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Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated. Game animals are also hunted for sport.

The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This will be influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted view about what can or cannot be legitimately hunted. Sometimes a distinction is also made between varieties and species of a particular animal, such as wild or domestic turkey.

By region

In some countries, game is classified, including legal classification with respect to licenses required, as either small game or large game. Small game includes small animals such as rabbits, pheasants, mice, geese or ducks. A single small game license may cover all small game species and be subject to yearly bag limits. Large game includes animals like deer, bear, and elk and are often subject to individual licensing where a separate license is required for each individual animal taken(tags). Big game is a term sometimes used interchangeably with large game although in other contexts it refers to large, usually African, mammals (like elephants) which are hunted mainly for trophies, not for food.


In Africa, wild animals hunted for their meat are called bushmeat; see that article for more detailed information on how this operates within the economy (for personal consumption and for money) and the law (including overexploitation and illegal imports). Animals hunted include, but are not limited to: Some of these animals are endangered or otherwise protected, and thus it is illegal to hunt them.
An African Buffalo Bull.
In Africa, animals hunted for their pelts or ivory are sometimes referred to as big game.

Also see the legal definition of game in Swaziland.


In Australia, game includes:

People's Republic of China

In the PRC there is a special cuisine category called ye wei, which includes animals in the wild.

North America

In the U.S.marker, Mexicomarker and Canadamarker, deer are the most commonly hunted big game. Game species in North America include:
Bobwhite Quail, an important North American gamebird.

United Kingdom

In the UKmarker game is defined in law by the Game Act 1831. It is illegal to shoot game on Sundays or at night. Other (non-game birds) that are hunted for food in the UK are specified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. UK law defines game as including:

Deer are not included in the definition, but similar controls provided to those in the Game Act apply to deer (from the Deer Act 1991). Deer hunted in the UK are:

Other animals which are hunted in the UK include:

Capercaillie are not currently hunted in the UKmarker because of a recent decline in numbers and conservation projects towards their recovery. The ban is generally considered voluntary on private lands, and few birds live away from RSPB or Forestry Commission land anyway.

See also: Hunting and shooting in the United Kingdom


In Icelandmarker game includes:

Nordic countries

Game in Norwaymarker, Swedenmarker and Finlandmarker include:

  • Moose (elk), Alces Alces. Moose hunting season in October is close to a national pastime.
  • Deer
  • Boar in southern Sweden. Once hunted to extinction, boars were re-introduced in the late 20th century and are now considered a pest by farmers, but an asset by hunters.


Once obtained, game meat must be processed. The method of processing varies by game species and size. Small game and fowl may simply be carried home to be butchered. Large game such as deer is quickly field-dressed by removing the viscera in the field, while very large animals like moose may be partially butchered in the field because of the difficulty of removing them intact from their habitat. Commercial processors often handle deer taken during deer seasons, sometimes even at supermarket meat counters. Otherwise the hunter handles butchering. The carcass is kept cool to minimize spoilage.

Some believe the meat tastes better and is more tender if it is hung and aged for a few days before processing; however, this adds to the risk of contamination. Small game can be processed essentially intact; after gutting and skinning or defeathering (by species), small animals are ready for cooking although they may be disjointed first. Large game must be processed by techniques commonly practiced by commercial butchers.


Generally game is cooked in the same ways as farmed meat. Because some game meat is leaner than store-bought beef, overcooking is a common mishap which can be avoided if properly prepared. It is sometimes grill or cooked longer or by slow cooking or moist-heat methods to make it more tender, since some game tends to be tougher than farm-raised meat. Other methods of tenderizing include marinating as in the dish Hasenpfeffer, cooking in a Game pie or as a stew such as Burgoo. Traditionally, game meat used to be hung until "high", i.e. approaching a state of decomposition. The term 'gamey', 'gamy' refers to this usually desirable taste (haut goût).

Consumption warning

In November 2008, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the North Dakotamarker state health department revealed high levels of lead in the blood of residents who ate wild game animals killed with lead bullets. Health officials recommended that pregnant women and young children not consume meat obtained in this fashion. The recommendations follow a Minnesotamarker Department of Natural Resources study indicating that lead fragments may spread as much as 18 inches from a bullet wound.

See also


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