|Common Nicknames||Bubalis, Carabeef, Moron-oxen|
The Muff-oxen is a large bovid found on the Ashal Islands, and also lives along the rivers that wind through wider Westwynd. This ancient animal was connected to the Asha millennia ago when the Allorn Empire conquered their rival empire, and survived to the modern day in those wilds as well as among the enslaved Asha. Huge, but lacking intellect, these animals eat, grow and reproduce, their meat and dairy a major part of Asha diets today, while the Muff-oxen in the wild are sometimes hunted for those same byproducts.
The Muff-oxen’s history is ancient, and is perhaps the earliest domesticated animal of the Asha Race . What limited work exists from this ancient period shows the Asha working in concert with the Muff-oxen, first pursuing them as prey, and later taming them for their goods, as well as labor. Some even believe that one of the Asha’s gods had a Muff-oxen head. But, with the advent of Living Metal, their role as a beast of burden was eliminated, and instead the animal turned into a source of food alone. Some have even suggested that prior to the cataclysmic shift in relations between the Elves and ancient Asha, the animal may have been a trade good between the two Races. However, once the Allorn Empire set its sights on the Dewamenet Empire, this exchange of Muff-oxen goods ceased. The Asha lost against the Elves, and millions of their people were enslaved. Unlike other animals, the Muff-oxen escaped the war relatively unharmed, as it was not used as a source of transportation or warfare. The Allorn Empire also generally dismissed the animal as slave food, and so the Asha kept tending the animal, albeit in far worse surroundings, and without the use of Living Metal. Some Muff-oxen herds escaped and went feral in the wilds, where they have remained for centuries.
As the Allorn Empire rose, and then later began to fall, the Muff-oxen remained on the periphery. Ailor slaves ultimately took to tending the Muff-oxen, and there are some who believe that the ancient animal was the stock that Ailor-raised western species of bovine find their progenitor in. Even if this is not true, the role of the Ailor alongside the Muff-oxen would certainly prepare the future generations in their encounters with the cow. When the Allorn Empire finally collapsed, and the mass slave revolts overthrew Elven control, many Asha took their Muff-oxen with them, as practical sources of transporting goods, as well as sources of food, but also because the animal was their heritage and legacy. Led to the Ashal Islands by the free Asha who had hidden in the corners of the west for millennia, and who also brought their own herds with them, the Muff-oxen came to flourish once more. Despite being quickly reduced to an animal for food alone again, the Muff-oxen are still seen as a major feature of modern Asha life today. The wild herds of Westwynd meanwhile, remain, though their numbers have dwindled since the Cataclysm as Daendroque states plum their natural vistas for resources, and hunters seek to claim the meat of these impressive wild bovines. By the end of the coming century, it is likely the Muff-oxen will only remain in the lands of the Asha, but until that day comes, outsiders can appreciate these ancient creatures either in the wilds, or in the markets of the Asha Fair-Port.
In comparison to other species of domesticated bovids, the Muff-oxen is larger and heavier, capable of reaching just under five feet tall and nearly seven feet long, while weighing over a ton. Their head features a distinctive pair of large horns, emerging from the center-top of the skull and arching backward, before curling forward and upward. These horns sit above an elongated face, with two large pointed ears and two large black eyes resting a short ways below, leading down to a large mouth and broad snout, with an excess of hair growing on the underside of their head beneath this mouth. Their head is connected to the rest of their body by a thick neck, which suits the muscular, rounded body the Muff-oxen possess. Their body sits on four heavily built hooved legs, and reaches back to a short tail. Muff-oxen coats are commonly shades of dark brown or black, with cream-colored spots along their flanks not uncommon either. The rarest members have white spots on a black coat, and are known as the Star Cattle. Muff-oxen chin and neck hairs often see a bit of green added to the palette as well, due to the growth of flora in the often wet, coarse “beard” that sits there.
Muff-oxen have a stark gender dichotomy, as males are universally bigger and weigh more than females. Conversely, the horns of females are often thinner or grow longer, as the horns of males are thick and stout, as well as rough, due to the need for the occasional locking of heads. Females also have a slight preference in the population of the Muff-oxen, but this may be due to practices of the Asha seeking large, meat-heavy males over females, who more often provide milk and are not often the focus for slaughter.
Life Span and Development
Muff-oxen are liveborn with up to one other sibling, but often emerge as single calves. Pale brown and skinny, Muff-oxen quickly acclimate to the world and are soon up and running. They mature surprisingly fast for such large animals, and by the end of eight months have achieved a size close to their adult height and form, officially entering young adulthood. Their coat of hair has also changed into the hue they will have as adults. They leave their mother’s side at this time, and join the wider herd. Muff-oxen continue to mature for several more years, and achieve full adulthood at around three to five years of age. Muff-oxen are able to live for up to thirty years in the wild and in captivity, though males in the wild are often killed earlier, or suffer complications from combat injuries that see few live to their maximum possible age.
While other forms of domesticated animals might boast a high degree of intelligence, the Muff-oxen does not have such highs. In fact, it is a rather dull creature, one easily outwitted, avoided or led astray. Animals that hunt the bovine often suffer from the sheer number of angry males or females able to attack at once, rather than the combat prowess of the Muff-oxen, whose form is built to lash and bash with its horns and powerful limbs. The animal is also easily led by the Asha and those who know the animal’s favored plants. While they lack advanced thinking on this level, the Muff-oxen can be noted for its kindness within its own species, males and females freely cleaning each other as needed, and calves well looked after. Males can get a bit aggressive around the mating season, but full on injuries are very rare, and horn locks or nudges are the most which takes place, as deference to older members of the herd is constant in their herding groups.
Territory and Groupings
Muff-oxen herds vary greatly in size. Those in the wild can number as high as sixty, while those kept by the Asha can reach well over a hundred. They tend to follow rivers to lakes, swamps, and more, before turning and heading back the way they came in a seasonal cycle of motion up one riverbank, and then down the other. All herds are controlled by a bull, the oldest male in the group, and it is these figures the Asha use to help them move Muff-oxen about with great ease. However, the Muff-oxen of the Ashal Islands have become used to the Asha with time, and do not pose much of a threat for this reason.
- Muff-oxen-headed Asha are a great rarity in the modern day, and often suffer from jokes involving their intellect. Strangely enough though, most such Asha are rural, and tend to focus a lot on farming, and so often partly fit the stereotypes of “county bumpkin,” such as it is in Asha society.
- Muff-oxen are sometimes known to be led astray by Urlan, considering any member of the often large Race the bull of their herd. This is rarely an issue as most Urlan with heads similar to the Muff-oxen keep to northern lands, but every so often, there is a disruption in the Fair-Port marketplaces as Muff-oxen crash out of their pens to follow after an Urlan visitor.
- Muff-oxen cheeses are highly sought after, considered very flavorful and unique to most Ailor Cultures. However, Ithanians and Elves detest the “pungent” cheese, and consider it a dirty creation that lacks refinement.