Compared to other predators, humans aren’t particularly strong or fast However, we are the only primate species that can practice Persistence Hunting, also known as Endurance Hunting.
Humans have sparse hair and many sweat glands, which makes us able to cool down much more efficiently – other mammals need to stop and pant to get rid of excess heat, while we can do it while we keep moving.
How persistence hunting essentially works is that, once prey is spotted, a human can keep following it at a walking or jogging pace for hours at a time without becoming exhausted. And because we have hands and a bigger brain, we’re able to carry water, read tracks, and imagine which path an animal would follow even though we lost sight of it.
All of these factors combined gave us a distinct (and to the prey, horrifying) advantage: we don’t stop. No matter how far they ran, how well they tried to hide, or how tired they got, the humans would just keep coming until the prey collapsed from exhaustion.
Imagine if you will that you’re an antelope. Grazing, generally minding your own business while keeping your senses peeled for predators.
Then you catch a faint whiff of something distinctly non-antelope.
Your head pops up, you look around, listen carefully, and spy the loud biped in the grass 100 meters away. Then it starts moving towards you.
Alarm spikes through your veins as you do what your kind have been built to do for millions of years, you flee. Sprinting away from the smelly, toothy threat in the grass. You move faster than it could ever hope to chase, and you leave it behind. After a few frantic minutes of flight you’ve lost sight of it. Heart pounding, lungs burning, and core overheated you stop your gallop, open your mouth, and begin blessed panting, slowly lowering your body temperature back to something approaching tolerable levels.
But you will have no respite today.
For not long after you stop you catch a scent, a wisp of movement, or rustle of grass on the edge of your awareness and you’re up and alert once again. Scanning for threats you again spy the ape-thing in the distance, still, impossibly, moving towards you. You freeze, in hopes that it hasn’t seen you, but as it closes to within a few dozen meters it’s intent is clear. You are tired and hot now, the burning noon-day sun not helping in the least, but if you do not move, you will die. So once again, you flee.
Sprinting. Galloping. Trying desperately to get away.
The day continues like this, one long hell of exertion, broken by those all-too-brief minutes of respite when those furless things are out of sight. It continues for what feels like hours…
Until you can run no more.
Nauseous and worse from heat exhaustion you hear it coming through the grass. Its feet pounding that steady cadence you’ve learned to fear into the dirt. You try to muster one more sprint, one more flight, but your limbs betray you and it’s all you can do to lie there on the ground and try vainly to pant the heat away.
Half mad-with fear and too hot to think you scrabble weakly at the ground as it comes into view, picks up a rock and closes those final few meters.
It raises its stone to the sky and, with a flash of pain, everything turns black.
Behold the Human. They do not have to be stronger than you or faster than you to kill you, they do not need sharper claws or more potent venom. They simply need to outlast you. To take one glance at the tracks you leave behind and know where you are.
Then they just have to follow you until your body gives up and dies.
We are Human, and we are terrifying.
Something to think about: all of those horror movies out there with the zombies slowly closing in on the protagonists, are pretty much just us imagining what it felt like for other animals to be hunted by humans.