Animals Of The Stead
Chapter Two of the Topic: Life In Landscape– Being, visions of the Far Place, the gors and the gallt, with notes various on flora and fauna, hunting, herding, agriculture, food and matters diverse.
Domesticated or Food Animals
Honey Bee | Long-haired (Maned) Cattle | Dog | Dabray Doormouse (food animal) | Enlo | Horse | Humpbacked Ox | Kukbird (semi-domestic fowl) | Pelican (used for fishing) | Pigeon (food animal) | Pelorian Ass | Pig | Long-Maned Ram (Spreadhorn) | Shadowcat | Wild Sheep (somewhat domesticated) | Fat-Tails (Milking Sheep) | ‘Giant’ Snail (food animal)
The prosperity of any clan depends on the size and well-being of its stock.
Cattle require plenty of water. How wild and how far you let your cattle run depends on how much you trust your neighbours. Over time, crop plantings tend to supplant the low (river) meadows used for herding cattle.
High dry areas of the tula are used for grazing sheep.
Pigs run semi-wild in woodland, which also provide the occasional deer, and wild fruits in season. Hens and geese are kept by the bloodline lodge, and must be gathered in at night to protect them from foxes and other predators. (Stead alynx are also a constant threat). Rivers and lakes provide fish and wild fowl.
Feeding animals through Dark Season (magically chill, with Ice, Snow and Night Demons abroad) is the key limiting factor in animal husbandry. Upland winters are fierce, but winter survival is testing even in the relatively mild climates of southern Sartar. Upland lodges are split in two: one half for humans and the other for the wintering of cattle. On the milder Sharl Plains, byrnes are kept separate from human lodgings. (Yelmalions have a highly developed sense of purity and taboo, and fear ‘mixing’ in any shape or form).
Sheep are kept for wool, meat milk and sacrifice, cattle for prestige, wealth, milk, sacrifice, meat, manure, horn, sinews and hides. A bull’s hide is as valuable as its meat. Horn is used for fastenings, drinking vessels and many other uses. Bone is used for belt-ends, handles, needles, pins and skates.
Horses are important sacrificial animals and though their meat is consumed, it is usually done so in a ritual context. They are also kept for riding and fighting. Pigs are raised for meat, and favoured because of their quick breeding. Fowl provide eggs in Sea Season, meat, and hollow bones used for musical pipes. Kuks are bred for love and fighting. Rabbits are regularly trapped. Deer are hunted for meat, skin and antler. Boar are hunted for meat and tusk.
Cattle have great cultural value, and are the prime sign of wealth, but in Far Point as elsewhere the Orlanthi are primarily a sheep-herding people. (In European history, the more rural a society, the more important sheep are to its prosperity).
In terms of food value, 1 cow = 2 calves = 5 hogs = 10 young pigs = 7 sheep = 14 lambs = 100 laying hens.
Cattle calve in early Sea Season, and are usually weaned by late Earth. Gestation is (*294/365 (a Stafford equation) = 228 days to produce a single calf. Estrus is 21 days.
(Cattle gestation is similar to Gloranthan human pregnancy, which is 280*294/365 = 225, which I’d shorten to 224 days or 4 seasons, giving the same day and week to both conception and birth, (barring Sacred Time complications ).
In natural breeding, one bull will service up to 25 cows. In controlled (pasture) conditions, this can be expanded to 50 cows.
Maned cattle are fierce, smelly and dangerous! They tend to be smaller on average than modern breeds, and well-adapted to thriving in relatively poor pasture under challenging conditions. Both bulls and cows are horned, which leads to difficulties in winter housing. Animals trained to the yoke for ploughing are kept separate, fed and watered by hand and are relatively tame.
Cows mature at about two and a half years, at which time they can be put in calf and subsequently provide milk. The gestation period is similar to humans, and cows can be managed to calve annually.
Orlanthi regard cattle to be at their prime at seven years of age. Most adult cattle are female.
Cattle have a limited grazing range compared to sheep, are slower to breed, more aggressive, and are afflicted by disease spirits such as milk fever and bloat. Oh but they’re beautiful. Cattle, as an Upland cottar has been heard to proclaim, are better than women.
Pigs are easy to slaughter, and are good converters of feed to food. They are most important to the poorer farmer, as they can be turned out to forage on less tractable forest, scrub or moorland. Gestation is 92 days, and estrus 21 days. A boar can mate with 15-45 sows per year. There are an average 1.5 litters per year, with 7 pigs per litter.
Pigs are an especially important source of food in Dark Season. They are allowed to scavenge freely, existing on pannage of acorns and beech-mast, and sometimes mate with wild boars.
In Earth Season, children are often sent into the forest equipped with long sticks to dislodge acorns for the pigs.
When not running free, pigs are kept in sties apart from the stead, usually in marsh or woodland.
