The Great Dance: A Hunter’s story (+ another “endurance hunt”)

There’s an important ritual from the San “Bushman” people of the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. Some call it “endurance hunting” or “persistence hunting”. It’s humans chasing down prey by foot (often over many miles)

There are just 2 documentaries on this ritual and I want to capture both here as I’ve seen one (“The Great Dance”) be taken down before.

Watch The Great Dance: A Hunter’s Story

This is the better of the 2 documentaries to watch because it’s more in-depth (74 minutes).

You can watch The Great Dance for free here:

It’s directed by Craig and Damon Foster in 2000 (Craig Foster is the diver featured in “My Octopus Teacher”)

It’s the story of “Martin” and 2 other San “Bushman” hunters in the Kalahari desert and the spirtiual bond between the hunter and the hunted.

Check out the “NCIS”-style analysis they do of each hunt and murder scene.

It climaxes with “the Chasing Hunt” – a ritual never before evealed to the outside world (some call this “The Persistence Hunt”)

Some highlights:

  • Three trackers follow a cheetah so that they can get its kill (a sprinbok). They chase the cheetah away.
  • Before taking the springbok for themselves, they recreate the cheetah/springbok attack so that they can share the story back at their village.
  • One hunter puts the highly poisonous larva of a beetle on the tip of his arrow. He starts his hunt by picking the direction that the wind blows on towards his face (so his prey can’t smell him). He spots a small deer…shoots it down…and follows it for awhile as it dies (sometimes the poison takes a full day).
  • He is only allowed to drink the blood of the deer as the meat belongs to the owner of the arrow he used. [I left off at 23 min.)the bushmen hunt porcupines by hand-thrown arrows.
  • They eat only the livers at first, trying to save the porcupines for the village people.
  • The bushmen run after animals for miles, but the animal retreats to a preserve on which it’s illegal to hunt.
  • Finally, the bushmen bring down another gemsbok. They put sand on her body to represent the many sand they both travel on for the kill.

The Intense 8 Hour Hunt | Attenborough | BBC Earth

But in case the The Great Dance video is not available, you can watch another example of a Chasing/Persistence Hunt for free on YouTube below.

It’s just 7 minutes long (an excerpt from The Life of Mammals (David Attenborough/BBC Earth) Season 1, Episode 10.))

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly