Hoss

(Plural, "hoss").

A changeling breed derived from the pre-Kingdom Come animal called a horse (Equus caballo). Hoss are the ubiquitous working animal across the Shattered Earth, being hardy and innured to long stretches without water. Full-grown normal hoss range from 450 to 700kg, though some specially-bred draw-hoss can tip the scales over 1200kg. The breed tends to minor sportism, with variations in appendages and skin coverings being most common. Digging tusks and short trunks are common, with clawed feet occurring sometimes and long wooly coats or scaled skin seen on some sub-breeds. Intelligence ranges from low-animal to high-animal. A truly intelligent hoss would be a major sport. Temperment-wise, hoss are herd-beast that vie for dominance within their groups. They're prey-animals for large predators and are prone to irrational fight-or-flight responses sometimes.

It generally takes a hoss five years to reach its full growth, making them difficult to raise on rough land like the Dustlands, and wild hoss rarely have the muscle needed to carry a rider for long. To make a decent riding beast, a wild hoss has to be caught and broken to the harness, then "proved up" on a better diet than they're likely to find in the wild. This can take the better part of a year of feeding and exercise, making proven animals expensive. Most prime riding-hoss are imported from the North or the Southeast. A hoss that hasn't reached an acceptable growth is called a "scrub", and they're usually used in light hauling or pack-work.

Herds of wild hoss roam the Dustlands and surrounding regions. The Dustwalker nomads view them as a resource - they capture them from time to time to break and train, avoiding the problem of proving them up by running strings of replacement animals to which a rider can switch throughout the day. (Most Dustwalker tribes run 2-5 hoss per rider - more if hard work or fighting is expected.) Settlers view wild hoss as a nuisance -they get into crops and compete with valuable herd animals for forage - and usually kill them when they have a chance. This is just one more reason for conflict between settlers and the nomads of the plains.

Adventure Hooks

  • A prime riding-hoss stallion imported from the Far North at great cost got loose when the last wild herd passed. Can you catch the wily wild hoss and their visitor? Can you do it in time - the escapee will quickly loose his tone and value on a wild diet in the badlands, and might also run afoul of a predator. Worse, when the Dustwalkers raid the herd for replacement animals, how are you going to get their valued prize away from them? Diplomacy, trading, or outright theft?
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