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Centaur

It is said that Nephemir was built on the backs of Centaurs. From trade to agriculture, their labor has been instrumental for the growth of this nation. However, there is much more to the species than is seen by the majority of Nephemir's citizens.

Basic Information

Anatomy & Morphology

Centaurs evolved from a common ancestor of Dragons, so their bodies are built for efficiency.  

Centaur Anatomy

Centaur Anatomy by Anz

 

Possibly the most obvious relic of their ancestry is the centaur's bird-like respiratory system. Air travels through the entire body, back to air sacs beneath the croup, known as posterior air sacs. On the first exhalation, air travels back up the body to the lungs under front legs. Once they inhale again, the air travels to the top air sacs to the rear of the rib cage of the torso. Finally, on the second exhalation, the air leaves the body. Unlike similar mammalian counterparts, centaurs do not have a diaphragm, but instead rely on muscle contractions around the air sacs to draw air into the body. This is a relic of their shared ancestry with Dragons. This is how centaurs are able to fuel such a large body, as it is an incredibly efficient respiratory system. This can result in respiratory infections, however, and this is a common ailment in centaurs. It can take quite awhile for respiratory infections to clear, as there are so many spaces for bacteria and fungus to infect.   The stomach sits at the front of the trunk, beneath the shoulder blades. This leads back into the intestines further down, along the belly of the centaur. The esophagus and trachea run straight down through the torso and down into the trunk. This can become blocked if a centaur eats very dry food and isn't given the opportunity to rest. The digestive tract resembles that of a human's, with the hindgut fermentation of a horse. This allows a centaur to meet some dietary needs through rough foods such as branches, grasses, etc. that would not be edible for a human, while still allowing a centaur to have high-calorie food items such as meat. If a centaur eats too many dry food items and not enough water, food can become compacted in the cecum and cause colic.   The reproductive system sits further back, near the intestines in the trunk, and is only slightly larger than

that of a horse. Infant centaurs are carried internally for around a year, and are then born dependent on their parents. Unlike horses, infant centaurs have to be carried for several days to weeks before their muscles are strong enough to support their torso.   The heart is large, and takes up a large portion of the torso’s rib cage. Extensive arteries run down the front, not only for the organs and muscles in the lower body, but also the muscles in the "core" of the torso, which support the torso and allow for the range of movement necessary for a centaur. Some air exchange occurs between the heart and the anterior air sacs, but most happens down in the lungs.   The hooves are quite similar to that of a horse, but have additional "give" when weight is put on them. This is because of the extra weight they carry, and the extra pressure put on the front hooves especially. It is because of this that traditional horseshoes are more detrimental to the hoof of a centaur than that of a horse. Generally, centaur shoes will need to be adjusted more often than that of a horse, and after prolonged periods of wearing shoes, even when properly maintained, the effects of removing them are more extreme than horses having their shoes removed.   Maturity is reached at 20 years of age, though a centaur will usually become their adult height closer to age 17 and simply fill out after that point. Height and weight depend on build with the average centaur standing at 7 feet and weighing 2000 pounds. Mature centaurs have access to an almost full range of upper body motion and can run 35-40 miles per hour, traveling a total distance of 120 miles per day.

Biological Traits

Most commonly seen is the centaur race of Nephemir, which most closely resembles the form of a horse. Not only is this because Nephemir is some of the most habitable territory inhabited by centaurs, but because they are so commonly intertwined with the lives of Humans, Elves, and other humanoid species. This race has the most variety in builds and coat patterns.   Sirus is inhabited by a race of centaur resembling a nyala. Sprightly and friendly, this race has had little conflict with humans. Farming has allowed them to establish permanent villages, and they grow a wide variety of crops and livestock. Buildings are created from mud and thatch which are circular in shape for easy maneuverability. Males are larger, darker, and have curled horns on their heads, and often tattoo designs on their foreheads that create a V shape down the bridge of their nose. Vibrant colors are preferred by this race, and that is reflected in their clothing. They wear blue, orange, and red garments draped over both their human half and down the back of their trunk. This culture has trouble often from leopards, lions, hyenas, and jackals, so while their villages are often walled with tall stick fences, they are welcoming to travelers who often need assistance in the unfriendly environment.

