The Woolly Cob, often simply referred to as Cob only, is a fairly large spider with thick, snow-white fur that lives in the Icelands and various parts of Northern Sarvonia. Its double, sometimes triple and quadruple, fanged bite is exceedingly painful though not fatal, and is largely avoided by intelligent life. Cobs can live up to 50 years, when kept as a domestic pet, and are a popular beast to own among soothsayers, Rovers, and traveling merchants.
Woolly Cobs are a fascinating, fairly large-size 'spider',
if you can call them that, and can grow over two
palmspans in length, and
one palmspan in height.
They are very lightweight for their size, with the heaviest weighing only 4
ods. Thick, snow-white,
feather-soft fur, which is marvelously breathable and yet admirably warm covers
their entire body. The Woolly Cob has 4-8 large, very intelligent eyes that are
a beady nor'sidian black,
resembling 4 drops of glossy black ink. Their 8 legs are roughly twice their
height in length, with a large tuft of fur on each of the joints. Both sexes
have generous tufts of fur on their necks and bellies, giving them a rodent-like
appearance. In the winter, tufts also develop on their feet.
Both genders also have a double set of poison-filled fangs up to 2 nailsbreadths in length that protrude from their mouths rather like those of a voran tiger, but these are usually not very noticeable due to their face fluff. These fangs are covered in tiny jagged spines. Some irregularities can occur in fangs, as instead of having only 2 sets, they can have up to 5, each set growing progressively smaller as they sprout nested inside the older pair.
As Cobs age, they become larger, the fur becoming ruddier, and the coats taking on an ashy grey. This lessens their ability to blend in with the snow when hunting; it is believed that older Cobs usually starve to death.
Differences in gender: Females are a little smaller and more finely built, with larger 'tufts', and when about to lay eggs have much larger abdomens. During the summer, males tend to be more of a coppery gold, whereas females come in mixed tans, browns and pale yellows. Females also have slightly larger fangs and can only have 4-6 eyes. Males can have as many as 8 eyes, the extra slightly smaller eyes appearing on either side of the other eyes. The larger the spider, the more the eyes. Most male spiders are large and therefore usually have eight eyes.
The Woolly Cob's blood produces a clear liquid in the winter that in some way
protects the Cob from freezing to death. This liquid can withstand temperatures
cold enough to freeze spit before it reaches the ground. However, Cobs hibernate
for 2 months in the coldest times of the year, using glands on their bellies to
secrete the 'nofreeze' liquid and burrow 2
peds into the snow. When
temperatures are more moderate but still below freezing, they use this same
liquid to root out hibernating mice, which they eat and store.
Other trivia: Can also survive underwater for short periods of time. Spins very strong web nests in the summer. Has excellent eyesight. Can dislocate its jaw to open the mouth extremely wide, up to 5 nailsbreadths. In the autumn and spring, this spider spins a very fine, gauzy web between its two front legs to capture flies.
The Woolly Cob's afore-mentioned fangs make for a tremendously painful bite, as they literally rip through the flesh and puncture very deep. When fangs are fully inserted, the spider secretes an excessively potent poison. This poison is not, however, at all deadly; rather, it is like a hyper-concentrated sleeping potion that will cause the victim to experience symptoms of sudden extreme exhaustion, with no known side effects. One bite has been known to take out a Landesh pony for 6 hours. So, though its bite is absolutely brutal, it is almost never deadly. Rare exceptions have occured in these few cases: if the bite wound became infected, the spider happened to position the bite on a major vein or artery (jugular vein, wrist, etc.) and thus bled the victim to death, the victim was unusually small in size, or had heart trouble.
Fangs are most often used to ward off predators which at first mistake it for a rodent. It takes only one bite to teach the predator to never attack a Woolly Cob again.
Territory. Wild Cobs are found in areas that have snow, such as southern Cyhalloi, the Wastes of Despair, Heath of Wilderon and Penninsula of Kruul. Their cousin the 'Snow Cob', which grows only white fur, inhabits only the coldest parts of the world, the Iceland Coast up to its farthest point, the Wicker Island and Northern Cyhalloi. If it is present in even more northern most parts of Northern Sarvonia, it is not known; the Snow Cob is even more adapted to its snowy environment than the Woolly Cob. Captive, the Woolly Cob can survive moderate conditions, as long as it is given plenty of cold water, a little ice if possible, and very little direct sunlight.
Habitat/Behaviour. In the winter, Woolly Cobs "burrow" into the ice and snow, using their antifreeze liquid to soften the ice and then scraping the soft ice away with their feet. Burrows are several handsbreadths deep. They prefer large snow fields, uninhabited by large predators or sentient races to almost anything else, as those are their hunting grounds and they get the water they need from the snow.
In the summer months, both male and female Cobs spin hollow, teardrop-shaped nests on the low, sturdy branches of trees. If no trees are available, they just find the highest ground they can and nest there, the nests more round than teardrop shaped in that case. These nests are exactly seven times the size of the spider, with a small hole in the bottom or side, just large enough to squeeze through. A male's nests are usually strata yellow in colour, female's nests adlemirene brown, exact colouring varying from spider to spider. Nests are usually spotted in pairs, one male nest and one female nest.
Diet. Any insect under half a palmspan in length will be devoured by this spider when available. In the winter, they live off small rodents. In the summer months they will eat a variety of insects and small rodents, and often enjoy eating various seeds or berries. Captive Cobs will eat anything humans consider edible, often sharing meals with their masters.
