Named for its rust coloured
coat, the Rusthound, found predominantly in the Xaramon province of
Santharia, is said to be half
warg as it emerged while the red wargs,
that roamed the Kruswik, and surrounding area, were still widely used as
hunting/scouting animals. They are popular hunting hounds that are known for
their sense of smell and treeing abilities. Other hounds have been found to have
trouble when a climbing animal takes to the trees since they are mostly trained
to chase down animals on the run or corner and dig out those that go into their
homes. These hounds seem to have a knack for keeping the animals scent while
others would circle the tree in confusion.
They were first used to hunt various animals, but one animal and show of skill caught the hunterís eyes. Once these hounds catch the mimsyís scent they take off in pursuit, letting out a unique baying meaning they are on the trail. They chase the creature until they can overtake it, with their ground gobbling sprint, or tree the animal. Once the animal is up in a tree they will change the tone of their bark, making it a shorter, but deeper baying that means that the animal has been treed. At this point it is up to the hunter to spot the creature and shoot it with a bow or cut down the tree. Sometimes both hunter and hound are fooled though, as the hunted creature has been known to find away into another tree and away from the danger before the hunters can catch up with the hounds.
The Rusthound is commonly a medium to large sized dog. The males stand between
two fores and that plus a
palmspan at the shoulder,
while the females are generally a few
nailsbreadths shorter at
either end. They can weigh from four
hebs to seven hebs with
males being larger than the females, though those used for hunting are thin
animals. From the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail these hounds are
around a ped long on
The coat of this animal is always a rich, reddish-brown colour, leading to the houndís name. This can range from a light, subtle red that is commonly mistaken for brown to an old reddish-copper colouring that gives rust a good name for once. Their short coats help them move through the brush easier, whereas longer fur has the chance of snagging leaves and branches that might result in them getting tangled up in a bush. The coarser furs help to protect the skin from branches and bushes as they cut through the undergrowth in pursuit of their prey. This is also a plus for those that chose this animal as a companion rather than a hunting beast as they will not leave hairs everywhere.
Rusthounds have broad heads that lead into muzzles that narrows a little toward the tip. Most that look into the pleading, soft, brown eyes of this hound find themselves at a loss. These are one of the commonly best fed dogs known because those that live in houses with children find themselves with some of the best bits of food from the table. The sharp teeth of this animal combined with strong jaws allow them to tear through flesh easily, finishing off both table scraps and the life of their prey in the same day. Long, floppy ears are another favorite among people. Their triangular ears are usually about a palmspan long, with the tip pointing down.
A strong neck leads into the deep chest of this animal, which commands the deep, beautiful baying that this animal makes. The animalís body is built more like that of a working dog, credited to the creatureís questionable and possibly wild ancestry, though not large enough to slow them down or make winding through the forests overly difficult. Muscular limbs help propel the animal forward, swiftly enough to keep pace with a good number of animals. The large, heavily padded paws are useful for many things, though keeping thorns, small rocks, and other harmful objects from piercing the pads is the main use. The slight webbing between the toes of the paws aids these animals in swimming and allows it to take to the water in pursuit of wily animals that might attempt to lose its pursuers.
Rusthounds are slightly bulkier than other hunting dogs, but that does not
hinder them as they tear through the woods or across the land after their prey.
They are swift and agile, allowing them to move between the trees easily as they
follow the beast they are trained to hunt, most commonly the mimsy. Their
endurance allows them to keep their speed for between three to five
dashes depending on the
terrain, though their strength slowly begins to fade after that and they can
give one more short, full sprint in hopes of treeing or catching the animal
before they are finished. After a long hunt, it will usually take a few days, if
not more for the hounds to recover fully.
The Rusthound has an amazing sense of smell and while most other hounds get confused when an animal takes to the tree, it almost tries to follow it up. Once they catch hold of the scent, they will take off after the animals, the baying allowing their owner to track them, following the scent, sometimes past exhaustion. Their noses are also able to follow scents over water where others might get confused, making it an idea hunting hound.
Their unique baying and ability to change the tone of their voice to indicate different things sets them apart somewhat. Hunters have learned that multiple, short, low barks interrupted by long echoing one meaning that the hound has treed an animal, while heavy, long, light howl like sounds mean that they are on the trail of their prey. Although tones recognizable to the hunters are the most important, they are known for other tones when not hunting. These sounds seem to be pure instinct and give people more reason to believe that they have warg blood in their lines.
Stronger muscled in their shoulders and slightly webbed paws make these dogs powerful swimmers. When on the hunt, determination leads them into the water from time to time in pursuit of their quarry. While this slows them and tires them quickly, it pushes them forward, and once on land they generally use their remaining energy up swiftly and push on past that in the attempt to catch the animal that tried to trick them.
Territory. These hounds can be hound throughout Southern Sarvonia, though they are mostly bred within the Xaramon Province. On some parts of the Steppe of Kruswik these hounds are as popular as at the Kyrattin cattle (Longhorn) or Rusik horse. There are cattle farms, horse farms, pig farms, and now on the Steppe and surrounding areas there are hound farms. One of the biggest and most prosperous of these farms can be found a few strals north of the northern ridge of the Roan Forest.
