Tar’andus is a member of the deer family found in arctic
and subarctic regions, from the Gathorn Mountains onwards stretching to the
North over all the peninsula of Iol. They are the only deer
in which both sexes have antlers. The broad hooves support the animal on boggy
land or snow and have sharp edges that enable it to traverse rocky or frozen
surfaces and to dig down to the grass and lichens on which it sometimes feeds.
Appearance. The Tar’andus is a medium-sized deer, the male standing about 1 ped 1 fore high at the shoulder, but despise its small size it is extremely strong and has great powers of endurance. A reindeer can travel 10 leagues a day, pulling twice its own weight on a sled. The Tar’andus have long fur, light brown in summer, in late fall it turns clove-brown with a white neck, rump, and feet, often with a white flank stripe and almost completely white in winter, with dense woolly undercoats. The fur of newborn calves is generally reddish-brown.
Image description. A Tar'andus deer found in the Forest of Contamar. Picture by Bard Judith.
The fur of the Tar’andus is so insulating that it can resist temperatures so low
that few other animals would survive them. This is also a slight disadvantage
because the Tar’andus is unable to survive in a more temperate climate, it simply
would die of heat, as its only manner of releasing extra heat being increasing
its breathing ratio. In fact the fur is so isolating that a slain Tar’andus will
stay warm many hours after its death. This is why it is very important to skin
the Tar’andus as soon as it is killed. If not the meat will start to decompose.
The antlers of this deer are many pronged, with characteristically curved main stems that sweep back and up from the forehead, then turning forward. Antlers of adult bulls are large and massive; those of adult cows are much shorter and are usually more slender and irregular. When the antlers are growing they are covered by a thin, velvet looking, membrane that is shed when they reach the rutting season.
Tar'andus have a relativly short and muscular body while the legs are very long. The Tar’andus have large, concave hooves that spread widely to support the animal in snow and soft tundra. The feet also function as paddles when the Tar’andus swim. Newborn calves weigh an average of 1 heb and 1 hafeb and grow very quickly. They may double their weight in 10-15 days. Weights of adult bulls average 3 pygges and 4 hebs . However, weights of more than 6 pygges have been recorded. Mature females average 2 pyggees and 4 hebs.
One thing that is quite characteristic of the Tar’andus is the soft and short fur that covers all of its muzzle, except for a small line just above the lips, this helps it to avoid the loss of heat when they dig in the snow searching for food.
The Tar’andus are gregarious and migratory; they travel hundreds of leagues
between their summer and winter grounds in herds of up to 2000 animals. They
feed on a variety of plant matter, particularly grasses in summer and lichen in
winter. Tar’andus have been hunted for many hundreds of years by many different
species, both human,
orc and troll.
They have been domesticated by some tribes, where they may be used for meat,
milk, clothing, and transportation. They are used both to pull sleds and to
carry burdens and small riders.
Their sense of smell is so keen that they can detect food or predators over a distance of more than 5 dashes. This allowes them to find food under the thick capes of snow.
Also Tar'andus' hearing is said to be excellent.
Territory. The Tar,andus can be found all over the peninsula of Iol and along the Icelands coast in Northern Sarvonia, there have also been found wandering herds as far south as the Heath of Wilderon.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Tar’andus prefer habitat with large sparsely vegetated openings and annual snowfall of less than 3 peds. The Tar’andus select suitable wintering area and then react to snow conditions within it by moving from place to place in search for food. In late winter, they feed mainly on lichens obtained by pawing through the snow cover. Therefore, they are always searching for areas with reduced snow depth.
The Tar’andus do not shift in range substantially from winter to summer range. Generally, both ranges overlap. They use an isolation strategy to reduce the probability of being detected by a predator. Their dispersion brings them closer to the boundary of their range, but they still remain as far as possible from the boundaries. The Tar’andus uses islands or lake or river shorelines as traditional calving areas. Good calving islands have a flat topography, a good supply of lichens, and good visibility in all directions. On islands or shorelines, the Tar’andus is safe from predation because they can escape easily by swimming.
The mortality rate of adults and calves that are older than 6 months old is usually low when predation is low.
Diet. Like most herd animals, the Tar’andus must keep moving to find adequate food. Large herds often migrate long distances (up to 50 leagues) between summer and winter ranges. Smaller herds may not migrate at all. In summer (Alé'veván until Chúh'querín), the Tar’andus eat the leaves of willows, sedges, flowering tundra plants and mushrooms. They switch to lichens like lythien, weeds like yrom, and small shrubs in chúh'querín.
Mating. If females are in very good condition they can breed when they are 16 months old, but in most herds they do not breed until they are 28 months old. Most adult cows are pregnant every year and give birth to one calf - twins are very rare. Wolves, bears, and large prey birds kill large numbers of newborn calves. The calves are weaned for a period of 2 months.
After calving, the Tar’andus collect in large “postcalving aggregations” to avoid predators and escape mosquitoes and blood sucking flies. These large groups of Tar’andus stay together in the high mountains and along seacoasts where wind and cool temperatures protect them from summer heat and insects. After insect numbers decline in Maáh'valannía, the Tar’andus scatter out and feed heavily on available leaves and mushrooms to regain body weight.
The shedding of velvet (the fur covering on antlers) in late Maáh'valannía and early Chúh'querín by large bulls marks the approach of the rutting season and the start of fall migration. Mature bulls frequently have more than eight nailsbreadths of fat on the back and rump, which is used to provide energy needed during the rut. The necks of adult bull Tar’andus swell enormously in Chúh'querín, it is thought that this has something to do with their mating behaviour. Fighting begins in early Chúh'querín and becomes more frequent as the rut approaches at the end of the month. Most fights between bulls are brief bouts, but violent fights occur, and many bulls are seriously injured or killed during the rut. Injured or exhausted bulls are killed by wolves and bears after the rut. Unlike many other members of the deer family, bull Tar’andus do not control a harem of cows. Instead, they control a space around themselves, and prevent other bulls from breeding females within their space. The largest bulls shed their antlers in late Salarí'herín, but small bulls and non-pregnant cows do not shed their antlers until Méh'avashín. Pregnant females usually retain their antlers until calves are born in late Alé'veván or early Dál'injerá.
Usages. The Tar’andus is used both as a food and as a sleigh animal by the inhabitants of the Iol peninsula, the meat is fine-fibred, tender and lean, it can be kept both salted, dried and smoked. Tar’andus milk is actually the highest fat of all milkable livestock and its very good to make both cheese and butter off.
The great insulating capacity of the Ta’randus fur makes it a specially favoured for making winter clothing and boots by the tribes that inhabit the cold islands of the Icelands coast and most of the people on the Iol peninsula.
Information provided by Lucirina Telor Vevan