A record of the Mountain Dogs of The Wilderlands, circa 1140.
The Wilderlands is a very beautiful region of Eitador. The secret to its beauty is in the dynamic range of environments that are present there. There are rocky coastal cliffs where you can gaze into the crashing waves and consider what might lie beyond the vast ocean. There are coastal lowlands where you can shelter from the sun beneath wild cork trees. There are windswept verdant hills enclosing meadows full of beautiful flowers. There are tall forests with plants and mushrooms and perhaps even animals that have never properly been cataloged. And there are, of course, the rocky mountain passes that can lead you to the Great Lake Eyremiatha and beyond.
There are many fascinating things in the mountains that deserve their own articles. In particular, if you are traveling to this part of The Wilderlands, you will need to know how to navigate the passes safely. You might also want to look into the mycelium wall huts used by the locals to keep warm, as the cold is never much of an issue anywhere else in Eitador. And while it’s specialist knowledge, knowing how to climb the peaks, where to look for orichalcum, or which mushrooms make for the tastiest broth is always fun to learn! In this article, however, we will be discussing the Mountain Dogs of The Wilderlands. Knowledge of this animal is not information you should skip in any circumstance, as they can be very dangerous!
Mountain Dogs are almost two meters long, with a very long tail that is roughly that same length again. They weigh between 100 and 150kg and have very powerful back legs that allow them to leap almost 8 meters. They have sizeable fangs as well as enlarged premolars that allow them to break down bones to swallow them. Their pelts are thick and furry. They’re normally brown or grey, sometimes with darker splotches. They have large ears and good noses that can help them to sniff out targets far in the distance.
The dogs live in packs of around 10 adults, though this has been known to vary, with a single alpha male and alpha female breeding pair. Which dogs are the alphas can be difficult to determine as they are only very rarely aggressive to one another. Subordinate dogs, generally the females, will usually voluntarily leave the pack if they wish to find a mate and start their own family.
The packs are good at cooperating. You can see this when they hunt, as they will work together to surround their prey and go for the kill. You can also see this when it comes to the division of spoils after they return to the den. The entire pack will provide for the pups of the alphas by regurgitating food into their mouths, and they will also provide for any elderly or sick dogs in this same way. In this, it can be seen that even the dogs who cannot hunt are important to the pack because they look after the pups and provide an important social function.
They have a very carnivorous diet and will eat almost nothing apart from meat. To make sure they have a lot of energy, as their prey includes fast animals such as Wilderland Deer and Hornox, they are asleep all night and for a large part of the day. The easiest place to see them resting, if you’re not willing to risk life and limb heading deep into the mountain caves, is the shore of Lake Eyremiatha. They often get their kills by endurance hunting, being able to maintain a good speed until their prey is too exhausted to run anymore, even if some creatures of The Wilderlands can outrun them initially. When they pounce, it is an awesome and gory sight!
Although they do not usually prey on humans, people should still be very wary of these animals. If you believe that you are near a den, take a long route around it! Approaching their home, where the pups and the vulnerable live, is more than enough to inspire them to attack you. They’ll also attack humans if they’re particularly hungry for whatever reason.
The Yrathyisf forest clearings deprived them of a food source and caused a huge increase in the number of starving packs, which ended up being quite the terrible thing for Yrathyisf townsfolk! A person may be able to scare off or kill one or two Mountain Dogs, and it appears as though torches and fire are great tools for this, but any larger group of them is incredibly dangerous. In particular, many travelers to The Wilderlands have been killed by these dogs after not taking proper precautions. Some farmers have also been killed in attempting to defend their livestock.
It is somewhat possible to tame a Mountain Dog, but it is by no means suggested that you try! Only talented woodsmen and animal tamers who are natives of The Wilderlands have ever succeeded at it. Even then, the wild side of these dogs can never be completely suppressed, and many ‘trained’ dogs have caused unprovoked harm to people and property.
Trained mountain dogs have been useful as hunting dogs, and records indicate that they have been used in this way with varying success for at least hundreds of years. They have also been used for coliseum fights, which generally involves keeping them in small cages and starving them until they are at their most violent. Some of the more brave or more foolish nobles and bandits have also kept them as intimidating exotic pets.
Certainly, a trip to The Wilderlands is not complete without catching sight of these incredible animals, but one must also exercise extreme caution. While these animals have played their role in our society, and are generally not antagonistic towards us, we must remember that they are still wild beasts who follow their own set of rules and customs. Even we humans must obey the laws of the animal world when the situation calls for it. Remember, as the Holy Ones of Monathia repeat time and time again, that no part of nature exists independent from the whole.