Yajemir is home to the race of centaur resembling a gazelle. As the region of Yajemir they inhabit is so densely overgrown by thorn bushes and other prickly shrubs, they can often be seen wearing leather bracers on their legs to prevent scrapes. Ceremonial face paint and tattoos are applied once members become an adult. Tall, slender, and serious. Nomadic and live in tents crafted of woven grass and wooden poles . White is a culturally important color, symbolizing health, cleanliness, sincerity, and spirituality. Females and males alike adorned with long curved horns all year round.   The race of centaurs hailing from Alia resembles an okapi and has a healthy distrust of humans, as their environment has been invaded for years for gold and luxury goods. Gold is important to the culture of these tribes, and they can often be seen with gold jewelry. Gold symbolizes courage and wisdom. Tribesmen live in huts composed of wooden poles tied together with leather strips and tree fern frond roofs. Clothing is minimal, and dyed gold, brown, tan or orange. Patterning is often ornate and heavily focuses on zigzags and teardrop shapes. As time has gone on, villages have retreated further into the mountains and have become smaller due to the encroachment of merchants in search of gold.

Growth Rate & Stages

Centaurs enter the world with the ability to support their own heads. Newborns are able to stand – albeit unsteadily – just days after birth. Until they can travel at the same pace of the tribe, infant centaurs are usually carried by their parents on a sling. Usually within a few weeks, a young centaur can keep pace with their adult counterparts.   Once past the newborn stage, young centaurs can run, stand, and talk upon reaching a year of age yet prefer to keep arms crossed over their chests while moving for stability. Young centaurs start life rather leggy, and as time goes on, they become more solid in the trunk while the torso retains more of the same proportion throughout life. Full maturity is reached at around 20 years of age, and sexual maturity at around 15 years of age.

Ecology and Habitats

Centaurs inhabit open grasslands, which provide best for the centaur's unique dietary requirements. Centaurs can easily spot danger on the flat landscape and outrun it, moving to a safer location. They tend to set their settlements on hills, where more of the land can be seen. Ecologically, centaurs act like grazers, collecting grasses and branches for food while also grazing their own herds.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Centaurs need an incredible amount of food each day, both in terms of calories, as well as sheer volume. While a centaur could eat high-calorie foods, such as meat, it would leave him feeling hungry and dissatisfied, as well as cause digestive issues such as diarrhea. Roughage in the form of vegetables and grasses aid in digestion and comfort. They also require 7-12 gallons of water each day to prevent digestive issues and dehydration.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Centaurs inhabit open grasslands, congregating in large tribes or smaller family groups, each with their own unique traditions and lifestyle. Movement between tribes is not uncommon and splinter groups can leave when their tribe becomes too crowded. An outsider seeking to join an existing tribe must first prove their worth by sparring with the current tribe leader. Although centaurs prefer to avoid intra-tribal conflict, when such conflict does occur it is resolved through battle as determined by the tribe leader. The nature and intensity of such battles are determined by the nature of the crime and do not usually result in death. Intertribal conflict, however, is almost always a bloody affair.   Though their lifestyles are often compared, it should be noted that centaurs are not as bloodthirsty and are generally more altruistic than Minotaurs. Part of this is because environments inhabited by centaurs are generally less harsh than those of southern Fidean Empire, but also because there is generally less competition between the leader of a centaur tribe and their subordinates. Centaurs will not expel old or sick members of the tribe, and will give deceased members a proper burial, though the specific methods can be seen as disturbing to outsiders. Exhuming the body of a centaur by their tribe is not seen as disrespectful, though if someone outside the tribe were to disturb a centaur's burial cairn, the tribe would certainly take offense.

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Centaurs were enslaved several hundred years prior for use as physical labor and entertainment. Farming, irrigation, and shipping is much easier with a centaur's aid, and that is their primary uses. In niche circles, arenas with centaur fighters are also popular, as they were seen as barbaric.

Facial characteristics

The skin of a centaur can be patterned, just like the coat, and so sometimes centaurs may have patterning on the face. Ears are long, and can move in nearly any direction, independent of one another to allow centaurs to accurately pinpoint the source of a noise. This allows centaurs to carry on a conversation with someone behind them without having to turn around.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Centaurs can be found in Nephemir, Sirus, Yajemir, and Alia, though each have their own morph.

