Donner Party Ate Family Dog, Maybe Not People

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The Donner Party, a group of 19th century American pioneers who became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada and supposedly resorted to cannibalism, may not have eaten each other after all, suggests a new study on bones found at the Donner's Alder Creek campsite hearth in California.

Detailed analysis of the bones instead found that the 84 Donner Party members consumed a family dog, "Uno," along with cattle, deer and horses. Cattle, likely eaten after the animals themselves died of starvation, appear to have been their mainstay.

The study is the first to show that the Donner members successfully hunted deer, despite the approximately 30 feet of snow on the ground during the winter of 1846-1847. The horses are thought to have come from relief parties that arrived in February and could have left a few of their animals behind.

The paper, which will be published in the July issue of the journal American Antiquity, is also the first to prove the theory that the stranded individuals ate their pet dog....

"Racism might have played a part," Robbins said. "Keseberg was from Poland, and negative sentiment toward Polish immigrants existed then."...

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