Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

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Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby mcdanich » Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:34 pm UTC

My friends and I have been having the following debate for quite some time now:

The scenario can be simply explained as 5 average human males (all of an athletic build) against 3 average male wolves in a fight to the death. The fight ends when all of one species is dead (at minimum one wolf remaining counts as a victory for the wolves) . Which species is the winner?

Assumptions:
The humans have no weapons of their own, but have the general understanding of how wolves attack and know how to choke out a wolf using a basic strangle hold. The humans are in their 20s and are all around 5' 10" and 180 pounds with minimal body fat.

The wolves are Grey Wolves, weighing approximately 120 lbs and are 5 ft long and are also in the physical prime age of their lives.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby p1t1o » Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:57 pm UTC

My assumption - Wolves would be very reluctant, even if hungry, to attack an aware foe that outnumbers them, all other factors being equal.

Wolves run.
Humans walk after them. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting)
Wolves eventually die of exhaustion.
Humans win.

PS: "choke out a wolf with a basic strangle hold" lol!

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:44 am UTC

Even in a no-holds-barred grudge match, I'm fairly confident five adult humans would defeat three adult wolves. Assuming the humans are reasonably fit, anyway.

There is this trope out there that humans are somehow uniquely weak animals, and it is simply inaccurate. We are much larger than wolves. Even one on one, I would bet on the human every time. (Though they could easily both die in the long run without medical attention.)

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby ijuin » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:24 am UTC

Humans lack natural piercing and slashing weapons (claws and fangs), but have superior range of limb movement and superior planning, group communication, and group coordination. Humans also gain additional advantage if there is so little as a fist-sized stone or a tree branch lying around to use as a bludgeoning implement or to sharpen to a point.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:41 am UTC

Yeah as a human I've never felt particularly threatened by the prospect of a single menacing dog (including wolves as dogs here). At most it gets one bite in and then its throat is within reach and it's game over thanks to the power of opposable thumbs that enable such super-moves as grabbing things. And then yeah I've got a nasty bite but I'm still alive and can deal with that.

Also, from personal experience, dogs are easily made more afraid of me than I am of them, so in practice it wouldn't even come to that.

Now, alone in the woods at night surrounded by a pack of wolves could be scary.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby speising » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:50 am UTC

a single bite could be quite serious if it's from a real dog, not a house rat. and dogs have additionally four nasty claws whith which they can bother you while you try to get a hold on their neck.
i don't think it's as clear as that. we don't have any natural weapon which could pierce a wolf's skin.
once you get them mad enough to attack you, it'll get nasty.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby tomandlu » Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:04 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:Humans walk after them. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting)


So... Slasher movies are surprisingly realistic? ;)

As to the original question - dunno, but I'm fairly confident that the reason we 'beat' the wolves has nothing to do with one-on-one grudge matches.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:10 pm UTC

speising wrote:a single bite could be quite serious if it's from a real dog, not a house rat. and dogs have additionally four nasty claws whith which they can bother you while you try to get a hold on their neck.
i don't think it's as clear as that. we don't have any natural weapon which could pierce a wolf's skin.
once you get them mad enough to attack you, it'll get nasty.

You can simply punch and kick dogs in the head. It's pretty lopsided, to be honest. Though there are certainly people who could not fight a strong wolf, most could, and pretty easily at that. That doesn't mean you wouldn't get bitten and scratched, it just means you wouldn't get dead like the wolf.

That said, there are cases of man-eating wolves repeatedly killing humans. They seem to attack by ambushing lone people, even adult men, and biting their throats. So I would stay away from this dude.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby p1t1o » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:20 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
speising wrote:a single bite could be quite serious if it's from a real dog, not a house rat. and dogs have additionally four nasty claws whith which they can bother you while you try to get a hold on their neck.
i don't think it's as clear as that. we don't have any natural weapon which could pierce a wolf's skin.
once you get them mad enough to attack you, it'll get nasty.

You can simply punch and kick dogs in the head. It's extremely lopsided, to be honest. Though there are certainly people who could not fight a strong wolf, most could, and pretty easily at that.

