Roughly 18,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers in New Guinea loved nothing more than a good fried egg and a lump of roasted bird meat. To enjoy these treats more easily, they turned to bird breeding. What is surprising is that they bred one of the deadliest birds on the planet: the deadly cassowary.
Imagine a giant bird not far evolved from a raptor, with the same deadly slicing claws and a taste for human flesh. The cassowary is a large, flightless bird native to Australia and Papua New Guinea. With 4-inch-long dagger-like claws on each foot, cassowaries are one of only a few bird species on record as having killed humans. San Diego Zoo describes cassowaries as “the world’s most dangerous bird.” Weighing up to 167 pounds and growing to a height of nearly six feet, cassowaries have powerful legs allowing them to run up to 30 miles per hour.
While you’d think that anyone in their right mind would steer clear of such a creature, early forest hunter-gatherers in New Guinea deliberately collected and bred cassowaries for food 18,000 years ago. This is the earliest evidence of bird breeding to date. Up until now this coveted spot was claimed by the domesticated greylag goose in ancient Egypt, about 3,000 years ago.
If you’re worried about the safety of these brave ancient humans, don’t be. Cassowary chicks generally imprint on humans when they are raised by them from birth, meaning the ancient bird breeders were pretty much safe from attack.
By Ashley Cowie