The Marcogg Terrier (also known as the "Taster" or "Kraken Terrier") is a tiny, short-haired animal originating in the Manthrian city it was named for, but which is now common throughout the wealthier sector of Southern Sarvonia. It was bred to require as little space, food and looking after as possible, so although it is not a cheap dog to buy, it is very affordable to keep. It was originally developed as a cheap alternative to a human food taster and as an attractive table decoration to boot. The breed is completely mute Ė no doubt brought on through inbreeding, but a feature which proved popular with buyers. Nowadays it is more often used as a companion pet and is a desirable fashion item in some circles.
Appearance. The most defining feature of this dog is its size, for it grows only about half to two thirds of a fore long and weighs as little as 5 hebs. Males are typically slightly larger than the females, and pups can be only the size of a human finger in the first month of their lives. The muzzle remains stumpy and puppy-like throughout its life, giving it an adorable expression. The tiny, amazingly soft ears stick up from the skull, and the tail is also always upright and alert. It has a rather barrel-like body, and the generic form of terriers everywhere, although the body is slightly shorter in proportion. In short, it is a compact, perky little dog, whose large dark eyes gaze upwards with a look of pure adorability.
The coat is a nailsbreath or two in length and shorter on the face, legs and underbelly. The hairs have a slight wave to them, very much like the wave a woman might give to her hair by leaving it overnight in plaits. They are often a mixture of different beiges, browns and greys on a very pale base coat. The different shades are arranged in a striped pattern along the length of the back. Some dogs can have a smattering of redish-brown hairs to, and the definition of the stripes varies from dog to dog. The darker hairs are normally only on the back and the top of the head, leaving the face, muzzle, underbelly and legs white or pale grey.
Special Abilities. Perhaps not exactly an ability, but definately a defining feature, this dog is completely mute. It cannot bark, whine or otherwise make any sound at all and has not been able to for as long as the records state. This may be a result of extreme the inbreeding the breed was put through when it first employed as a poison taster. The dog breeders tried a little too hard to breed it smaller and smaller, often breeding close relatives together in their rush. This proved popular among its wealthy owners, as however badly trained the animal was it would not interrupt the dinner table conversation with whining and barking. The trait was therefore bred in to more and more bloodlines, until all the Marcogg terriers were mute.
The dog also has a great sense of smell, and an aversion to krakenweed which it seems to be born with. This famous noxious waterweed can be made into a deadly poison with relative ease. If offered a plate with enough poison on it to kill a human, the terrier will refuse the food, however hungry it might be. They can also be taught to recognise a number of other poisons like allia berries or moongrass and to avoid them too.
These guys are also fairly good swimmers for their size and love water, which can be a problem as their tiny legs cannot really deal with the strong currents of the Mashdai River which flows through Marcogg. Long ago they were larger and stronger and were used for herding large fish into nets. They seem to have retained their love for water and the natural ability to maneuver themselves whilst swimming, but the dogs no longer have the length of limb required to cope with fast-moving water.
Territory. The Marcogg Terrier is common in the city of the same name and has now spread to several other large cities in Southern Sarvonia like New Santhala and Bardavos - wherever a young lady wants to show off her wealth and status. Although the Ximax cat is a more common companion, the terrier also finds a place with a number of dog-lovers in the magical academy as it requires little in the way of outdoor exercise. Crossbreeds can be found accompanying travelling entertainers who train them to do tricks in front of an audience, because they can retain the intelligence and size of the breed but are much cheaper.
Habitat/Behaviour. This dog is renowned for its sweet, patient temperament and unconditional love of its owner. A well-trained animal is quite content to stay close to their master throughout the day, waiting for the human's attention to turn to them with a small treat or a game of ball. They are also fairly intelligent and able to learn a variety of tricks which they will display happily for rewards of a tasty nature.
However, they are notoriously lazy when it comes to outdoor pursuits, much preferring to be carried than to have to walk very far. Perhaps this is a result of their incredibly short legs, which are not really long enough to raise the animal above puddles or deep mud. On the other hand the constant pampering of their mistresses cannot be good for the little animals, so maybe the cause lies there instead.
Diet. Although most dogs will eat anything put in front of them, meat or vegetables, the Marcogg Terrier is actually naturally omnivorous, eating a variety of vegetation and meat. If the animal is denied the other half of its diet, it will actively seek it out, trying to grab bites of grass whilst out walking, or stealing from plates or kitchens. Their ancesters ate the soft waterweed around the sides of the rivers, and the dogs still prefer soft plants Ė or even cooked vegetables.
