The Wild Sheep which dwells on the mountain sides of the vast Tandala Highlands is a very important part of the highlands' foodchain and is exploited mainly by the Gob-Oc orcs and trolls of the region. It is a very strong kind of sheep with a strikingly-white fleece that can repel snow, sleet, driving rain and even can stop an arrow from hitting the beast due to its tight weaving. The Wild Sheep of the Tandalas is also called "Tandalan Sheep" or simply "Mountain Sheep".
The Tandalan Sheep is a very hardy breed, spending its time searching for food in
the sparse hills and avoiding predators. It can scramble through small crevices
and climb exceptionally steep hills, and has very large bones and thick muscle
scovering its torso. The average sheep measures one and a half
peds from nose to tail and
weighs around a pygge.
The main difference between the males and the females is the females' lack of horns. The male's horns could rival those of a capricus; although they are not as long, the sheep's horns are completely curled around themselves, giving them extra sturdiness, and are a dusty yellow, ridged with deep grooves.
One of the most notable things about the sheep is its strikingly-white fleece. The fleece is so tightly woven together that it repels snow, sleet, and driving rain. In fact, it is rumoured the fleece can catch and stop a shot arrow, without the head getting anywhere near the sheep's flesh. The Mountain Sheeps are also able to grow a fat layer when shorn frequently, to substitute for the warmth the fleece provides.Thus the Tandalan Sheep is able to roam the peaks of the mountains even when the weather is at its harshest.
The Tandalan Sheep has coal-black legs, muzzle, and ears that contrast completely with its snowy fleece. Its curving, cloven hooves are a more glossy, nor'sidian-black.
The sheep's head and shoulders are also quite large in comparison to the rest of its body, mainly to support the weight of its large horns.
The sheep is very strong, probably the strongest of its species, and in a couple
of cases goblins have been severely injured
due to the
sheep's butting and kicking.
The sheep is also a very good climber, spending most of its time roaming the peaks and face of the mountains as well as squeezing through tight spots in caves, and is known to climb to summits in matter of hours.
On rare occasions, when threatened by predators, the sheep will also dig itself into the snow, leaving nothing but parts of its fleece on display. This tactic is supposed to fool the hunter into believing that the sheep's has vanished into thin air, and works on most trolls - it has even been known to evade Gob-Oc hunters in this manner.
Territory. These sheep are found in large groups all over the Tandala Highlands, but are secluded in their harsh mountains and aren't found anywhere else. Some Gob-Oc believe they have a dislike for flat land or can only eat the grass which grows on the mountainside. The trolls, however, have more farfetched ideas about the migration habits of the sheep; some say that if they attempt to leave the mountains then a forest fire will miraculously set them alight or that the bird of flames, the phoenix, will descend from the heavens and gorge itself upon the fleeing sheep (see Myth/Lore).
The Gob-Ocs' theories are more plausible, though no one really knows for certain. However, the sheep haven't left the highlands for generations and it doesn't look like they are going to start now.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Wild Tandalan Sheep likes nothing better than to roam around freely on the mountainside. The lambs are very active, as well as independent. The young lambs spend most of their time learning to climb rocks, suprisingly without their parents, and playing chase with the other lambs their age.
The older lambs tend to have different ideas of fun, depending on whether they are male or female. The young females like to remain with the older ewes or try to form bonds with cousins or other sociable ewes. The males, however, spend all their time play fighting amongst themselves, supposedly practicing for mating fights, using their budding horns to butt each other and kicking wildly at each other's fleecy sides.
Adult behaviour also differs by gender. The ewes spend most of their time grazing, looking after their newborns and chasing up their more active offspring when they stray too far away from the group. The rams dominate the herd and spend time 'discussing' new feeding grounds or summer/winter migration routes. They appear to prefer a very spontaneous system of grazing, and different 'leaders' emerge from week to week who guide them to their various chosen areas. When the rams are not debating, they are very attentive to their mates, ensuring they are well fed, grooming their fleece and nuzzling them to show affection.
