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Similar to earth musk ox in size and stature, shagbacks are dark brown year round. They travel in small grazing and browsing herds, and are partial to wild crabapples, the kind with golf-ball sized fruits. These groves attract herds of shagbacks in early fall when their coats are thickening for winter. Drunken shagbacks, inebriated by the spoiled apples may be sheared while they doze after gorging themselves. Imagine them staggering around, bleating, hungover, and freshly-sheared... They usually have plenty of time to grow back their coats before winter.
This practice is being discouraged for safety reasons: A shagback not sufficiently mellowed can be of great danger and villagers are regularly injured and sometimes even killed attempting this shearing. As population issues have become apparent to the snow-unicorn riders and the Itakith village has had some luck in domesticating the silk-hares for their superior wool, this has become something a few rash young rangers may attempt for the glory of it, rather than a sanctioned, regular practice. They are sometimes hunted for food, as well as their thick hides; their meat is considered bland but satisfactory.
White mountain goats and sheep are rarer; there are just few small herds are scattered throughout the mountains, and they are both prized for their beautiful skins. They have a flee instinct that tends to save the majority of them from the Others when one gets tagged. Both are good eating, and their horns (large and curled on the sheep, short and slightly curved on the goats) are useful craft materials.
Snowshoe boars are shorter (2 to 2.5 ft high and 3 to 3.5 ft long) and rather wider than sandpigs, with a lot more fat, weighing up to 200 pounds. If you don't bother them, usually they won't bother you, unless they feel threatened or it's mating season. They lack the proactive aggression of wild boars, but they are reactively aggressive -- they will turn and fight a snow-cat. The double crossover mane of stiff hairs provides some protection from an aerial pounce, but less from a ground attack -- experienced snow-cats try to rush a snowshoe boar from the side and gut it. The shoulder skin is tough, like a bison's is; and they carry a thick layer of fat along the spine and shoulders. Good eating and an excellent source of useful fat, but considerably rarer than shagbacks.
There are no rabbit populations in the north, but there are several kinds of hare. Silk-hares are giant compared to earth varieties, and an excellent source of wool for the Northerners, who are experimenting with semi-domestication. Tundra hares are found in the high alpine areas, color changing between a dull summer brown and a winter white. They are significantly smaller than the silk-hares. Forest hares do not go through a full color change, gaining only white patches during the winter. They are larger and slower than the tundra hares, and are rarer than silk-hares. Marsh hares (alternately called swamp hares and, disrespectfully, elder hares) also do only a partial color change, and are the smallest and stupidest of the hare varieties.
A number of rodents comprise the smallest niche of the ecosystem, ranging from rats, through mice and voles. Common rats are problematic for snow-unicorn rider stores, and are most often found near the villages. The larger, aquatic scumrats build sloppy mud houses in still water and eat weeds and plants. Mice, much smaller, are more often found wild, and eat seeds and berries (several subspecies are adapted for their various ecosystems). Voles, the smallest of the rodents at 1-2 inches, are actually omnivorous, eating seeds and insect grubs and are respected for taking out wasp and hornets underneath the snow during the winters. Their tracks can commonly be seen as teeny trails along the surface of the snow.
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Animals of the North: An overview of the animals found in (or near) the territory of the snow-unicorn riders.
Silk-hares: A large, wool-bearing hare native to the North.