Mating. Breeding is normally a well-planned, expensive affair, as each breeder strives to produce the prettiest, friendliest litter of pups. The very best dogs are kept by these individuals to give more and even better litters, and so the cycle continues. Breeders often pay large sums of money to have their bitch bred with an outstanding dog, as the price of the next few generations of pups can be greatly increased by the addition of an outstanding bloodline.
Naturally other encounters do occur as well, often when a well-loved pup makes a rare bid for freedom towards the smell of another probably less well-bred animal. The resulting pups are often given to servants or friends, or sadly in some cases left on the streets. In both cases, the dog normally gives birth to around 5 pups per litter and the pregnancy lasts around two and a half months.
Usages. The Marcogg Terrier is now used almost exclusively as a companion or pet for wealthy folk, particularly unmarried girls. A well bred animal held under a splik-swathed arm, or trotting along obediently, is a sure sign of wealth and class as the animals have now become very expensive. Itís also thought to be a good pet for a small girl, as it allows her to learn to love and care for something, giving her a taste of responsibility as well as a friend who will always want her attention.
Of course their are a certain number of terriers born who don't show the high standards needed. The length of coat, style and colour must be just right for the dog to be acceptable to a wealthy buyer, as these are all signs of correct breeding. The dogs which donít make the grade are sold at much cheaper prices, and this is how some of them end up as ratters - employed to keep the numbers of vermin down. It is their small size which lends them to this job, as they are both cheap to keep and fit down pretty much any hole. Unfortunately they lack the hunting instinct of other breeds, and often a crossbreed is better suited to larger properties like farms or grain stores.
Origin. The origins of the Marcogg Terrier are thought to lie in small scrappy little dogs which were found living wild along the banks of the Mashdai River when the city was resettled around 1600 b.S. . Itís unknown exactly where this wild dog came from, whether it was there originally, or whether it was a mix of tame dogs which had escaped. These could have been brought to the area by the first settlers before the War of the Chosen and then abandoned when the city was destroyed in 9200 b.S. Whichever is the case, the wild terrier was much smaller than any other breed known, although still a lot bigger than todayís dog Ė apparently around a fore long, with shorter, coarser hair.
These wild terriers were first domesticated by the poorer rural inhabitants, who used them for a huge range of activities like vermin control, hunting and also fishing, because the animals were noticeably excellent swimmers. The dogs could be trained to herd fish into a net, where the prey would become entangled and could be dragged out. The terrier finally gained fame with the wealthier population through this skill, when the sport of bonehead hunting was discovered. Using several small dogs, the huge fish (which can reach up to two and a half peds long!) were herded past the participants, who tested their harpoon skills on the prey.
However it was not until the Age of Blood that the terrier we know today began to emerge. The story goes that the Tristan of Strata, who had fled to Marcogg due to the troubles in his own city, took in a runt puppy, useless for fishing, and used it as a poison taster. The noble, still the heir to the Throne of Strata, kept the worthless dog beside him at mealtimes and fed it a selection of titbits from his plate before he ate anything. It was said to be so good at this that the trend spread throughout the wealthy population, all of them typically choosing to use the tiny runts for this purpose, as those had very little monetary value. Of course itís uncertain whether the Tristan really did introduce this idea, but the turbulent political situation and the threat of the Templars of the Black Pearl certainly caused the sudden popularity.
In fact itís more likely that someone with more knowledge of the dogs had noticed their strange talent for avoiding the poisonous krakenweed which laces the Mashdai River, even whilst herding fish into nets. This was presumably developed whilst it was living wild on the banks of this river, allowing it to hunt water animals and eat the river vegetation safely. The Marcogg Terrier is still now sometimes called the Kraken Terrier, because it seems to have a sense of smell particularly attuned to this plant. The krakenweed was much-feared poison at the time, as can be easily made into a colourless, supposedly odourless poison, ideal for assassinations. Once it was discovered that the dog could also be taught to recognise and avoid a range of other poisons, it became incredibly useful to the fearful wealthy class. They were also crossed with Truphuller Dog, a Hobbit-Bred animal used for truphull hunting, to further improve the Marcoggís sense of smell. This also added a greater variety of coat colours, specifically redish-browns, which you can see even today.
Gradually the dogs turned from a practicality into a status symbol, as owning one suggested you were actually important enough to be a threat. The idea may seem rather warped, but having a small dog by your side at the dinner table to protect you from poisoning became a sign that someone might actually pay a large amount of money to have you poisoned - that you had that amount of influence. Dog breeders saw the chance for a profit, and began selectively breeding these dogs, slowly turning them from a coarse-haired scrappy little terrier into the tiny, baby-soft animal we have today. Possibly the most noticeable advancement was the crossbreeding with the Rimrunner Terrier, as this is thought to be where the beginnings of their coat came from.