The Packox (plural "Paxen") is a heavy, bulky, large and slow member of the bovine family that makes its home in the icy north of the Sarvonian mainland. Domesticated and used primarily as beasts of burden by the Antislar tribe and progressive elements of the Remusian tribe from Northern Sarvonia, the Paxen are easily identified by their thick coat, curved white horn and ritualistic dances during their mating season.
Appearance. Male Paxen reach just over one and a half peds in height to their shoulder while their female counterparts average just under this height. Packox bulls have been known to reach ten pygges in weight, with cows weighing slightly less. The Paxen are therefore smaller than the wison and considerably smaller than the thunderfoots.
|Image description: A domesticated Packox as it is found at the Gathorn Mountains of Northern Sarvonia. Picture drawn by Jonael Tomeskrift.
The white horns of the Packox are curved back against its face and extend into sharp points ahead of its small eyes and large snout. Looking side on to the beast, each horn makes a stylised 'C', with the bottom part of the horn extending out further than the top of it. Both cows and bulls have horns, and in each sex they grow to approximately one ped in length, although as they are curved, they appear shorter than this. The bony extrusion that extends between the horns help to protect this beast when they 'butt heads' with a predator.
Like the wison, these bovines are covered by a thick coat of shaggy fur that protects them from the frigid temperatures of the Northern Sarvonian winters. Unlike the wison, whose coats are various shades of blue, the coats of the Paxon are mostly shades of brown, grey and tan in colour. Another difference between this beast and the wison is that the Packox has a shorter coat beneath the thick coat of fur. This second coat grows during the winter months to allow these bovids to survive during the colder months of the year. During late spring, these creatures shed this second coat in order to survive during the warmer months. During early autumn, this coat grows back.
Both male and female Paxen have a store of fat around their bodies. This fat adds to their bulk and allows them to survive during winter when it is difficult for them to find the plant matter that they eat.
The legs of Paxen are short, thick and solid, and are covered by the same hair as the rest of their bodies. These legs, together with their storage of fat, means that these bovines move slowly while walking, whether it is to carry goods from one place to another or to move with the remainder of their herd in search of food. Their feet are wider than most other bovines' and allows them to move through the snow without sinking too far into it. Their hooves have sharp points that allow them to kick through the ice during the winter months to get at the grass, lichens and mosses that they eat. Like most cattle, their hooves are split. They have a short stubby tail that is mostly covered by their shaggy coats.
Paxen have a pair of small black eyes. They have ears that are small and covered by fur. They have a wide snout-like nose and mouth which are used to find and eat food.
Special Abilities. The Paxen's fat layer and outer and inner coats combine to make them able to survive in the harsh conditions of the far north of Northern Sarvonia year round. The inner coat has been shown to be resistant to water, lighter than wool, while at the same time being warmer than wool. Paxen rely on their fat layer as a food source during winter months and as added protection against the cold.
Unusually for cattle, the Paxen are known to perform a ritualistic mating dance. This dance is a wonder to behold, not because of any inherent beauty to it, but rather because it makes the beasts look ungainly. This dance has been known to enthrall small children of the Remusians who have seen the dance underway, while people who are not used to it have been known to be startled by the noise and smell that accompanies the dance at first. This extraordinary spectacle will be described in greater detail in the mating section.
Territory. The Paxen, like their larger wison brethren, make their homes in the northern part of Northern Sarvonia. While the wison migrate between the Iceland Coast and the mountains north of the Wastes of Despair, these herd animals make their homes in the region bounded by the Gulf of Oh'cant'aelwyn to the west, the Mantle Wood and Mount Ashvin to the north, the Gathorn Mountains to the east and the northern part of the Heath of Wilderon to the south. During the winter months, the Paxen are more likely to be found in the southern end of their natural territory, while the warmer months of summer see them congregating closer to the northern boundaries of their territories. Wild herds of Paxen go no further south than the Gathorn Mountains and the northern reaches of the Heath of Wilderon. While they do engage in a small amount of migratory behaviour, the range of their migration is only approximately seven leagues between their summer and winter feeding locations. While this is the main area for the Packox, some have been able to survive further south, including to the lands of the Kuglimz and Kanapans on the two trading routes. Fur hunters amongst the Anislar have also been known to take domesticated Paxen into the far north of the Peninsula of Iol with them when they go fur hunting.