That doesn't mean you wouldn't get bitten and scratched, it just means you wouldn't get dead like the wolf.


Oof, I dunno, that seems quite generous. Unless we leverage some other advantage like numbers, weapons or tactics, one on one I wouldnt want to face a wolf. There is a huge psychological component, that wolf will come straight for your life, all 60kg of pure muscle, its not gonna sidle up to you boxer-style. Whereas we are heavily ingrained by our society to avoid lethal violence (no matter how tough you [you:humans, not you:personally] talk, you have never killed anyone, I hope, the instinct is there but buried) and we have strong instincts that are directly related to being charged by toothed animals that the wolf will easily overcome. You will put your arm up, the wolf will sieze it, and from there its a downward spiral.
Anyone ever tried to get a chewtoy from a determined dog? This will be much, much worse.

Could you prevail? Certainly, but I'd say it was far from a foregone conclusion, one-on-one.

I would say that to make this a fair encounter, the humans should be allowed to use nearby objects, its our evolutionary equivalent of sharp teeth. That does tip the scales in our favour quite a lot.

But I lean heavily towards the conclusion, that 5-on-3, if you grouped together, made yourself "big" and made alot of noise, that the wolves would run, then the humans win as above.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby speising » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:01 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
speising wrote:a single bite could be quite serious if it's from a real dog, not a house rat. and dogs have additionally four nasty claws whith which they can bother you while you try to get a hold on their neck.
i don't think it's as clear as that. we don't have any natural weapon which could pierce a wolf's skin.
once you get them mad enough to attack you, it'll get nasty.

You can simply punch and kick dogs in the head. It's pretty lopsided, to be honest. Though there are certainly people who could not fight a strong wolf, most could, and pretty easily at that. That doesn't mean you wouldn't get bitten and scratched, it just means you wouldn't get dead like the wolf.

That said, there are cases of man-eating wolves repeatedly killing humans. They seem to attack by ambushing lone people, even adult men, and biting their throats. So I would stay away from this dude.

have you ever been charged by an aggressive big dog? it's a pretty frightening experience. lift your foot to kick it and it probably bites it off - or at least hard enough to make it useless for the rest of the fight.
it really depends on the initiative rolls.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby tomandlu » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:33 pm UTC

speising wrote:it really depends on the initiative rolls.


Also, not being a halfling...
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby commodorejohn » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:46 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:That said, there are cases of man-eating wolves repeatedly killing humans.

Man, killing someone is bad enough, but repeatedly killing them...!
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:29 pm UTC

We aren't told whether the 'humans' or the 'wolves' are not actually lycanthropes and thus the inevitable victors over whoever is not. Maybe if we were given the phase of the Moon as well, in this scenario…?

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Thesh » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:47 pm UTC

I would win, no problem. It's pretty simple: you just put your hands forward so that the wolf heads for them, lift your hands as it lunges so it has to move it's head up and knee it in the throat, then you smash down on its nose with your fist, and throw it to the ground and kick it in the gut. This board is filled with weaklings who have probably never even killed a grizzly with their bare hands.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Dec 06, 2018 6:43 pm UTC

Grizzlies don't have bare hands, though. They have bear hands.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:37 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:
speising wrote:a single bite could be quite serious if it's from a real dog, not a house rat. and dogs have additionally four nasty claws whith which they can bother you while you try to get a hold on their neck.
i don't think it's as clear as that. we don't have any natural weapon which could pierce a wolf's skin.
once you get them mad enough to attack you, it'll get nasty.

You can simply punch and kick dogs in the head. It's extremely lopsided, to be honest. Though there are certainly people who could not fight a strong wolf, most could, and pretty easily at that.

That doesn't mean you wouldn't get bitten and scratched, it just means you wouldn't get dead like the wolf.


Oof, I dunno, that seems quite generous. Unless we leverage some other advantage like numbers, weapons or tactics, one on one I wouldnt want to face a wolf. There is a huge psychological component, that wolf will come straight for your life, all 60kg of pure muscle, its not gonna sidle up to you boxer-style. Whereas we are heavily ingrained by our society to avoid lethal violence (no matter how tough you [you:humans, not you:personally] talk, you have never killed anyone, I hope, the instinct is there but buried) and we have strong instincts that are directly related to being charged by toothed animals that the wolf will easily overcome. You will put your arm up, the wolf will sieze it, and from there its a downward spiral.
Anyone ever tried to get a chewtoy from a determined dog? This will be much, much worse.