Diet. Tandalan Sheep are not at all choosy about what they will eat - in the mountains there is not much variety. They will devour any vegetation they can find, be it coarse grass, a doch nut bush, dried leaves, or even mosses. They spend most of their day browsing, and in a very confined area will strip it down almost to bare rock and soil. Fortunately they are rarely thus confined, moving almost daily from spot to spot. Also, their dung seems to be enriching, and regrowth of the vegetation rapid.
Mating. The mating rituals of the Tandalan Sheep are very intimate. First of all, the rams prove their might by fighting with each other. They charge head to head, ramming their horns into the other's forehead until one either is knocked unconscious or submits to the punishment.
Hours are spent with the victorious male playing and nuzzling with his chosen female. The male eventually boards the female in the usual way, and they repeat this pattern for hours on end, until the male faints in exhaustion or the female loses energy.
After the pregnancy, which is thought to last around six months, the ewes give birth to lambs which weigh about an od and are about a fore from nose to tail (even Gob-Oc owners haven't gotten close enough to the lambs to take more precise measurements as their mothers are very protective.) As the sheep are pretty big-boned only one or two lambs (at the most three) are born at a time, as they are quite large compared to their mothers. Because of their weight, even at birth, the lambs take around four to five hours to gain the strength to walk.
After six weeks the lambs will still suckle from their mother but also begin grazing. At this age they frolic and play with all the other lambs their age (see Mating and Behaviour). By the time they are four months old they are fully grown but they won't reach mating age for another year.
Usages. The main use for the Tandala Sheep is simple - providing food. When a troll feels a little peckish he'll pick up his club, step out of his cave and walk until he encounters a herd of sheep. He'll crush a couple of their skulls with his club, sling them over his shoulder and walk back to his cave while snacking on a leg of mutton. The trolls also wear the sheep's horns as a kind of primitive decoration.
The Gob-Oc, it is said, have found another simple use for the sheep. It is rumoured that they found a method of taming the sheep and thus semi-domesticated them, so they will still respond to their Gob-Oc masters, although not necessarily at their beck and call. Once a sheep has been successfully domesticated it will be shorn by its owner and its fleece will be used to make jackets, leggings, scarfs, hats, gloves, blankets and every other sort of warmth-giving fabric you can think of. The Gob-Oc, however, aren't personally attached to their sheep, and it is quite common that whether a sheep is shorn or not, it will eventually end up in an orcish belly.
Myth/Lore. One interesting story that the Gob-Oc tell about the origin of the Tandala Sheep claims that they are a crossbreed between the cragok goat and the sawis sheep. Although these two animals live a long distance from each other, apparently they met on opposing migration routes and, well, crossbred. This story has some realism in that the Tandalan Sheep shares the hardiness and physique of the sawis but has many of the habits and behaviours of the cragok.
Another of the myths that has escaped the mountains deals with the seclusion of the sheep: An old cave troll, Kabu by name, told his companions of the great Tandalan Sheep slaughter.
The story goes that Kabu and the rest of his band went out searching for a meal. They found a small herd of sheep and chased them down the hill. The trolls were fast but no match for the nimble sheep as they fled the highlands and escaped onto the plains.
The trolls eventually gave up and watched their hoped-for dinners flee. When they decided to turn back, they were overwhelmed by the shrilling call of the phoenix. The trolls fled into a nearby cave, not daring to attack such a ferocious creature, and watched as the bird of flames gorged itself upon an entire herd of sheep.
Not satisfied with the sheep, the phoenix turned its attention to the trolls that hid in the caves. Unable to enter the ccve itself, the trolls extended its majestic wings as a stream of fire erupted from them. The fire reached to the depths of the cave and only Kabu was lucky enough to survive, by hiding behind a large rock formation. Many other races, including the Gob-Oc, disregard this as a simple folk tale, but seeing as the Tandalan Sheep have never left the mountains... who knows?
Information provided by Norkin