The Chimera Hound (Marineri - Kee-MehR-GeY | kimeɹgej), also known as the Chi Hound/Ki-Hound, Chimeradog, or Pseudowolf is a vaguely canid carnivore native to Mars. It has an extremely diverse genetic makeup featuring significant traits from canine, feline, ursine, and even reptilian species. The Chimera Hound was developed in the genetics laboratories of Melas Colony some time before World War 3. The exact purpose for creating the Chimera Hound is unknown, and there are no reliable records regarding its development. Leading speculation is that the species was either developed as a contingency for herbivore population control or simply as a literal pet project by one of the resident geneticists. At some point during the degradation of Melas colony, a number of Chimera Hounds escaped into the wild, along with various other animals. Since then, Chimera Hounds have roamed the Martian lowlands predating wild and domesticated animals alike. Chimera Hounds are also intelligent and trainable enough to use as hunting companions, guard animals, and steeds in the case of larger breeds.
The Chimera Hound is vaguely canid in shape, with an elongated snout that opens in a wide alligator-like maw. The hound's neck is long and thick, capable of shrugging off small cuts and bites. Overall the animal is extremely muscular and covered in long hollow hairs similar to that of a polar bear. This fur covers the entire body with the exception of the nose and a bony protrusion that runs along the spine all the way to the tail. The forepaws of the Chimera Hound have an opposable, enlarged raptor like claw for rending flesh and rudimentary grasping. The hind legs are extremely powerful and capable of supporting the Hound's weight in a two legged stand. Several subspecies of Chimera Hound have developed, both incidentally through mutation and intentionally through genetic engineering. Prominent subspecies or breeds include the Domesticated Chimera Hound, the Bull-faced Chimera Hound, the Toy Chimera Hound, the Chimera Bulldog, and the Hellic Razorback Chimera Hound (nicknamed the "Hell Hound").
Genetics and Reproduction
Chimera Hounds follow mamalian reproductive traits, gestating for a period of 7 to 12 weeks before delivering a litter of 3 to 8 pups. Due to the extensive experimental genetic engineering, Chimera Hounds are extremely susceptible to mutations, birth defects, and carcinomas.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Chimera Hounds are technically omnivorous, but prefer a diet of meat. Chimera Hounds are considered the apex predators of the Martian ecosystem, and hunt animals large and small, including fish. Their resilient digestive system allows them to consume even partially desiccated animal carcasses. Chimera Hounds can hunt solitarily, or using pack tactics to tackle larger prey or to ambush herds of wild animals or livestock. While Chimera Hounds, like many other predators, will seek out weak prey from among a herd, Chimera Hounds also have the curious tendency to more aggressively hunt creatures with genetic defects, aberrant mutations, and even cancerous growths. They instinctively prioritize hunting animals with these conditions, including other Chimera Hounds. Their ability to detect and seek out these conditions is poorly understood, but it is believed to be a mechanism engineered to protect the health of the populations of the other engineered Martian fauna. Chimera Hounds rarely hunt and eat humans, usually only turning to human prey when extremely malnourished. Their attraction towards genetically damaged prey also extends to humans, lending Native Martians to hold a strong aversion and disdain for these animals.
The fur of the Chimera Hound is most similar to a polar bear's, allowing it to retain body heat in the cold climates of Mars. In order to survive harsh winters where temperatures drop well below zero and prey is scarce, the Chimera Hound will attempt to find a surplus of calories then hibernate until first thaw. Chimera Hounds that fail to achieve the calorie surplus must continue to hunt through the winter.
Chimera Hounds tend to follow canid social patterns, and will operate in a pack structure when their numbers are high enough. Otherwise Chimera Hounds can be seen roaming as solitary predators.
Despite being accidentally introduced to the wild for generations, Chimera Hounds are still generally receptive to domestication and training. Chimera Hounds must be exposed to humans in their infancy in order to be properly domesticated, and even a fully domesticated Chimera Hound can be dangerous to humans and livestock when aggressive. Keeping a Chimera Hound as a pet is ill-advised due to this risk. The threat posed by Chimera Hounds gave Native Martians little reason to risk domestication until the recontact era, preferring more passive animals or robotic drones. In the years since, some Martian tribes have embraced Chimera Hounds as cattle guards, hunting and battle companions, and even as fleet-footed mounts given the absence of a horse-analogue in the Martian ecology. In general, Martians are still wary of Chimera Hounds, and there is a strong cultural disdain for the species. Those that are spotted in the wild are aggressively hunted to protect livestock, a practice that has put the species population into a vulnerable status. Even strays in Martian cities are frequently abused and killed for fun or sport.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
The Chimera Hound has great visual acuity, capable of seeing in infrared and detecting prey at great distances. The senses of smell and hearing are also especially sensitive but limited in usefulness by the lower air density on Mars. These senses are still acute enough to allow the Chimera Hound to hunt during dust storms and blizzards.