Average Intelligence

Centaurs are just as intelligent as any Human, despite claims from certain merchants or other humanoid species who may seek to exploit them for labor.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Centaurs rely most heavily on their senses of sight and hearing. Their ears are adapted to rotate and are shaped like that of a horse, allowing them to pinpoint unfamiliar or potentially dangerous sources of sounds. As it is much easier for a centaur's ears to rotate as opposed to their body (plus the fact that they would want to be facing away from sources of danger), they will tend to rotate their ears first, then turn just the head. As mentioned, centaurs will prefer to not turn toward sources of danger in the event they would need to flee or kick to avoid danger.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Names are often three-part, describing what the parents want for their child, or believe they will be as an adult, in the centaur's native tongue. They generally refer to power or spiritual strength. Examples are the characters Arophi (Walks in Light), and the self-named Rudanes (From Afar Brings Freedom). However, names can also be negative, as in the case of Arophi's mother, Dezaios (Dwells in Chains).

Beauty Ideals

Scars earned through battle are seen as beautiful and act as proof of strength and bravery and are a source of personal and familial pride. Additionally, smooth, glossy hair and coat is seen as an indicator of a good mate. Shiny hooves, likewise, suggests good health and hygiene.

Gender Ideals

A centaur couple will share hunting, fighting, cooking, farming, and parenting tasks not based on gender, but by skill. As often centaurs will grow up in a close-knit tribe, each member of the couple will understand who is better at certain tasks.

Relationship Ideals

Commonly, centaurs do not subscribe to the Human ideal of independence. As a centaur relies so heavily on their peers, it's ideal to have a large circle of friends and family. A centaur will rely most heavily on their spouse and close friends, but retaining good relationships with the entire tribe.

Average Technological Level

Centaur homes are often quite different from those of their human counterparts. Spaces are generally wide, not narrow, and single-story – in fact, many rooms are circular. There will often be multiple entrances and exits. Sleeping spaces are comprised of soft but supportive bedding piled up in somewhat of an angle. This allows the occupant to sleep comfortably while also facilitating getting up in the morning. A larger percent of a centaur’s dwelling is dedicated to food storage, as centaurs eat quite a bit more than human counterparts. In these will be extra greens, and foods containing more fiber than a human’s diet would dictate; this helps move food through the extra stage of fermentation in the gut. Centaurs do eat meat, but about the same about that a human would eat on a given day. The rest is made up in grains, greens, and fruit.

Major Language Groups and Dialects

There are four main dialects, one for each subspecies of centaur though most are fast falling out of use in all nations but Alia. The Nephmiri has been nearly completely lost, and now essentially is used for nothing more than names. A lot of communication happens via body language, most notably, hoof and body placement.

Common Etiquette Rules

It is common for centaurs to ask for help with many day-to-day tasks, including getting dressed, injuries to the hoof as well as general hoof maintenance, etc. It is common etiquette to assist a fellow centaur when they would ask for assistance. A centaur may, for example, show their dislike for someone by obviously not asking for assistance when they need it.

Common Dress Code

Clothing is minimal by human standards, and usually quite loose. At a minimum, clothing covers the torso and somewhat down the back of the trunk. If the weather isn't too hot or for special occasions, more clothing can be added. Clothing going down the back of the trunk only loosely covers the genitalia from the side angles. However, this prevents tangling in clothes, which could end in fatal injury. Sometimes the midsection of the trunk is left open, with a second piece of clothing covering the back, though the single cape is more common. This allows a centaur to dress himself without the aid of someone else. Clothing is generally rather thick, but sometimes is made of more translucent, lighter material. It is often accompanied by adornments such as buckles, belts, ribbons, or jewels or emblems.  

See the sidebar for additional examples of centaur clothing.
  Hair is generally kept long. Males keep it around shoulder length at the shortest, and females often it let trail down the back to the trunk. It can often be seen tied up into intricate braids.

Culture and Cultural Heritage

Centaurs value living a good life, as it ties into the idea that life itself is fleeting, but the determination on what a “good life” is, is often rather subjective. Funerals can sometimes be messy if some of the family is celebrating a good life, while others are mourning a bad one. As life and death were often intertwined so intimately, funerals are an important affair.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

Juvenile centaurs are required to undergo a coming of age ceremony before being officially recognized as adults. As part of preparations, special designs of the participant's choosing are dotted onto their skin with an awl. Subsequently, a paste created from honey, flower petals, and seed pods is applied to irritate the skin and facilitate scarring in the upcoming weeks. Once preparations are completed, the young centaur is sent out to hunt a mountain lion unarmed.   In anticipation of this momentous task, parents will train their children to use their hooves in unarmed combat. Although a well-aimed kick or trample will suffice to kill or maim a lion, many youngsters do not survive their trial. However, despite the high mortality rate, parents remain confident of their offspring's success so the tradition shows no sign of being phased out. Successful challengers are accepted as adults upon their return and a feast is thrown in their honor. However, this is the final time they will receive tangible aid from their parents. Finally, as the aforementioned paste facilities the development of permanent scars, the transition into adulthood is considered complete.