Due to the hound's abilities and population, they are popular among both the nobility and local peasant hunters that can make the trip to one of the farms or find a trader that will carry live cargo. Pure blood Rusthounds are inexpensive enough that mutts with one Rusthound parent are practically given away at times as they arenĎt worth the food to feed them.
Habitat/Behaviour. The mindset of these hounds is similar to that of people. When they are at work they take care of their business, which would be tracking down certain animals and on the occasion people. Once they have caught a scent and are on the trail, they will not back down until they lose the scent or drop from exhaustion. The thrill of the chase seems to invigorate them and give them extra energy, which is hard to believe.
When they aren't working, they are usually playful unless they have recently been out hunting. Many believe they are the perfect mix between the playful puppy and the lazy old hound throughout most of their lives. They could be up for playing with their owner or keeper one moment and tired and wanting nothing more than to sleep no matter how much someone prods at them, ready to play again.
They are not really pack animals, although some believe their ancestors worked as one. They will hunt well on their own and even in pairs, but more than that and they can get distracted by the other dogs before they catch the scent. However, mimsy hunts have become a popular sport of the wealthy in some areas and they have figured out that if the dog catches the scent of its prey before becoming distracted by the other dogs they will go after the first scent immediately.
Diet. Most would think that these dogs live off only meat and blood. True, like other canines, they are carnivores and love fresh meat, but it has been found that they also have a taste for cooked meat. However, meat is not the only thing in their diet.
The owners of one of the largest Rusthound farms claim that these dogs will eat just about anything. It has been recorded that the hounds on that farm only get meat every so often as the number of dogs makes it impossible for them to feed them meat every day. Instead they are given a meal of boiled grain in the mornings, sometimes mixed with pieces of fruit and mix of foraged fruits or vegetables in the early evening.
When on the road, these hounds will eat pretty much what they can get, whether itís a playfully stolen bite of their owners meal or a slab of meat, along with pretty much anything in between that won't make them sick. As pups they've pretty much tried everything and if they lived through it, their noses let them know what will make them sick or not.
Mating. On these hound farms, a mating pair is selected by bloodlines and ability. Males with strong bloodlines are often paired with females of the same, or a male or female with amazing abilities, but poor bloodlines might be matched with a male or female with strong bloodlines to see if they can remedy the inconsistencies. On large farms, the pairing are a bit more lax as they have already matched certain families for the higher class while the others are "experimental" in attempts to strengthen the bloodlines. At other times, some have been known to let the dogs choose, hoping for something unexpected.
Once the owners have selected the pair or in the uncommon case, the dogs choose each other, the pair will share a stall in the kennels for a month before the female goes into heat so that the breeders can see if there will be any trouble between the pair. These dogs reach maturity at one and a half years of age.
Throughout the months of Fallen Leaf and Passing Clouds, the females will go into heat for the first time for the year. The male will maintain his distance for the first two to three days before approaching the female, crouched low to the ground with his tail before his legs. If the female doesn't snap at him he is allowed to come closer. The male will give all his attention to the female for a day after he is allowed near, seemingly courting her. After that they will mate.
Females that are fertilized will give birth to between eight and twelve puppies after a three month period. The puppies are tiny and born deft and blind, though their sense of smell at that age is already amazing. The father will stay with the mother, possibly for the rest of his life if the young are strong. After a month and a half the pups are allowed away from their mother and are put in a large pen within the kennel to be socialized with the other pups for a certain amount of time throughout the day before they are return to their mother. This keeps up until they are three to four months old, at which time they begin training to hunt. These dogs live between fifteen to twenty years, their long lifespan attributed to their possible wild ancestry.
The first mating period is not the only one though. Those females that did not give birth to pups during the first season are paired with another male a month before the second mating season, which is throughout the months Turning Star and Molten Ice. The third season includes those that mated the first season and that season spans the months, Singing Bird and Rising Sun.
Females that give birth during the First Season will mate again during the Third Season. Those that were not impregnated during the First Season will mate during the Second Season. If a female is not impregnated one season they will mate again the next season.
Oddly enough, the amount of pups born during the Second and Third Seasons is less, only between three and seven pups being born. Another odd occurrence is that during the First Season the ratio of male pups to female pups is almost usually the same. While the majority of the pups born during the Second Season are female, and the majority of those born during the Third Season are male.
Breeders. Beywn and Talisik Kyrorrick, owners of the largest and most prosperous Rusthound Farm have been very helpful and have provided a lot of information on these animals. They have been able to pry many of their secrets from these animals and work each mating season toward finding out why less pups and majority being a certain gender are born during the Second and Third mating seasons.
With that, Talisik also claims that it was his ancestors who had owned the first Rusthound pup and that they had bred wargs for the Kyranian military way back in history, just after the War of the Chosen. While it can't be proved that Talisik's family raised wargs, but in the copy of the Journal of Garawn "Gar" Drett, now called Tales of a Wargriding Exile, he writes that he acquired his own warg from a small farm just north of the Roan Forest.