Field Book 1: Tauren SkeletonFebruary 3, 2009
Tawadikata, “Hawk Eye”, is a tauren hunter on the Silver Hand server who spends her days exploring and taking samples around all of Azeroth. Her studies began as a fascination with the origin of the mesas of Thunderbluff and the banded rocks in the Barrens and have grown to include any kind of Natural History she can track down to examine.
As I walk in this strange land, the other continent (or as the humans say “Eastern Kingdoms”), I find myself stalking through Alliance-held lands and examining what is there. It is about a fortnight and a half into my journey north from Grom’Gol Outpost in the Stranglethorn Jungle, and last night I stopped just within the sheltering crags of the mountains bordering on Westfall. As I leaned against Shteawa’s tawny side and began to drift off to sleep under his watchful eye and rumbling purr, I heard in the distance a series of lowing sounds.
Fully awake and curious as to the new creature out in the darkness, I hushed Shteawa and crept down the slope toward the sound. As I approached, the lowing got louder; accompanied by twigs snapping, leaves crunching, and a dull metallic clunking sound. I remember thinking to myself that whatever creature this is must either be caught in a trap and fearing for it’s life, exceedingly dangerous, or stupid enough to be unaware of the dangers posed by making so much noise at night.
Dangerous indeed! The creature was an ungulate, hoofed creature, with legs entirely too short for it’s proportionally enormous square body. It had hip bones that protruded enough as to be visible under the hide, even though the thing itself was obviously obese, and dull brown eyes that looked straight through me as I crouched in the shrubs without seeming to worry one whit about it’s own safety. It had a large, wet nose and was covered in patchy spots, white and brown. It also had mammaries so large and swollen, I wondered where it was keeping it’s (presumably large) litter. This, I know now, was a “cow”. A common, frighteningly over bred, animal the humans keep in fields for their milk and meat.
It is at this point that I come to the heart of my entry today: I have always known that the word “cow” was the name of a creature native to this strange continent and that races from the Eastern Kingdoms thought we Tauren resembled, however I did not know precisely what a “cow” was until just last night. I am writing then to address this very serious misconception by the smaller-statured races.
My intention is to lay out, in a method best suited to the Explorer’s League and possibly the Tinker’s Union, precisely what is wrong with the assumption that tauren are “human cows”. It does, however, strike me as insulting to have to do so, the way it would be insulting to an orc to have to describe why they aren’t “human pigs” if they have tusks, or to a gnome to have to describe why he isn’t a “human baby” if he is so small of stature. Quite honestly, I feel that this method of looking at everything as if it were some kind of mutated human to be obscenely self-centered when they, as a race, were preceeded by every other race on our planet by thousands of years! (The orcs and draenei being an obvious exception, having not originated on Azeroth at all.)
Tauren: A Study, Part 1: Skeletal System
I will begin this study with the basic building block of any vertebrate creature: the skeleton. I choose to start here, because this is the system most commonly used to identify the differences between species, it’s the framework for every other system of the body, and it is the most central part of most of the body. Please turn your attention to Figure 1, below.
Starting from the ground and moving upward, the hooves of a tauren are cloven. This is, indeed, similar to the cow creature but then, this characteristic is also not unique to the Bovidae. All even-toed ungulates are possessed of cloven hooves, and even some of the more primitive odd-toed ungulates show aspects of cleaving in a different configuration. What is unique about a tauren’s hooves is actually something that sets them apart from the cow, however, the cannon bone is designed to fit between the halves of the cloven hoof so that a much more dramatic angle can be comfortably achieved. The cannon bone on a cow, however, flows into the hoof but not between it’s hemispheres, and it made to connect from directly above, as the creature stand on four legs and not two. For comparison’s sake, I have included detail of a cow’s skeleton as well; figure three, at the end of this report.