History

However, it is common knowledge that centaurs used to be powerful necromancers. While they never practiced spells reviving the dead, they were considered to be Kaika's most loyal followers by the goddess. However, as they knew her by the name O'erall, Humans and Elves believed them to be cultists of a false god.   Unfortunately, much of the centaur's history in Nephemir has been lost to time, since they have no writing system and Human and Elvish intervention has caused many of their stories to be forgotten.

Historical Figures

In the years leading up to the final collapse of the centaur culture, the tribes set aside their differences and banded together as a final effort to dispel the humans and elves. They united under the tribal leader Sarall, and he led them for four years until their ultimate surrender after numerous casualties. Generally speaking, he isn't seen as a positive historical figure, though he was doing as he was commanded by the Goddess O'erall, something centaurs would have generally agreed with. He was also wrongly credited as being "King of Centaurs", which is a fallacy placed on the situation by humans. His direct bloodline has been carefully monitored by the elves, as they see control over his bloodline as a way to control the centaur populace as a whole. Rudanes is almost seen as an opposite figure as Sarall. The legend goes that she crafted a bow out of her own yoke and fibers from a whip, and arrows from the shattered remains of a shackle. She freed several communities of centaurs before her rebellion was ultimately halted in a bloody battle. She remains in the collective mythos of centaur culture, however, and many believe she and the centaurs she freed still antagonize Humans.

Common Myths and Legends

A'odes the Hunter is a recurring character within centaur mythology. He generally displays positive attributes, such as bravery, strength, and hunting prowess while also respecting nature, and the cycle of life and death. The lore stands that his wife was killed by a boar while on a hunt, and he spent the remainder of his life attempting to hunt it down and destroy it. The boar symbolizes greed and destruction, and the quest to kill it symbolizes natural balance, though the boar is rarely demonized.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

Centaurs are generally rather distrusting of other species due to their long history of enslavement. They are much more trusting of other centaurs than they would be of Humans, etc.

Arophi & Ellery Commission
Commission - Arophi Ellery by Floofin
Lifespan
65
Average Height
7 ft.
Average Weight
2000 lbs
Average Length
8 ft
Average Physique
Centaurs are generally very muscular, even more so than a horse. Their core, what we would consider to be our abdominal muscles is exceedingly strong. Centaurs can generally carry and haul more than an average horse of their size by brute force, but can also tackle situations in more efficient ways, thanks to their ability to reason.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Skin and hair color generally is the same in both the torso and the trunk, so if a centaur’s trunk has patches or patterns, those are often reflected up the torso. Coat color, likewise, is reflected in hair above the trunk – underarm hair, head hair, etc. Ears are long, almost elf-like, also with a wide range of motion.
Related Ethnicities
Related Myths
Centaur
Kentaur by Hadrian
 

Challenges

Centaurs experience several challenges, especially concerning mobility. They need quite a bit of space to turn around, and stairs will always be an access issue. It's difficult, therefore, for centaurs to traverse highly populated areas, or the "vertical cities" that have become commonplace in Lathai. Additionally, due to their weight, ramps need to be incredibly strong to be secure.   Common causes of death and injury include fractures, choking or respiratory complications, and dehydration. Fractures occur most commonly in the legs. Though a centaur's leg is purpose built to stand their weight (as opposed to a horse's leg which is more disposed to fracture with a rider), fractures of the leg can still happen after a jump, a fall, or repeated exposure to running on hard surfaces. A leg fracture will not kill a centaur outright but can lead to starvation, exposure, etc. if the centaur does not have assistance from others. The other most common location for a fracture to occur is the spine where the torso and the trunk meet. Most fractures of this type occur because of falls landing on the torso. A spinal fracture of this type can result in paralysis or death.   Choking and respiratory issues stem from the long esophagus and trachea, as well as the number of air sacs that can harbor infection such as pneumonia. Respiratory infections are difficult to treat and last much longer in a centaur than in a Human. The only aid for choking is for a centaur to lean their torso toward the ground and cough. It's recommended that centaurs do not try to eat while moving, and instead either stand still or lay down for meals. Unlike horses, centaurs can lay down for longer periods of time without injuring their internal organs, so laying down for meals does not pose a risk.  