One needs to discern between snow hunting and snowless hunting:
When it is only just above freezing, Cobs hunt the flies and rodents that live in the barren snowfields of Northern Sarvonia and Cyhalloi, whenever the conditions are clear enough to do so. They glide across the these fields by starting off at a run and then quickly gaining momentum, till they have enough forward motion to hop every 3 peds, leaving a tiny mark on the snow. This is called 'bobbing'. They bob into into low swarms of flies, having spun a very fine, loose, sticky web between their 2 front legs, which they swoop over their heads as an effective net, usually capture 2-5 flies with each pass. The flies can't see them, because they blend so well with the snow. When hunting rodents, they bob until they see a rodent from a distance and then run it down. When they are just above the running rodent, they open their mouths to bite and do so in a flying tackle. These bobbing tackles are attempted only once or twice per day, because a single rodent will fill a Cob's belly amply, as the mammalian blood stains their white fur, thus ruining their camouflage until after they have groomed themselves at the end of the day. Mouse blood is cleaned off fur in the evening by rolling violently in the snow, a good distance from their burrows so that accumulated scent neither attracts larger predators nor frightens potential prey for the next day. Woolly Cobs eat every 3-4 days, able to store food in their burrows for longer should a blizzard occur. They sometimes hunt in mated pairs.
Cobs spin large, sticky webs near their nests, which catch assorted insects. Also, they forage for berries or edible seeds, and still hunt small rodents. Only at this time, instead of bobbing, they catch them by dropping out of trees or low bushed on top of the rodent. Extra food is stored in nests, preserved in the web they spin around it in small pouches.
Woolly Cobs breed every one to three years, mating in the early spring, usually
right around the time the snow melts and just after shedding occurs. The
courtship process takes place on a rock or other available flat surface. One
male – who has already spun a nest – will bristle his fur, trying to look larger
than he is, strutting in figure-eights or circles, sometimes waving his arm
fangs until he attracts a group of females. Males may wrestle for the best
mating locations. Once a sufficient number of females have been attracted, the
females will attack one another – never biting or using their fangs – wrestling
for several minutes. Up to 5 females wrestle at a time. The weakest females then
back away, their front legs dragging on the ground and their abdomens tilted
upwards, to show submission to the victorious female. That victorious female
then goes to the male, and if the male is to her satisfaction, they mate. If
not, then the process begins again with another male.
The actual mating process occurs in the male's nest, and can last up to one week, both male and female in the same nest. No one has had the opportunity to observe exactly what happens in the nest during mating, but the results have been noted. The female emerges and spins her own nest somewhere near the male's, and the two live as a couple until the snow comes and destroys their nests. The female's gestation period is about 1 month. She can typically lay three eggs, which hatch within a few days into tiny brown fluff balls. Egg count can vary anywhere from one to six, though more than 4 is rare. She feeds them for several months by regurgitating food, after which point she ceases to acknowledge her young's existence. This forces them to fend for themselves. Hatchlings do not reach sexual maturity for 3 years.
Some males do not mate, remaining bachelors for all their life. The same is true for certain females. Sterile Cobs live even longer, because they do not deal with the quarreling that occurs in courtship. In the wild, Woolly Cobs live for about 20 years. In captivity, they have been rumored to live up to 50, though their exact lifespan is not known for sure.
Shedding is a messy, curiously amusing process which occurs in the late spring and takes roughly 2 weeks to complete. The spider's white fur progressively loosens from its body, becoming fluffier and fluffier – often becoming so fluffy that the spider appears to be twice its original size – until all at once it sheds in a singular, large cottony puff called a spiderseed that can be seen floating on the wind for days. The Woolly Cob has already grown its new, summer-weight coat of fur underneath the old coat. This new, lighter coat can range in colour from strata yellow to eophran brown. When winter comes again, it simply re-grows its thick white coat over the old summer weight coat, which takes up to 2 weeks.
Usages. Spiderseeds (see Mating section) can be collected and spun into a warm, durable fabric, and are considered very rare and valuable, especially in the south because there Woolly Cobs are uncommon. Children love catching spiderseeds on the wind during the spring. Woolly Cob poison is also very valuable, though few dare to collect it, as gnome chemists can dilute the poison in flavored beverages and sell it as a sleeping potion. On occasion, young Cobs are kept as pets or companions because they are intelligent and become very loyal.
Woolly Cobs tend to be very timid and skittish, wild ones are avoiding humans at nearly any cost. They bite people – which includes other intelligent races – only if they feel threatened. Cobs hatched in captivity, however, are very curious and adventurous, not unlike a tame domestic cat. They are very intelligent, as far as spiders go, actually developing a loyalty for their master. With patience, they can be trained to do a variety of tasks, such as is possible with a rodent or cat. Personality varies slightly from spider to spider. Cob females usually do not get along well at all with other Cob females, but get along curiously well with males.
Woolly Cobs are sometimes kept in place of cats, to catch mice, and incidentally keeping any irritating insects away from the home - something that cats, though they persist in trying to catch and eat flies, have never really succeeded at...
Myth/Lore. Because the Cob is such an avid, if violent mouser, it is believed in Northern Sarvonia that it taught the original cat how to mouse. It is also generally believed that Ghelgath the Demon Ice Lord had a mutant Woolly Cob with 20 eyes as his personal pet, who would chase children down and shred them to bits at his slightest whim. From this belief the children's game, "Catch the Cob" developed, in which a group of children holding hands dance in a circle around two children, one blindfolded, chanting "Woollycob and Bullycob, Nattercob and Fattercob, bitey frighty whitey cob, can't catch ME!" After which the blindfolded child tries to tag the other child, all inside the circle.
Spiderseed clothing is also considered lucky, as it is said to ward off the anger of Ghelgath. Very few people below the Tandalas know that a Woolly Cob bite is not deadly. Because baby Cobs are at first so harmless and adorably fluffy, a compliment that may be given to a northern baby is "Cuter than a Cob!"
Information provided by Koobi Assadah