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Dogs of the Realms
By Frank Penca
Learned men who are aware of such thing have noted that there are a number of differences between the types of dogs seen in the Realms and those seen on other worlds. Certain breeds, such as the Dalmatian, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, and the dachshund, which are prevalent in other spheres, are unknown on Faerun. Other breeds, such as the pug, husky, and the poodle, are few and far between. German Shepherds are known as Alsatians, while Irish Setters are simply known as Setters. There are several breeds of dogs which are unknown elsewhere. A description of the most noteworthy of these breeds follows.
The Ahrnhand (pronounced ARN-and, both H's are silent), or the Royal Dog, is a western canine that has its origins in what is today the Purple Marches of Tethyr. It has been a very popular breed throughout that shattered nation's history, and has maintained its popularity with common citizens even though it is seen as a dog of the nobility. They are rarely seen outside Tethyr's borders. Ahrnhands are very docile, known for their good-natures, excellent with children, and seldom bark. It stands about two and a half feet high, and is about three feet long. It is short-haired, bigger in girth than a greyhound, and not as fast. Its slender head supports ears which naturally stand upright at three inches. Though fur color varies through all shades of gray, the lighter the color of the fur, the more expensive the dog. A pure white litter of puppies was given to King Nearal as a birthday gift, and outshone all of his other gifts that year. There have been two reported births of black ahrnhands, and both were owned by Sharrans who were favored by their goddess.
The Daeraman (pronounced DEER-eh-men by everyone but the dwarves, who pronounce it da-ere-A-man) is also known as the Dwarven Dog, for many reasons, though not because of its size. The name itself is likely a synthesis between two dwarven words: daern, meaning familiar or known, and samman, meaning a trusted friend through battle. It stands about three and a half feet high, and its burly frame can often reach up to two-hundred fifty pounds. Their fur is often mottled brown and black, though all manner of earth tones may be found. They have a fantastically tough hide, and have been known to walk across hot coals without noticing, and to survive for many days in permafrost environments. Various body parts of the daeraman are reputed to be useful in elixirs involving hardiness and stamina. Daeraman seem equally comfortable with all the major civilized races, but dwarves seem to have a special fondness for them. They will let dwarven children ride on their backs, and they can (sometimes) carry up to fifty pounds of supplies by dwarven mining teams. Daeraman seem very comfortable underground, and do not appear to be affected by lack of exposure to sunlight. However, daeraman have never been a truly popular breed of pet, for one reason: as they age, they seem to lose any emotional attachment they may have once had to humanoids. Many will wander off after the age of ten or eleven, to live out their final years away from civilization. This seems less likely to happen if the owner of the daeraman is also a cat owner, as the two animals will often get along very well.
Darovoi (pronounced dar-eh-VOI) is both the singular and plural of this vicious breed. These dogs stand between four and four and a half feet high, and are always jet back. Their powerful legs are capable of great bursts of speeds, and they can keep up with horses for a mile or two if in their peak conditions. They learn commands easily if taught within the first year; beyond that, they are unable to learn any tricks, discipline, or restraint. They are insatiable killers, and relish in hunting game both large and small. Unless ordered to stop, they will continue to bear down on animals until well after their prey has died. Until ten years ago, they were common as sentinels in Malarite temples and shrines. However, this use has declined recently as they have gained in popularity by Xvimites, as many of these dogs naturally have green eyes (though some speculate more now than a generation ago).Daravoi will kill for pleasure, and will kill with a ruthless efficiency. A pack of three (they are utterly fearless in packs) was once responsible for bringing down a mother cave bear who was protecting her cubs. These dogs, no matter how well trained, should not be left alone with children under the age of eight. They will often kill anything smaller than them (read: halfling size or smaller) if they believe their masters aren't watching. For reasons unknown, daravoi appear incapable of contracting rabies. This is probably for the best.
These lap dogs are a short-haired breed that can be seen throughout the regions north of Waterdeep. Femmari (FEM-air-ee) were likely a cross between corgi and beagles, but the hybrids have become so popular as to become a breed unto themselves. Their fur tends to be a dark chocolate brown, with the tans and whites of normal beagle colored fur seen in patterns throughout. They are often less than a foot high and about a foot and a half long. Their legs are only about two and a half inches at the stifle, about the size of their ears in length. They are a good natured breed, and love to play with children.
They are unusual for two reasons, besides their astounding popularity in the North as a short-haired dog. First, they often have a life span of over fifty years. There is a story of one femmari living to be over eighty. As neither of their supposed parent breeds are known for their longevity, speculation abounds of magical processes involved in their creation. This is furthered by the femmari's second outstanding feature. They are the only true breed of dog to have infravision. In fact, few breeds of dog have any sort of night vision beyond the scope of normal humans. There appears to be no known natural reason for this. Despite these odd facts, they often sell for the price of normal dogs.
It is said that golden retrievers are the only dogs that actually can laugh. It is likewise said that the garygan is the only dog that sheds tears. The garygan (gare-E-gann) is a rare dog which were reportedly first seen in Halruaa, but over the past two centuries have become recognizable in the North as well. The garygan is a muscular, short-coated, square-headed dog with tight skin and a docked tail, much akin to the boxer. Males stand 22.5-25 inches at the withers and weigh about 70 pounds. Females are a bit smaller at 21-23.5 inches and about 60 pounds. Fur color for males is a distinctive soft blue, while female's fur may be any shade of blue from nearly white to deep electric, but tends towards a sky blue. Garygans are often friendly dogs, though they tend not to be very active considering their build, and are often good companions for sedentary owners. If the dog ever loses an owner or companion, some members of the breed will go into a period of mourning which will include fasting and occasionally silently crying. These dogs rarely have health problems, and their low maintenance and relative rarity increases their prices. In Halruaa, they usually will fetch 75 gold. In the rest of the South, they can go for up to 500 gold, and in the North, they can fetch up to 2000 gold if the fur is of a dark enough color. For some unknown reason, Garygans are not cross-fertile with other breeds of dogs.