Habitat/Behaviour. These are social animals that live in herds that fluctuate between ten and thirty cattle, depending on the time of year. Each herd has a dominant female and male who lead the remainder of the herd on their hunt for the plant matter that makes up their diet. According to Sordoc 'the Great', an Erpheronian poet who has invested considerable time investigating the social practices of these bovines, the Paxon communicate with each other through a variety of bellows, snorts and head movements. If Sordoc is to believed, this communication: 'warns of danger, heralds winter's arrival, announces mating season, and proclaims the birthing of calves.' (from 'Romancing the Beasts' by Sordoc 'the Great')
Paxen have a particular defensive formation that they use when threatened by predators. The bulls and cows of the herd stand in a circle facing outward, with the calves in the middle of the circle. The dominant male or female starts to bellow as the others paw at the ground beneath their feet. One of the bulls or cows will charge the predator, head lowered, and horns extended, while the others tighten the circle around their young. This has been a mostly successful defensive strategy when facing predators such as wargs, wolves and even the caracel or icesnout. Against sentient predators that use bows, crossbows, orcish warbows and other missile, thrown and melee weapons while hunting, this is a less effective strategy. Their instinct to group together makes it easier for these bovines to be killed by hunters whether these hunters are Remusian, Rhom-oc or or occasionally Antislar.
Diet. During the warmer summer months, as well as autumn and spring, Paxen are known to eat as much and as often as possible. This is to build up a storage of fat during the colder winter months that can help protect them from the cold, and serves as a food supply. Their diet is dictated by their environment as well as by their tastes. As they live in North Sarvonia, a considerable part of their diet consists of juk'lan and waterberry bushes. The Paxen also have been known to eat other flora such as lythien moss, rockmoss, soucald moss and the yrom shrub. In his writing, Sordoc claims that they also eat and enjoy tuberfruit and the leaves and lower branches of wolf willow trees. Wild Packox herds are considered a nuisance to farmers growing phummel grain in western Remusia and are chased away by these farmers. There seem to be two plants that the Paxen seem to avoid. The first of these plants is hrugchuk grass. This lends weight to the belief that the Paxen are not native to the Peninsula of Iol. Unlike the wison, which have the hrugchuk grass as the favourite part of their diet, the Paxen give it a wide berth. The second type of flora avoided by the Paxen is the alth'mon or "varro", as the Remusians call it. This is probably due to the tingling, burning and numb sensation given off by this plant.
Paxen that are used by merchants and other progressive elements of the Remusian tribe are also fed hay made out of phummel grain grown by the Remusians and bredden grain imported from the Kanapans. Remusian merchants on the journey to the Kanapans advise that these cattle also eat Peat grass when they reach the Kanapan Peninsula. Remusian merchants who travel to the lands of the Kuglimz advise that their Paxen munch happily on the alth'ho grass found there. Fur hunters of the Antislar take feed along for the Paxen that they take with them. Antislars and Remusians who keep domesticated Paxen have feed made of phummel grain.
Mating. Mating for the Paxen takes place during Sleeping Dreameress, the month associated with Jeyriall, Goddess of Fruitfulness. The gestation period for cows takes eight months, with calves being born during Changing Winds, sacred to Grothar, God of the Weather. Almost all pregnancies result in one calf.
During mating season, these beasts perform a ritualistic mating dance that has been named 'Tauromancy' by the previously mentioned Sordoc 'the Great'. In his self promoted work, 'Romancing the Beasts', he has noted the following about this animal's mating practices:
"The bulls and cows engage in a ritualistic dance during their mating season. Commencing with the dominant bull, the male Paxen start the dance with fast and slow steps to the left and right followed by a raising and lowering of their heads. As they do this, they emit a strong odour which seems to enchant the cows, but which leaves civilised men gasping for breath at the stench. Once again, starting with the dominant cow, the female members of the herd follow the steps and head movements of the bulls. Fortunately, they do not emit this same odour. Not long after the dance has ended, the bulls move amongst the cows and both sexes start doing what comes naturally. As a civilised man, I will not write down the exact practices in case any children should read my book."
