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Feral Humans?

The idea of feral humans has always fascinated me. I have read about some cases where children were lost or abandoned and were “raised” by other species, sometimes learning to bark like dogs, and walk on all fours, etc. I have also wondered about the possible desirability of the human species going that way voluntarily, or having to after a collapse of civilization. Would humanity be better off if we had remained nomadic hunter-gatherers like every other animal?

skado 8 Jan 22

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Fascinating subject and I may have been tempted to try it in my younger days.

I grew up in a Sportsman's Paradise, and we ate the meats that it provided and depended on the land for the majority of our food.

We kept an unending-ending supply of healthy foods to snack on. Blackberries grew wild in the woods and by the lake. mom would send me out to gather for pies, and would have to go herself because I would eat most of what I picked before I got back with them. Summertime yielded an abundance of bananas from Mom's decorative trees. Dad planted my own tomato vine of cherry tomatoes to pick from at will.

My Aunts would visit after their harvest season up north, and bring down bushels of apples, peaches, and pecans. Sometimes we would also get sweet potatoes. I could take any of it at any time. There was honey and sorghum syrup also. Mom would make jelly and pies, and mix sorghum with butter to slather on cornbread, and she kept fresh squeezed lemonade and orange juice on hand at all times.

For citrus supplies, Dad would go to His boss's house in Central Florida in the winter to paint. It was a working vacation because they would fish while he was there also. He would come home with bushel baskets of Grapefruits Oranges Tangerines and Lemons that were also available for snacking in at any time. If I didn't want what was on the table I could go choose something from one of the baskets.

Dad would fish, and catch frogs and turtles. Crabs were abundant from the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. We would fry them or make soups with them. Ducks from the lake would grace our table at least once or twice during the course of each season, and always on the Holidays.

Squirrels and Rabbits were common to see on our tables too. I learned how ro dress them for cooking at a young age. Dad also planted a garden in the field each year for tomatoes and cucumbers, watermelons, and cantaloupes which always graced our table sliced, salted, and presented on a platter at each evening meal alongside a big bowl of coleslaw.

There were poke-salad bushes and dandelions available in the field that grew wild out back near the woods, and sometimes the cantaloupes that grew were our breakfast.

The good ole days... They didn't last. Commercialization happened and now we have what we are living in today's world.

I would go back to relive those times in a heartbeat. I definitely think that we would all be healthier. These days I'm not physically able to meet the challenges for more than a few days at a time though.

Donna Level 6 Jan 23, 2018

I definitely think we lost our way when the the agrarian culture took over. I like to pick mushrooms, and it is so evident that we as a species are hard wired to hunt for our food, and it is fun. There would probably only be a few million people, but the planet would be happy. and so would we.


Love of money...


I would like to see more cultural diversity. Apart from a few rare cases, most of humanity lives in the industrial culture, we all use currency, technology, we buy and sell and pay for most of our needs. I would like to see places where people could choose to live differently, it could be a super high tech society of engineers and computer programmers selling to the rest of the world, or it could be tribal hunter gatherers with limited interaction outside their own group. Ideally there would always be a minimal level of healthcare and basic education so children could choose to leave if they desired. I have lived off grid, am almost doing so again, raised my kids on a commune while I was a CEO in the finance industry. Normal is boring.


Wow good post! You lined up 3 thought provoking questions. I'll give you my brief opinion on each one.

  1. Possible voluntary rejection of creature comforts? Probability is 0 for two reasons. First the mother of invention is necessity and I don't see the arc of demand (profit motive) changing. Second too many people have become alienated from "Paleo" lifestyle due to continuing urbanization.

  2. Would we pursue the same social, economic, intellectual, and structural models post apocalypse? It depends on the cause of the collapse and the demographics of the remaining population.

  3. Are humans better off now or in nomadic epochs? I'm a Darwinian optimist. We evolved to where we are due to natural selection from best practices and we've been on this path long enough to be confident it's not a dead end.


We all started out as one race, then we separated due to what scientist believe was a mutation. Better off? not sure as to how. Mentally I do believe if we were to digress it would not hold due to our innate ability to overcome hardships. thus bring us back to oblivion from wence we came.


I can't imagine having to be a woman popping out babies every 18 months (if I survived childbirth) only to see my children die in great numbers.

"Infant mortality is over 30 times greater among hunter-gatherers, and early child mortality is over 100 times greater than encountered in the United States. Even late childhood mortality is about 80 times greater among hunter-gatherers."


Fascinating article. Thanks.

@skado Fascinating subject.

I'm pretty sure none of us as individuals would volunteer for that life, but it's interesting to think about philosophically. We seem to be the only animal capable of (and making progress toward) destroying all life on earth, and I can't help letting my imagination wander as to solutions. Chimpanzees aren't destroying the environment. I wonder how they cope with high infant mortality rates etc. and would we, and all other life, be better off if we learned something from the chimps? I just like to ponder these things. I don't really think that's our destiny or propose it as a realistic solution.