The itago (eye-TA-go) are a miniature breed of dogs which are used throughout the East by merchants and caravan masters. They are fine boned but long-haired, with fur usually either all white or all gray, though some dogs with mixed colors exist. They stand between 8-11" tall at the shoulder, and weigh 3-9 pounds. They do not share the reputation of many other toy dogs as being hyperactive or high-strung, at least not in the traditional sense. The Itago are often called Holy Hounds in the east. According to legend, in the wastes north of Rashesmen, there was a small farming community who lost many men each year to raiding nomadic barbarians. One spring, the village lost most of its men to the barbarians, and threats were made that they would return. The small community prepared its remaining men to defend it, but because no one knew the barbarians location, they could only wait. The men could not be kept in a state of constant readiness, so sentinels were put into position to alert the town at a moment's notice. One such guard was Perranis, a good-natured man with an alcohol problem. One night, Perranis was kept company by his ten year old daughter, Itago. The poor man drank too much and fell asleep on the job, and Itago, who was accustomed to her father's problems, kept vigil in his place. It was she who noticed the distant shapes in the night sky, and after failing to wake her father, it was she who woke the entire village and saved many lives. After the battle, Helm himself appeared to Itago, and told the girl that he would grant one request from her. The girl, in her innocence, asked for Helm to give her a puppy that would not only be fun to play with, but would also help her father watch for trouble, because, as the girl said, she didn't like staying up too late. It has been said that in that moment, Helm came close to smiling. He created the Itago, which has since proved itself to be the most supreme watchdog in the Realms, and though children do like its unusual appearance, they report it is not very much fun to play with.
The village and its name are long since lost to time, though several sites still received pilgrimages by Helmites as recently as fifty years ago. Some have doubted the truth behind the story, but the fact remains that Itago were unheard of in 600 DR and were commonly used by guards as "back-ups" by 700 DR.
The Itago itself does exhibit several unusual characteristics. The most noticeable of these is the amount it sleeps. Itago only sleep about fifteen to twenty hours a week, and even then only for one or two hours at a time. When they do sleep, their eyes remain open, even though they do have eyelids. While awake, they constantly pace, eyes scanning the horizon for trouble. Due to their size, they are constantly jumping up on surfaces to gain a better view, then jumping back down to, as if to see if they have missed anything. Itago are virtually unknown west of the Vast.
The mot (MAHT) may have originated in Chult, or it may be an import from another crystal sphere. This dog is nearly hairless, save for several whiskers on its head, but it stands closer to three feet tall and weighs about a hundred pounds. They are dogs of a definite tropical nature, and are very uncomfortable in weather less than sixty degrees. In the coastal regions of Chult, where they are most often found (their unprotected skin makes them eschew the actual jungle), and more rarely on the shores of the Lake of Steam, they are considered trackers of the highest order. It is wise advice not to hire a guide in the region who does not employ a mot. They have relatively weak jaws, and so they are incapable of actual fighting, even of small game, but it is said that a mot could track a swallow in a thunderstorm.
Unlike many other dogs, mots have a poor sense of hearing. Their inch high ears are small in proportion to the rest of their bodies, and about one out of every twenty has hearing so poor that they may be considered deaf. Their intelligence is on par with other dogs, though, so a capable trainer may be able to teach them to perform tricks and tasks using hand signals.
A ruckushound (ruh-KUSS-hound) is not a true breed of dog. Rather, it is a term used to describe dogs which have developed a certain malady. Ruckushounds are always mongrels; true breeds of dogs do not become ruckushounds. On the few days prior to and directly after a full moon, ruckushounds will bark constantly. If they are given food, they will be quiet for up to a half an hour, but then will begin to bark again. They dogs will not eat if they are not hungry, and will only sleep when they have barked themselves sore, so it becomes impossible to quiet them. Many such of these dogs are eventually put to sleep, as they resist even the most powerful of magical cures. If this unfortunate ailment occurs in one pup in a litter, then it is certain that all will have it. It is believed by some that while he was insane (or more so, depending on who is asked), Cyric allowed his priests to make a dog into a ruckushound by merely meeting its gaze, with no spell casting involved.
The Vayferr (VAY-fehr) is a breed of dog seldom seen outside the region of Var the Golden and the surrounding territories. This smaller breed stands about a foot and a half high (females average an inch or two less) and weigh about forty pounds. Their fur tends to be white, though popular custom in the region sees spalshes of color added through dyes in order to make them stand out. These dogs are very popular, and almost certainly any other dog seen within the borders of Var the Golden were brought there by visiting dignitaries.
Vayferr are seen in all walks of life in Var. The most popular of traveling carnival side shows are those which feature a wizard using a ventriloquism spell and a vayferr, while a huckster trades quips with the dogs. Recently, more skilled wizards are conducting short scenes composed entirely of vayferr actors. These are always comedic in nature. Vayferr are poor hunters, but may learn almost any trick, and never stop learning. This allows them to learn and comprehend the meaning of almost fifteen hundred words in their lifetimes, about five times that of other dogs.
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