus monkey in two).
  2. To minimise risk.

The risk thing is an interesting one... human hunting weaponry (and warfare weaponry) has evolved to put a greater and greater distance between the hunter and the hunted. You start off up close and personal, jumping on something and bashing its head in with a rock. Then you put the sharp rock on the end of a spear, and slam the prey in the ribs. Then you invent spears for throwing. Then you improve those to the atlatl or the bow and arrow. Etc etc. (Or you set snares).

Getting bitten, gored or kicked by big, pissed off herbivores is a serious risk for a hunter - humans and wolves included. I've seen a wolf skull with a deer hoof sized indentation in it! Humans chose to minimize the risk by inventing better weaponry.

Studies of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) show that it is pretty much always the alpha male, alpha female or beta male which is the dog who makes the first grab at the prey - the point when a kick or gore is most likely. Those high ranking pack members are the risk-takers, willing to risk that injury. (Interestingly, the alpha female stops taking risks when she has small pups back at the den). I don't know enough about wolves to say if they are the same.

So your anthropomorphic wolves could either:

  1. Be like humans at a more 'caveman' or 'apeman' stage of development. They are taking prey down by hand, then using tools to skin it or butcher it for cooking. They simply haven't got around to inventing spears or arrows yet.
  2. They could use spears if they wanted to, but they have a cultural prohibition against it. Perhaps it is not 'honorable' to the prey. Perhaps only cowards or weaklings use distance weapons. Perhaps their deity told them not to.
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Human hunters could literally run their prey to death. Wolves can also perform a similar feat in chasing their prey until exhaustion overtakes it.

This

  • More speed and agility than a human

and this

  • High stamina, able to run at a steady pace for long periods of time

make them ideally suited to run their prey to exhaustion, when they would rush in and "dog-pile" it, knocking it over and holding it down. Perhaps the packleader would be the one designated to go for the throat to end it.

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A species like the one you created would in fact be at an advantage in taking down prey without the use of tools.

That is until they run into a prey animal that you would need to use tools to take down. This is because all things never stop evolving and adapting. Let's take an example: raccoons and foxes.

Odd examples, of course, but let's take a look at them shall we?

Prior to the development of big cities, both raccoons and foxes mainly hunted. However, as land was cleared away and cities grew, raccoons and foxes had to adapt. They found new sources of food by keeping an eye on people. How else could they have figured out about us putting food in our trash cans?

Another example would be the jaguar. The jaguar is unique in how it makes its killing blow that it uses its fangs to bite through a prey's skull directly into the brain. Most predators go for the neck. Zoologists and other biologists believe that during the jaguar's evolution, its ancestors evolved in the need to penetrate certain animals' tough shells (jaguars actually prey on armadillos).

Your wolfoids (humanoid wolves) could adapt and evolve in order to use both their natural born weaponry (claws and fangs) and tools (spears, clubs, axes, etc) in order to both fight and hunt better.

Some experts believe that the key for a species's success in hunting is via problem-solving. This is what I interpreted from this article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427591/

And these next few parts are ones you could take into further consideration:

Some experts believe that war might have been a consequence to the creation of hunting tools, although there is some disagreement with the scientific community on this. The combination of using tools, fangs, and claws would almost guarantee your wolfoids into becoming extremely fierce and deadly warriors.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think your last paragraph is a useful addition. You shouldn't start it by saying it's "a bit off-topic". That sounds like it should not be there and answers that stray away too far from the question often receive downvotes. Maybe you could rephrase it like "Further considerations: "? Anyway, good answer. +1 from me $\endgroup$ – Secespitus May 3 '17 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for pointing that out! And thank you for the vote too! $\endgroup$ – SCPilot May 5 '17 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ "How else could they have figured out about us putting food in our trash cans?" Umm, how about scent? $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 5 '17 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ Hm....That's true, but even with scent, they still have to figure out how to open the trash cans. I remember watching a video of two raccoons working together to open a trash can after watching someone open a trash can. It took them some trial and error but they were able to open the trash can. $\endgroup$ – SCPilot May 5 '17 at 22:54

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