Deferred Harvests: The Transition from Hunting to Animal Husbandry Academic Article uri icon


  • We define animal husbandry as prey conservation. Conservation is rare among extant hunters and only likely to occur when prey are highly valued, private goods. The long-term discounted deferred returns from husbandry must also be greater than the short-term returns from hunting. We compare the returns from hunting and husbanding strategies as a function of prey body size. Returns from husbanding are estimated using a maximum sustainable yield (MSY) model. Following Charnov (1993), allometric analyses show that the MSY is nearly independent of prey body size. The opportunity costs of husbanding are measured as prey standing biomass times the discount rate. Since standing biomass scales positively with body size, the opportunity costs of husbanding are greater for larger animals. An evolutionary discount rate is estimated following Rogers (1994) to be between 2.4% and 6%. Using these values, the prey body size for which hunting and meat-only husbanding provide the same return is approximately 40kg. Animals greater than 40kg are predicted to be hunted.

published proceedings

  • American Anthropologist

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Alvard, M. S., & Kuznar, L

citation count

  • 53

complete list of authors

  • Alvard, Michael S||Kuznar, Lawrence

publication date

  • June 2001