Parasites are a major problem in keeping pigs.
Sheep will count for at least 50% of a clan’s livestock, they are hardy creatures that can graze on land unsuitable for cattle and pigs. They are also highly mobile, and during transhumance can be grazed up to 300 miles from the stead (though no Heortlander would travel anything like this distance with a herd). Even pregnant ewes can move swiftly and constantly if required.
Gestation is 118 days. Sheep produce an average of 91 lambs per 100 ewes per annum, in early Sea Season, and lambs can weigh up to 40 kilos by Earth Season.
A high proportion of sheep are killed when young. Most adult sheep are wethers (castrated rams), valued for their wool.
Sheep breeds are small but athletic, both male and female usually being horned. Wool, which ranges from in colour from brown to oatmeal to occasional white, is shawn, plucked or rooed (depending on the breed) in early Fire Season.
Sheep, especially the Fat-Tail variety, are milked in Sea and Fire Season. Ewes’ milk is the most common source of cheese and butter. A Fat-Tail will produce only a tenth the milk of a dairy cow.
Sheep can subsist on sparse forage. A small group of shepherds (supported by guard alynx) can care for between 1,000 and 4,000 sheep in lowlands and between 1,000-1,500 in hilly country. (Though few Heortling flocks would ever approach this size). The prime difficulties are with (some particularly nasty) worms and footroot.
Sacred to the Rain God Heler, most sheep species found in Heortling lands are surprisingly resilient, able to handle extremes of rain, water and storm that would destroy terran flocks. Hence even rain-soaked Lagerwater, situated near the eternal cloudburst of Skyfall Lake, can maintain considerable flocks of sheep on its upland shielings.
Transhumance is practiced for both sheep and cattle. Both pigs and cattle feed themselves for part of the year in woodland. Cattle will also often be summered in marshlands. Young beasts are raised in hay meadows after the summer harvest. Grazing cattle in forest will quickly destroy young copses.
Semi-wild horses fend for themselves in woodland and are rounded up once a year. The most prized Elmali sacred horses are carefully tended at the stead itself.
Shadowcats (alynxes) are ‘stead-brothers’. Despite their domesticity however, they usually run semi-wild. And despite the strong totemic relationship to the Orlanthi, they are sometimes skinned – though only after careful ritual preparation. An alynx’s liver painfully swells under a full red moon, causing pain and anger. It can see spirits and penetrate the darkness with its glowing eyes. There exists an ancient animosity between shadow cats and trollkin.
Dogs are rare, sometimes taboo, and expensive to keep. Where bred, they are used in war, as spectacular gifting animals between chiefs, and occasionally in herding. Though culturally disliked by most Heortlings, there are several important exceptions to this generalisation, including the Lismelder tribe of Sartar.
Herd dogs have spiked collars for protection against wolves. Their tongues have extraordinary healing powers.
Most steads keep both a dovecote (dung!) and an apiary. Larger steads in the mountains may keep a fish pond or ‘stew’ stocked with pike and carp.
Ducks (called teal to avoid confusion), plover, grouse, herons and geese are regularly trapped and hunted.
Iblis, cranes or herons are sometimes kept as pets. Pelicans are trained to fish, and have collars to prevent them swallowing the catch.
Delight in Battle: Kukbirds
Kukbirds are essentially gallus gallus (domestic chickens) as they were on earth around two thousand years ago. They are small birds with black breasts, red-brown back and tail, bluish legs, distinctive fleshy crest, and an unerring cackle and scream. They lay perhaps 30 eggs a year, mainly in Sea, never in Storm or Dark. The eggs are seldom eaten. In fact, neither is the flesh – they are small, and it’s better to hunt game, or to kill a duck, goose or quail. Kukbirds are valued primarily as alarm clocks, for kukfighting, for the male tail feathers and for use in sacrifice and divination. A Kuk’s cry is protection against chaos and evil. A Male kukbird (called a Kuk) is a symbol of lust and virility. Its testicles are eaten as an aphrodisiac, and Kuks are a common courting gift.
Kukfighting is a Far Point obsession. Kukfights are very popular events, and usually held in conjunction with clan meetings or celebrations. Many the weapontake has been cut short to get on with a Kukfight. (This does nothing to help the reputation of Far Point men for being childish and emotional.)
A Lawspeaker may be called a Kuk. A crowing hen is a bad omen. A malformed egg is called a Kuk’s egg, and is highly magical.
In kukfighting, the natural spurs are removed, and uniform metal spurs bound on. Fighting kuks are pets, their (male) owner’s greatest love. They are named, massaged and exercised (chased around the stead yards). Kuks are often fed on bread supped in wine.
Solars and Lunars are regular fowl-eaters, and are rumoured to have birds that lay daily!
On to Chapter Three: Of Food and Drink …