Could you prevail? Certainly, but I'd say it was far from a foregone conclusion, one-on-one.

I would say that to make this a fair encounter, the humans should be allowed to use nearby objects, its our evolutionary equivalent of sharp teeth. That does tip the scales in our favour quite a lot.

But I lean heavily towards the conclusion, that 5-on-3, if you grouped together, made yourself "big" and made alot of noise, that the wolves would run, then the humans win as above.

Wolves don't have a lot of ways they can fight, so they do the only thing they can. But reach is still a big problem for them. If they bite your foot, they will not bite it off. They won't let go, but they also won't have any other way to fight or defend themselves while latched on. You don't have to be strong or a tactical genius to stick your thumbs in its eyes, your hands around its throat, or your fists in its face. And while a raging wolf won't go down easy, it will still die before you run out of blood. Usually, anyway.

When people are attacked by dogs, they usually do not fight back and attempt to escape instead or dislodge the jaws, which is futile. But if they were determined to kill it from the outset, things would go very differently.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby tomandlu » Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:36 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:When people are attacked by dogs, they usually do not fight back and attempt to escape instead or dislodge the jaws, which is futile. But if they were determined to kill it from the outset, things would go very differently.


If dogs just fastened their jaws and then remained fairly static, then I might agree, but that jaw-shaking thing might make life a little more complicated...
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Eebster the Great » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:05 pm UTC

Not really. A dog's neck is not nearly as strong as your leg. And I know if they can plant all their feet they can use other muscles too, but in practice, the human is going to win.

Like, have you ever played tug of war with a large dog to a decision? Most people keep playing until they get bored and give up. But if you hold on long enough, the dog will easily lose every time, because it will eventually get tired and release its grip (assuming you can't pull the object out of its mouth before then). A human can easily lift the entire dog off the ground as it tries to hang on, even a 100 lb dog, which is significantly larger than an average wolf. And the whole game will usually last about one minute, maybe two.

Now, yes, you can lose a lot of blood in two minutes. And yes, wolves occasionally kill large animals, even humans. Sometimes. But to say the human wouldn't have a tremendous advantage just seems like a mistake to me.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby jewish_scientist » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:26 pm UTC

There really is no getting around the fact that humans are OP. They are one of the few builds that can actually use ranged attacks effectively, can create map hazards, have crazy stamina regen, and advanced social structure feats. The coup de grace is that humans superior balance and upright posture means that they have 2 limbs not dedicated to walking. Just think about this; if some animal bites onto a human's hand, that animal has no more limbs to attack with while the human still has a free hand.

Thesh wrote:I would win, no problem. It's pretty simple: you just put your hands forward so that the wolf heads for them, lift your hands as it lunges so it has to move it's head up and knee it in the throat, then you smash down on its nose with your fist, and throw it to the ground and kick it in the gut. This board is filled with weaklings who have probably never even killed a grizzly with their bare hands.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 13, 2018 4:36 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Like, have you ever played tug of war with a large dog to a decision?

Have you ever played tug of war (or otherwise interacted with) an angry large dog intent on killing you? Because dogs are just as aware as humans of the difference between playing and fighting.

Eebster the Great wrote:A human can easily lift the entire dog off the ground as it tries to hang on

Sure, when the human is not in pain and is using both hands on a rope and the dog isn't fighting particularly hard.

a 100 lb dog, which is significantly larger than an average wolf
100 is not so significantly larger than 88, which is the average for gray wolves according to Wikipedia.

A wolf could outrun you over short distances and easily knock you down, because however much you might outweigh it, you're still a top-heavy biped. And unless you can curl the weight of the wolf, in which case we're not comparing averages any more, you wouldn't easily be able to pull a wolf biting onto one forearm close enough to get at its throat or eyes with your other hand. If it's biting your foot, you'd similarly have to be able to pull it closer before you could kick it with your other foot, and that's not likely to be easy if you're already on the ground.