Tauren legs are much too long and fit incorrectly into the pelvis to accommodate any sort of quadrupedal behavior. The best we can manage is kneeling, but the kneecap’s positioning makes it incredibly painful even to crawl for short periods of time, and thus tauren have not even a small degree of quadrupedal mobility. They do, though, have the remarkable bone spurs off of the top-rear of the cannon bone and lower-rear of the thigh bone similar to those found in canid-type creatures that fulfills two purposes related to the tendons that connect in those spots. First, at rest the tendon helps hold the leg in an upright position and removes the strain of this function in great part from the muscles of the leg; and second it stores and releases potential energy in every stride while a tauren walks or runs. This energy storing and releasing function is similar to the spring-loaded systems found on older models of mechanostrider before hydraulics were popular. This system allows tauren to run with nearly no effort for hours at a time, and at great speed.
It must also be noted at this point that the overall mass of bone in a cow’s skeleton is centered in the spine and ribcage, with the legs being a minor component of the system altogether, fairly thin and weak when you consider that average cow’s rib is wider than its leg bones. By contrast, a tauren has very small ribs when compared to our rather large and powerful limbs and joints.
The ribs themselves form a rounded cage over the lungs and heart with a cartilage sternum running vertically over the joint in the front of the chest, while cows and their ilk have large, thick, and boxy ribs that make two near-right angles (first inward, then forward) before they connect together in a v-shape. The round shape of a tauren ribcage then is something more like a cross between the shape of a cat’s ribcage and the weight of a canine’s.
The shoulders and arms, like the pelvis and legs, are massive in proportion compared to the ribcage and spine, made for sporting large, ropey cords of muscle. The shoulder joint itself forms a ball-and-socket joint like that of humans and the other races, in contradiction to the way a cow’s leg connects to the forward point of the shoulder blade to support it’s weight from there. In fact, due to the thinner nature of the ribs combined with the scale of the large bones in our limbs, tauren can carry loads far more efficiently than drag them behind us. Bio-mechanically speaking, humans have a frame much more suited to pulling than tauren do. In other words, a tauren could never plow a field unless he was directing a kodo beast.
Last of the body before moving to the skull, the spine and neck bones of a tauren come into the ribcage in a concave down arch, rather than angling down into the body and slowly rising diagonally to meet the pelvis as a cow’s do. The neck bones on a cow have minimal spurs of bone until they pass under the shoulder blade, where they suddenly gain large vertical spurs to maintain a more-or-less level back. Tauren vertebrae have moderate to minimal bone spurs on the dorsal side all along the length of the spine, like a predatory mammal.
Figure 2, as noted is a detail study on a tauren skull. The first, and hopefully most telling, of all the differences between tauren and your cow beasts is the teeth. Tauren have virtually no diastema, the space between the incisors and the rest of the teeth. The incisors , canines, and premolars are all far more carnivorous in nature, and only the true molars have any features for grinding of plant material at all!
The skull itself is like a rounded box. It has forward-facing orbital sockets, a wide zygomatic arch that shields the jawbone and houses the tendons that connect to it, and a domed forehead. Cows, on the other hand, have long, triangular skulls with widely spaced prey eyes. The zygomatic arch does not protrude from the skull by much at all, and the jawbone does not widen out after passing underneath arch as it does on predatory animals. The cow’s jawbone takes up a good half of the volume of its head while a tauren jawbone comprises a third or less of the volume, and a cow’s forehead is wide and flat, indicating the brain has nearly no frontal lobe development at all.
In conclusion, on a skeletal level tauren have a great deal more in common with the cat family, canines, and humans than they do with cows. The only exception to this being the presence of hooves and horns which aren’t actually an indication of much. Anything from cows to dragons can have horns, and the Explorer’s league claims that the orcas of Northrend once had hooves. I propose that should the other races of the world find ‘cow’ to be an acceptable term for tauren, that ‘goat’ stand for draenei, ‘boar’ for orc, ‘bunny’ for elf, and so on.
I plan to have a scribe translate this and make copies as soon as I return to town again, may at least one copy pass into the hand of the explorer’s league.
By my hand, Tawadikata of the Red Sky Clan.