By a Hare

Three young rabbits in Alentejo, Portugal.

The ability to hunt rabbits has been indicated as a possible source of the demise of the Neanderthal race. Evidence suggests that Neanderthal went extinct about thirty thousand years ago. The reason is still being debated because given the information that we do now about them; it appears that they could have been able to survive even up until today. That is why finding the key piece of evidence that points to the extinction of a fellow hominid is so intriguing.

John Fa, a biologist at Imperial College London, suggests that the modern hominids ability to switch to rabbits especially in Europe is the reason that we are the dominant species instead of some other hominids.  He points to facts that we already know about the Neanderthals as possible connection to his hypothesis. He primary points to the fact that we know Neanderthals were predominantly big game hunters. There has been significant evidence that the Neanderthals even hunted Mammoths. It may appear that if one is able to hunt a giant creature like a mammoth than a tiny rabbit should be easy. That is not the case for Neanderthals were usually a single primary hunter that evidence show may have been hard to adapt. Especially since the weapons they used may have been unaffected.

Weapons are some of the ways that archeologist use to decided what the past hominids ate. The most abundant weapons found at Neanderthals were clubs and giant spears. These would be affecting on rabbits if they were not so nibble and small unlike the mammoth. The modern hominids that came into Europe at the time were more adaptable to the changing temperature at the time and the animals that could provide substance. Their weapons were primary spear throwing devices and even bow and arrows which would have made rabbit hunting much easier.  Besides actively hunting rabbits, the early humans and Neanderthals could have trapped them. This however requires a great deal of energy in simply setting multiple traps and then repeatedly checking them. At the same time Neanderthals didn’t wear and closes and were usually broader than today humans. This matters because that means they had to burn more calories to keep their body temperature and the only way to do that was to consume plenty of meat and at the same time reduce the amount of energy expelled as much as possible.

Along with better hunting tools than the Neanderthals, the social dynamics of the modern humans may have also been an advantage. Modern Humans were able to separate task between each member of the group usually based upon age and gender. So when human males went out hunting Fa suspects that the hunting of rabbits could have been left up to kids and women of the village. Another helper that may have greatly advantage the humans are dogs. There is evidence that the human and not the Neanderthals were the ones to domesticate dogs and used them to hunt rabbits.  I can speak fro, experience about how much difference dogs makes in hunting rabbits. In fact I don’t know anyone who hunts rabbits today that doesn’t use dogs. This small difference of hunting rabbits may not have seemed like much of an advantage, but an extra amount of calories could be the difference between life and extinction.