@skado Chimp and Baboon troops are dysfunctional, too. The males mistreat the females and kill their babies. They just have the brain capacity to destroy other troops. But they can be just as destructive, just not on a global scale. High stratification leads to dysfunction. I think you will like this article titled "Peace Among Primates" by Dr. Robert Sapolsky who spent over two decades observing the savanna baboons. The most interesting section, IMO, is the subtitle "Left behind."

You will see that the Forest Troop baboons weren't much different than humans until a freak accident happened and most of the alpha male baboons died off. When that happened the stratification became less, the alphas didn't bully the betas males as much, and the beta males didn't take it out on the females. The females became less wary. The culture changed and the troop became, as Sapolsky states, "a baboon utopia."


We could definitely learn something from the bonobos. To a good extent, the Nordic countries already have.

Thanks. I am familiar with that mindblowing story from Sapolsky's work, and it made a significant impact on my worldview. I'll enjoy reading about it again. @VictoriaNotes

@VictoriaNotes I have wondered when some of our alpha males might find their own contaminated meat (if that's the story in your article) and if we could live in peace thereafter!


After reading your question, I decided to check out the cases of feral children (I mainly only knew of fictional characters like Tarzan and Mowgli, lol), I was surprised by how many, but also that several where just straight out abuse cases involving their parents isolating them. So.... no.....humans will not voluntarily become feral if there happens to be a collapse of civilization. We've evolved too far to turn back now.

There are, still, some nomadic tribes around the world, but most have been affected one way or another by progress/civilization and have difficulty being sole sufficient. However, a large number of people are "going off the grid" but many still maintain all their creature comforts, with some adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. But both usually turn to gardening and hunting for their food supply. I can see more people doing this even without civilization collapsing (their reasons vary from economic to eco-friendly). So I think that would be the closest I can see to anyone voluntarily turning back the clock.

IMO, we would not have been better off maintaining the nomadic lifestyle.

I've also wondered if some other intelligent species might have had technology at one time and chose to return to the wild, like dolphins.

@skado, I don't know. But I can't imagine having achieved a certain level of knowledge or intelligence and then, willingly, relinquishing it.

@BeeHappy Maybe they were smart enough to see what it was doing to the planet and preferred to live wild and free rather than to destroy themselves and most other species with them. If it fell your responsibility to make that choice for your entire species, what would you choose?

@skado, but I think that would only be a temporary solution because they would eventually evolve again. It's one thing to live wild and free and another to give up your knowledge or intelligence. There has to be more than one solution and that's what I would try for.

@BeeHappy I'm only talking about it as a thought experiment. In reality we won't get that choice. But I do think it would be a beautiful solution. There is nothing about it that requires you to give up your intelligence. By some accounts dolphins may be more intelligent than us. It only requires that we give up our artificial comforts, and our assumption of superiority. You don't have to participate in the thought experiment if you don't want to of course, but it is limited to two options to illustrate a point. Would you rather die and take all other species down with you or live on in quiet wisdom as an equal with all other animals? So far the human race has chosen the former, and I see no indication that we will do otherwise.

@skado, I should know better than to get into these kinds of discussions with you. Lol. As my kids use to say...You make my head hurt! Lol 😉

Ok, it's hard for me to suspend reality, and that's what you are asking me to do. I think I understand what you are saying, and it sounds real nice 'to live on in quiet wisdom and equality' BUT people/ humans are never satisfied! I'm going down with the species.

It is a mystery as to what happened to the Mayans. Daniel Quinn hypothesizes that when their civilization failed, they dispersed into the jungle, and became hunter gatherers again.


Would go against evolution to revert. Could see only androids a cyborgs remaining perhaps with recorded personalities. Thought about the Tarzan theory before as a species when it comes to survival of the fittest we are low on that scale especially in child years. Would most likely end up dinner for predatory animals.


Interesting idea @skado. Trying to be positive we will avoid a collapse of civilization.

Me too!


I think I need to stop reading those occasional Post-Apocalyptic novels? This thought crosses my mind more often then I'd like - in these times in particular. I think we'd revert to an earlier time. Not a feral state. But imagine being without power/clean water/communication and either having to get to know every neighbor to create a future - or boarding yourself in a cabin in the deepest forest you can find. Yup one of those two for sure.


I'm not sure we would go to a feral species like children raised by dogs, humans are by nature a tribal and social species, even if we had to revert to a hunter-gatherer society we would still retain that basic social nature and would eventually rebuild.

I don't think we would have been better off if we had remained hunter-gatherers, I think the earth and the other species we share it with might have been better off.


Everything has it's advantages and disadvantages. There are no exceptions. (IMHO)

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