I'll grant that a human might be able to kill a wolf one-on-one if the human gets the first move (i.e. they're both calmly standing next to each other until the human decides to kill the wolf), but if the wolf gets the first move or they start apart from each other and the wolf gets a running start, it's far less clear-cut than you seem to naively be making out.

Edit: Also, it turns out that on average, wolves bite with about twice the force of a typical large dog and when threatened, can bite with 4-5 times the force. So bite and jaw comparisons between wolves fighting for their lives and large friendly pets playing with their human packmates are even more unhelpful than I previously thought.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby elasto » Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:44 pm UTC

Honestly, to me I feel like it would come down principally to the mental state of each rather than the physical attributes; If the human could successfully project confidence and dominance he would probably intimidate all but the hungriest of wolves into not attacking, but if he projected fear and weakness he probably actually feels fearful and weak, and probably lacks the will to win a fight which would involve a terrifying amount of pain and blood.

But, if the fight is forced, I think that unless the human can grab a makeshift weapon he's toast, because I think the average wolf is far more used to fights to the death than the average modern human, and probably has far less compunction over the ruthless dirty fighting that would be necessary from the winner - and probably knows every bit as much as a human would exactly where the most painful and vulnerable spots are to attack - not least the neck.

However, in reality, most species will back off of a fight which they judge has a significant risk of injury or death, and I think that a single wolf would probably choose to back off under most circumstances in which the human aggressively stood their ground. Not that I'd like to personally test that theory..!

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby cphite » Thu Dec 13, 2018 6:03 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:Not really. A dog's neck is not nearly as strong as your leg. And I know if they can plant all their feet they can use other muscles too, but in practice, the human is going to win.

Like, have you ever played tug of war with a large dog to a decision? Most people keep playing until they get bored and give up. But if you hold on long enough, the dog will easily lose every time, because it will eventually get tired and release its grip (assuming you can't pull the object out of its mouth before then). A human can easily lift the entire dog off the ground as it tries to hang on, even a 100 lb dog, which is significantly larger than an average wolf. And the whole game will usually last about one minute, maybe two.


When you play tug of war with a dog, you're holding the rope or blanket or whatever in your hands. It isn't attached to you by a set of powerful, teeth-filled jaws that are biting with hundreds of pounds of force. You aren't bleeding, in tremendous pain, and worried that you might die during a game of tug of war.

A dog intent on killing you will clamp down and shake. It's going to hurt like you cannot believe. And in addition to all of the above, the fact that the dog is pulling on your body and not on something like a rope or a blanket means that you have nowhere near the leverage that you would have playing tug of war.

There are places that train dogs to take down suspects - you can find them on YouTube. Heck, if you look hard enough you can even go to those places and see for yourself. The target is generally dressed in protective gear with a ton of padding, and the dogs usually take them down in a matter of seconds. And bear in mind: The training these dogs receive isn't intended to make them better at pulling someone down; it's to make them better at knowing when to stop once they've pulled someone down. They're being trained to be less dangerous.

And if we're talking wolves instead of dogs... it's the same as above only they bite much, much harder.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby KittenKaboodle » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:05 pm UTC

p1t1o wrote:My assumption - Wolves would be very reluctant, even if hungry, to attack an aware foe that outnumbers them, all other factors being equal.

Wolves run.
Humans walk after them. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting)
Wolves eventually die of exhaustion.
Humans win.

PS: "choke out a wolf with a basic strangle hold" lol!


Given the O.P's scenario this is probably the right answer.
However, the conditions are not completely defined, as far as I know wolves are not generally tropical animals (at least not the large ones), if all players were put in , say, the Alaskan tundra , in February, with only the equipment God gave them (i.e. the humans are naked and the wolves have a normal pelt) then the wolves win after a brief sprint and an perhaps an hour nap.