Cows give birth to live young that are able to stand within hours of being born. The calves are able to graze within a week of birth, but most continue to drink their mother's milk for up to a year after birth.
Usages. The Antislar tribe are acknowledged as being the first people to domesticate the Paxen, at sometime in the distant past. They have been observed by their Remusian neighbours for centuries using these beasts on their treks north to hunt for fur. While the Remusians have traditionally preferred the wison, some progressive elements within this most advanced member of the Ice Tribes have recently begun to see the benefit of using the Paxen for some of their work.
Picture description. The packox also provides perfect ingredients for a hearty stew. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
The main use made of the Paxen is as a beast of burden by the Antislar tribe and the Remusian men of Northern Sarvonia. Its ability to cart heavy loads for long distances, resistance against the cold, food storage through its fat and calm nature have made it the preferred beast of burden of the Antislar tribe. Progressive elements amongst the Remusians have observed this use and have tamed some Paxen to carry foodstuffs, trade goods and other items, particularly on the overland trade routes to the Kanapans and the northern Kuglimz. More traditional members of the Remusian tribe continue to use the wilder and less easily manageable wison for this purpose. This is despite the benefits offered by the Paxen: greater predictability; calmness and the ability to carry heavier loads for longer distances before needing to rest.
Paxen have also been known to be used as riding mounts by some amongst the Remusians and Antislar. However, as the Paxen are slower than the wison or mologh, the preference is to use either of these other two beasts. Attempts to use them as beasts for war have proven ineffective as they show almost no aggressive behaviours, apart from when being faced by predators.
The inner coat of this breed of cattle is incredibly warm, light and water resistant. Paxen shed this coat as autumn slowly gives way to summer and is collected by Antislar and Remusian women to use as a supplement to the cuncu wool. The outer coat is incredibly warm and is much valued as sleeping pallets, blankets and articles of clothing.
This animal provides a meat that has a rich flavour, although it is rather fatty. Remusians have traditionally enjoyed a wison stew. Members of the Antislar tribe have exchanged the wison meat for Packox meat. In recent times, more progressive elements of the Remusian tribe have followed the example of the Antislar tribe and replaced the wison meat with the far more tender and tastier Packox meat. The result is the receipt called 'Spicy Packox Stew', a hearty meal. This receipt was from some of these progressive Remusian tribe members, traders on their way to the Kuglim Lands with whom this researcher was able to travel.
Spicy Packox Stew Receipt
Feeds up to three Remusian men, or a family of one Reumusian man, his wife and at least four children
1 od of Packox meat, cubed
1) Hunt down, slay, and butcher your pet Packox ... you know the one, it served your family for many years.
Myth/Lore. Sordoc 'The Great' has written a 709 stanza epic poem titled "Ode to the Oxen", which he describes as a "monumental work of great importance honouring this most majestic of beasts". Other views of this work are not as kind. Some of his kinder critics describe it as "an affront to common decency and good taste", while his harsher critics describe it as "something that should be peddled as a soporific". As it is, the Ode is considered too onerous to be published in the Compendium and has been blocked from publication by the New-Santhalan Association for the Literary Arts.
A brief excerpt (so that one does not succumb to sleep) will serve to give some flavour of the 'Ode to Oxen' by the self-yclept 'Sordoc the Great', and possibly open one's eyes to the previously-unsuspected majesty and deep inner life of the Oxen Pack Mount. Taken randomly from about the centre of the epic, this is Stanza 382...
"....with forthrightness upon the noble, broad-beamed brow,
Researchers. In recent years, Sordoc 'The Great', as he calls himself, others call him Sordoc 'The Lame', has travelled throughout Northern Sarvonia examining various aspects of the larger beasts of the continent, including the wison and the thunderfoot. The Packox seems to be the animal he likes the most as it takes pride of place in his assorted writings and lectures. Sordoc is enchanted by the sound of his own voice, prose and poetic 'abilities', such as they are. He has given lectures on the most minuscule details of these beasts, with most of his listeners dozing off by the time he gets through the first five minutes of his lectures.