Bounty (reward)

A bounty (from Latin bonitās, goodness) is a payment or reward often offered by a group as an incentive for the accomplishment of a task by someone usually not associated with the group. Bounties are most commonly issued for the capture or retrieval of a person or object. They are typically in the form of money. Two modern examples of bounties are the bounty placed for the capture of Saddam Hussein and his sons by the United States and Microsoft's bounty for computer virus creators. Those who make a living by pursuing bounties are known as bounty hunters.


Historical examples

A bounty system was used in the American Civil War. It was an incentive to increase enlistments. Another bounty system was used in New South Wales to increase the number of immigrants from 1832.

Bounties were sometimes paid as rewards for killing Native Americans. In 1862, a farmer received a $500 bounty for shooting Taoyateduta (Little Crow). In 1856 Governor Isaac Stevens put a bounty on the head of Indians from Eastern Washington, $20 for ordinary Indians and $80 for a "chief". A Western Washington Indian, Patkanim, chief of the Snohomish, obligingly provided a great many heads, until the Territorial Auditor put a stop to the practice due to the dubious origins of the deceased.

Bounties have been offered on animals deemed undesirable by particular governments or corporations. In Tasmania, the thylacine was relentlessly hunted to extinction based on such schemes. Gray Wolves too were extirpated from much of the present United States by bounty hunters. An example of the legal sanction granted can be found in a Massachusetts Bay Colony law dated May 7, 1662: "This Court doth Order, as an encouragement to persons to destroy Woolves, That henceforth every person killing any Woolf, shall be allowed out of the Treasury of that County where such woolf was slain, Twenty shillings, and by the Town Ten shillings, and by the County Treasurer Ten shillings: which the Constable of each Town (on the sight of the ears of such Woolves being cut off) shall pay out of the next County rate, which the Treasurer shall allow.

21st century examples

Bounty hunters provided most of the prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay detainment camp.

Other uses

The term bounty is used in the mathematics, computer science, and free culture communities to refer to a reward offered to any person willing to take on an open problem in that domain; for instance, implementing a feature or finding a bug in an open source software program. Bounties are offered for solving a particular math problem — ranging from small lemmas that graduate students solve in their spare time for $20 US up to some of the world's hardest math problems. Paul Erdős was famous for offering mathematical bounties. Bounties have been paid by the Bounty board for writing Wikipedia articles.

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