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. By definition bounties can be retracted at any time by whomever issued them. 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.
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.
In Australia in 1824, a bounty of 500 acres (200 ha) of land was offered for capturing alive the Wiradjuri warrior Windradyne, the leader of the Aboriginal resistance movement in the Bathurst Wars. A week after the bounty being offered the word "alive" was dropped from the reward notices, however he was neither captured nor betrayed by his people.
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
The term bounty is used in the mathematics to refer to a reward offered to any person willing to take on an open problem. 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.
In the computer science and open source community bounty refers to a reward offered to any person or project willing to solve open problems; for instance, implementing a feature or finding a bug in an open source software program (Open source bounty). For instance the Mozilla Foundation offers bounties for security bug hunting. Bounty driven development is one of the Business models for open-source software.
In poker culture, a bounty prize refers to a fixed quantity each player put on when registering into a tournament that is particularly dedicated to be given to the player that spews another out of the tournament.
Often, if a driver or team has won multiple consecutive races, a race track or sanctioning body will establish a bounty on a team. This practice is common on local short tracks, especially if a driver has won three consecutive weeks or more. The bounty often is increased for every race the offending driver or team continues to win, and is claimed upon another driver or team ending that winning streak. After Chip Ganassi Racing won six consecutive Rolex Sports Car Series races, Grand American Road Racing Association established a $25,000 bounty to the team that beats Ganassi. On May 14, 2011, Action Express Racing defeated Ganassi, and claimed the $25,000 bounty.
Bounties, referring to bonuses for in-game performance, are officially banned by the NFL, the sport's dominant professional league. Despite this, bounties have had a significant history within the sport. Notable examples include a 1989 game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles that became known as the Bounty Bowl, and a bounty scheme organized by players and coaches with the New Orleans Saints that was uncovered in 2012, leading to major league penalties.
"Bounty" is also used to refer to bonus payments made to staff on recruitment (and/or for recommending others for recruitment) – this used to be common in the military (indeed it was standard practice in the British Army during the 19th century) but has since been largely phased out, only to become relatively widespread amongst civilian employers. Many reserve armed forces also pay a retention 'bounty' to personnel who meet or exceed participation and training thresholds.
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