Now if there was something to significantly modify the wolves behavior, like say rabies, well, the humans probably still technically win in that the wolves will be dead first (given a more hospitable environment, in the artic tundra the wolves probably still "win"), but the humans will have limited time to enjoy their victory (very little time to enjoy, a bit more to bitterly regret)

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Thu Dec 13, 2018 9:20 pm UTC

I'd say the situation needs to be specified more. Both wolves and humans are thinking animals and need a reason to fight. Humans are planners and so will plan if they have any foreknowledge, or may even have taken precautions without being aware of the specific threat.

So questions:

Is it daytime?

How far a part are the two parties starting? Are there clear lines of sight?

Is the Terrain flat? Are there things a human could climb but not a wolf? Are they in some kind of combat dome where they can't run away?

Anything that could be picked up and used as a weapon?

Do the wolves have a reason to attack? to not run away? The most natural reason to attack would be sever hunger, which would mean the wolves are weakened.

Why are the humans fighting? What do they think is going on? Are they emotionally prepared for this?

I would take my data from the fact that only about one in 2000 police dogs is killed each year in the line of duty (and about a third of them die from being left in hot cars). These are obviously not mano a paw fights, but I have to figure a significant number of occurrences of a person willing to hurt the dog occur, but that human fails to kill the dog, even when the person is armed.

If these people were from a culture where they expected to fight wolves, I'd expect them to win with a high probability. But advantages I'd expect in this case would include being armed (even a pointy stick is a big difference), and enough wherewithal to not be caught unaware.
Eebster the Great wrote:If they bite your foot, they will not bite it off
Well, not in one bite. But one bite stands a decent chance of breaking bones or piercing major arteries. Looking up bite strengths of of grey wolves, 1200 pounds is usually listed as the "fighting for it's life" amount of force.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 13, 2018 10:13 pm UTC

This dude who was attacked by a wolf wrote:In summary, without having someone with me, I am certain the animal would have killed me and I had the advantage of knowing the animal and knowing about these animals. I'm pretty sure that an individual without these advantages stands little chance of surviving an all out attack.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:21 pm UTC

If the human is caught unaware, of course he'll be at a disadvantage, but if the wolf is caught unaware, it won't even be a fight, so that doesn't seem like the fairest comparison.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:35 pm UTC

How much is really going to change if you're aware of the 100lb wolf running toward you faster than you can sprint?
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Thesh » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:46 pm UTC

How are your climbing skills?
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Dec 13, 2018 11:56 pm UTC

How are your holding-onto-a-tree-while-an-angry-wolf-waits-at-the-bottom skills?

As for catching the wolf unaware, the only way that "won't even be a fight" is if you can incapacitate the wolf in a single blow.

That's probably possible for some people, especially together with a generous helping of luck, but I can't see it being typical.
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:27 am UTC

Well, if the wolf isn't aware of your presence, you can just fashion a makeshift spear and impale it. But if we are assuming no weapons, it will be harder. Even then, attacking a wolf from behind gives you a much, much better shot than from the front. The story you quoted points out that you can literally just yank its scrotum and win without much of a fight. But even if you can't locate it in time, just grabbing it by the ears, the throat, the eyes, or the scruff of its neck is a massive advantage. Hell, just grabbing it around its middle and lifting it off the ground might be enough, if you are strong enough to do that.

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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby speising » Fri Dec 14, 2018 7:32 am UTC

enough for what? hold it up in the air, taking care it can't reach any part of you with teeth or claws by any wiggling, until it calms down somehow?

even the scrotum yanking, if you read the post, was only a temprary distraction. the woman could tie him down because he was concentrated on the man, not because he was incapacitated.

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gmalivuk
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Re: Biology: Wolves vs. Humans

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:50 pm UTC

Also because she had a rope.

Eebster the Great wrote:Well, if the wolf isn't aware of your presence, you can just fashion a makeshift spear and impale it.
You said catch it unaware, not "have enough time to fashion a lethal weapon using no tools and to become skilled enough with that weapon to incapacitate a large predator in one shot".

The story you quoted
The story I quoted was written by a wolf expert more physically fit than the vast majority of people, who from personal experience said a lone unarmed person had very little chance of survival in a situation that he had personally experienced.

But sure, you probably know better than him, with your unarmed caveman combat fantasies and experience with playful pet dogs.
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