We do not know about the pre-historic sports because of the paucity of the relevant archaeological record, but it is likely that the first athletic events were contests of the physical skills most important in fighting, hunting and warfare. Combat sports and contests of hunting skills (e.g. Archery, target shooting) remain common, athletic events. Hunting in its pure form is not a popular spectator sport because of the contingencies involved and for obvious ethical reasons. It is, therefore, one of the sports that have failed the test of time. Or has it?
Before the onset of civilizations, the human race survived on their skills of scavenging and hunting. The men held daily hunts to put food on the table for their families. Unlike today, all hunting was for survival and none for sport. From bones to pelts, all the materials, thus obtained from killing, was used. Occasionally, the skulls were kept as decorations or as symbols of the clan or family group. It was also a method to determine the bravest, although this mindset became more prevalent in the later eras.
Read: The History of Hunting
As living became more organized and civilizations really began, the role of hunters got refined. Agriculture became a primary source of food. There was a need for people with varied skills. New occupations such as craftsmen and weavers and tradesmen came into being so that everyone could have an access to everything they needed; therefore, hunting too became a task only for those who were most suited for the profession. This was also the point when hunting came to be recognized as a sport. Animals were captured alive for sale or gladiatorial competitions by the Roman civilization. Eventually, hunting for sport saw a paradigm shift and acted as a foundation for modern day competitions.
In the middle age, following the growth of civilization, the first real restriction on hunting was imposed: no hunting on King’s forest. Even though it was a primary mode of survival for many, Man eventually progressed from relying on scavenging to cultivating his own farms and plantations. Hunting ultimately became the leisure activity for the nobility during the period and was used to establish a hierarchy in the society. Popular weapons used were different forms of slings and spears. Guns were also developed although it hadn’t reached its potential like present day.
With the onset of the industrial era, the evolution of machines brought about great changes in this sport. Large farms became very popular. The practice of hunting wild animals took a beating, and it was downgraded to a part-time activity. Archery, which was primarily a method of hunting, eventually became a test to determine strength and hand-eye coordination.
Hunting as a sport has received maximum criticism in the last two centuries and therefore, regulations have been imposed to prevent endangered animals from being extinct. However, these restrictions haven’t prevented manufactures from creating a large range of weapons for hunting. Special guns and equipment are designed for hunting different animals. E.g. Moose Hunting has different supplies from those required for Deer hunting.
In recent times, various schools of thoughts have developed promoting hunting as a ‘rich heritage that shouldn’t be forgotten’. However, hunting acts as a sole survival method for the numerous rural group in the contemporary world and enables wildlife population control. Any hunting operation allows only a small number of animals to be taken annually. During this process, biological data is recorded and submitted to wildlife service in order to keep a close tab on the overall health and population of the species.
The supporters of this “sport” have also developed tranquilizer guns in order to merge leisure with animal welfare. Wagner, a Fort Worth businessman, bid $23000 in an online auction for an opportunity to participate in the world’s first “catch and release” hunt of a bongo (an endangered animal of Africa). This auction was organized by Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund. The proceeds of which were earmarked for research and conservation, effort in Africa. “I got a bigger thrill out of it (than traditional hunting) because the animal got up and lived for another day”, says Wagner.
However, hunting animals to establish respect in society, hunting for leisure, and hunting for smuggling exotic species to earn big money are practiced in many parts of the world, especially among the elite groups or parts of Africa.
When hunting is unnecessary, it is barbaric. Sometimes, hunting falls into the category of necessary evil. But when the aim is just the pleasure of stalking and killing, or the pride of a “trophy”, the necessity is absent and you’ve to ask yourself, what’s left?