Dependence

Unlike Humans, it is very unusual for a centaur to desire independence. Instead, a centaur will have a goal to have a large network of close friends and relatives. This is likely because centaurs will rely on each other for grooming, hoof maintenance, and other tasks that Humans would prefer to do themselves.   Which member of their tribe from which a centaur asks for help can be significant. Choosing a potential partner to aid in grooming can indicate romantic interest, whereas not asking the most skilled hunter to aid in hunting can indicate a feud.  
Centaur Female
Centauress by John La Farge
  Interestingly enough, there is no cultural taboo against refusing to help someone in most circumstances. For example, if a centaur wanted assistance with hunting, he would go to the best hunter in the tribe to ask for help, even if the first centaur knew the best hunter was not available or would not want to help. In the event that the centaur he asked is too tired, ill, or busy, for example, he would refuse and the first centaur would ask the second best hunter. Most tribes would have a mutually agreed upon hierarchy for most tasks, but other times the rankings are more subjective.    

Seasonal Variation

While most subspecies of centaur do not live in areas with high seasonality, those who are native to Nephemir deal with very hot, humid summers and very cold, dry winters. This not only affects these centaurs physically, but also affects their behavior.   Firstly, centaurs living in the northern nation of Nephemir undergo a shed twice a year. In the summer, their coat is sleek and in the winter, their coat is fluffy. Their summer coat is more waterproof than their winter coat and doesn't keep the body as warm as the winter coat. This means that, while the winter coat is warmer, getting wet in the winter is more dangerous.   Centaurs tend to travel less in the winter months, instead setting up more permanent structures. Tribes may have a winter hunting ground, where their tents may be replaced with permanent residences such as stone structures and smokehouses as opposed to open-air fire pits. Centaurs' diets will change to being more reliant on dried meats such as jerky in the winter months. Some tribes have even perfected "pack jerky", a winter and early spring staple.   The process for making "pack jerky" is rather simple. A centaur simply takes thin strips of meat and lays them along the back of their trunk, where a saddle might go on a horse. Weight is placed on top of the centaur's back. This was especially convenient during travel where a centaur may be carrying a heavy load for several hours, as the meat would have cured in the heat, sweat, and pressure when the centaur arrived at their destination.   The meat would be then be preserved and could be eaten at a later date without requiring additional preservation or refrigeration. While this idea may seem off-putting, "pack jerky" is important for the winter diet of a centaur.  

Death Practices

Centaurs have a better relationship with death than most Humans who often wish to prevent death or return from the other side. Because of this, centaurs were one of Kaika's favored peoples, though they knew the goddess as O'erall. Though, because of their relatively small numbers, Kaika ultimately chose to side against some of her most dedicated worshipers.  
Centaur Burial Rites cover
Centaur by Joel Kramer
  Centaurs have a unique method of burial rites involving handling of the dead. They also had a belief that once the body had decayed, the soul would return in the form of another centaur. It is believed that souls will remember relationships with other souls, and that explains why certain tribe members have a tendency to fight or have rivalries.  

Clothing Examples

This is a traditional ceremonial outfit to be used in reenactments of significant events, dances, and as a bridal gown. An outfit like this would not be practical for every day use because of heat, safety concerns, and issues of keeping the bottom clean.   This is a more standard travel outfit, somewhat more modest than clothing just around the trunk. This would be somewhat warm in the summer, so may see use in autumn or spring.  

Closing Statements

Centaur culture has been largely misunderstood throughout Lathai. There is a lot of fear that centaurs are heretics as the first settlers of Nephemir did not recognize the goddess described by centaurs as one of the eight gods. These tensions exist today, especially in Nephemir.   While it is true that centaur culture has been shaped irreversibly by Humans and Elves, that does not mean all culture has been lost. Songs, dances, and closely-held beliefs remain as strong and resilient as the people themselves.    

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Cover image: Two Brown Horses on Field Near Mountain by Pete Johnson

Comments

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9 Jun, 2019 23:37

Excellent write up,full of information,great work,love it.