Hob-Hounds, also known as the "Little Koda" or "Koda" (so named after the Kodael), arose out of the hobbits' desire to have a dog as useful as any human Cael hound, but on their scale. As such they greatly resemble miniature versions of the common dogs of Santharia and Caelereth. Used as working dogs as well as pets in their native shires, they have acted as sheepdogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs and more for centuries. There has recently been a great deal of human interest in these friendly, obedient animals, who have taken to keeping them as lap-dogs.
If you were to see a portrait of a Hob-Hound, you might well remark that these
sturdy creatures are simply a slight variation on the
the most common dog in
Sarvonia, and, indeed, the rest of
Santharia. But if you were to meet a hob-hound you would, of course, realise
that these beasts are the size of a terrier, with an average Hob-Hound standing
at a mere two and half palmspans
high at the shoulder, and measuring only a fore and a
palmspan from head to rump.
Thus, they are, in proportion, the same height to
hobbits as the
is to humans. However, they are compact, tough
animals, even more so than their strong
cousins, and thus weigh in at around seven hebs on average. Their coats are
short-haired and varied in colour with a typical Koda having black or dark brown
fur, sometimes plain and sometimes dappled with patches of lighter brown.
Although darker fur is more common, their muzzles are not exclusively black, as
Because there are such a wide variety of tasks with which hobbits employ the Little Koda, a number of variations on the average animal have emerged, often through careful selective breeding, but sometimes simply by years of a family farm choosing a certain type of pup from a bitch’s litter. However, the standard dog is, as mentioned before, a miniature Cael hound. The main differences between the two related breeds are shorter legs (in proportion, of course), wider shoulders and hips, a stubbier muzzle and much smaller ears.
Overall the Koda gives an impression of stocky reliability, a well-built dog that is still able to reach impressive speeds. The breed has also retained the Kodael’s intelligent look. Ordinary Kodael enthusiasts mutter that the friendly air one finds around the Kodael has been replaced by ‘a distinctly mischievous and downright tricksy air’, as one breeder remarked, to which the halflings will answer back that the Little Koda is ‘just as good as them giant mutts, and far cleverer too. Ain’t no fault of theirs if their clever ways makes ‘em look crafty t’big folk.’ But crafty or not, Hob-Hounds are often described as being one of the most intelligent dogs.
Variations of the Hob-hound can be categorized as follows:
Guard Koda resemble any other Hob-hound, except for their temperament. Most hobbits in need of a guard dog, often those on the outskirts of a shire close to settlements of other races, will simply import a full-sized Kodael or another big-folk dog. Deeper in the shires, however, where the only threat is other hobbits and the local wildlife, a rather more vicious kind of Koda is occasionally employed. These dogs are easily provoked and deeply distrustful of strangers. Most hobbits view these dogs as unpleasant and are not prepared to put in the time and effort required to train and keep the guard Koda, and the beasts are uncommon in the shires.
long-haired ("Shepherding Koda")
As their name would suggest, the long-hair’s coat is thick, shaggy and often with greyer patches. It was produced through cross-breeding with the Cattrel, particularly the long-haired and silky varieties. These beasts are the largest of the Koda family, averaging three palmspans at the shoulder, and sometimes stretching to three and a half. Thanks to their Cattrel ancestry, they are natural born herders and are more boisterous than most, normally peaceful, Hob-hounds.
A truly miniature dog at two palmspans high, the Dalireen Koda are also the most agile and obedient. Their coats are softer and lighter than an average Hob-hound, with golden and pale grey fur-colour often appearing. The hobbit affinity for tales, songs and entertainment led to a variety emerging who had been bred specifically to peform. These dogs are very easy to train and often a traveller wandering into a hobbit village or tavern can find an entertainer performing some comedic act or display of canine acrobatics with a Dari-Koda by their side.
The Koda is a remarkably sturdy
much like the hobbits who have bred it to
have such traits. They have a strong muscles, especially around the legs and
shoulders, allowing them to reach impressive speeds for such a small creature,
matching the gait of the Kodael. Their compact frame and stunted ears (which
were originally bred as a simple aesthetic) also lets them survive in harsh
conditions. It has been observed that the
are particularly tolerant to low temperatures, and while they are far too small
to cope with the snow of the far north, have increasingly been imported as
in more northerly Sarvonian territories.
The three main variations on the standard breed have individual traits suiting them to particular jobs, and are mentioned above.
Territory. The breed originated in the Dogodan shire and can often be found, whether as a pet or a working dog, in the homes of that shire’s hobbit families. The Koda has, in the last few centuries, spread into the Helmondshire and Elenveran shires, on the way becoming popular in the homes of northern Santharian humans, in particular the Erpheronians.
Habitat/Behaviour. Hob-hounds are, in personality, canine hobbits. They are peaceful dogs who rarely bark or make any sort of noise unless seriously startled. They are hard to anger and sometimes equally hard to excite, having a far more sensible nature than most dogs. Other races complain that the dogs are too sensible for their own good, and have no sense of fun, though their calm disposition suits hobbits nicely. Pups are as playful as those of any other breed, as maturity also brings serenity.
They are by no means sleepy animals however, with a great deal of stamina and a love of the outdoors. As well as making them good shepherding animals, it makes them ideal companions for the elderly, as a Koda’s need and desire for exercise encourages old lonely hobbits to keep active.
They are fairly intelligent animals, but are still easy to train, probably due to the kind of quiet loyalty the animals show to their owners. Whoever raises a dog during the first year of its life will be, in the dog's eyes, its rightful master; and while the animal will be perfectly friendly to others it is extremely difficult to retrain a Koda to be obedient to another, without the help of it's former master, or one close to its former master. If an adult Hob-hound is given to a new owner, it will be moderately obedient towards them, but will not entirely trust them. However, this trust can be gained if its new master retrains it with the help of someone the Hob-hound knew, or ideally, its former master, for the dog will eventually establish a connection between its new master and the old, trusted person. Because of this, hobbit families try to make sure all household members have a hand in raising a pup, so it will respect and listen to every one of the family, from the great-grandparents to the littlest siblings. When a famlily dog sees a new addition to the family being treated with respect by family members it already trusts, it will soon come to obey them as well. The dogs are likely to have an even friendlier nature if they are brought up with an older dog to nurture them, male or female, even if it is not their parent, or even related to them. As a hobbit will often see a score of Hob-hounds live and die in the family smial through their hundred and ten odd years, it is custom (as well as good sense) to bring a newborn pup into the house just as the old dog enters its final years, so the pup will have had some contact with a fellow canine.
Diet. The Hob-hound is an omnivorous canine. While hobbit owners try and provide their animals with as much meat as they can, in a shire a Koda’s diet is supplemented with a good helping of vegetables. Outside of the shires they are generally fed the same as any other dog. They are resilient beasts and can cope with a lack of wholesome food, though the strongest Kodas are generally those brought up on a mainly meat diet.
Mating. Hob-hounds do not differ greatly in their breeding habits from any other dog. As hobbit households generally only keep one animal, prospective breeders must let a male and a female get to know each other for a month or two before they can expect them to mate. Pregnancy normally lasts around fifty to sixty-eight days, and litters are small, with only three to five pups being produced on average. The pups wean at around three moons old, are full grown at ten moons and are generally mature and able to breed by three years at the latest.
Usages. In the Alianian Hills where the breed originated the dogs are employed in every possible field of canine work. In recent times they are primarily household pets. It is not uncommon to find several dogs in residence in a hobbit smial, and older, solitary hobbits frequently keep a Koda for company. Indeed, hobbits are reluctant to refer to their dogs as pets, preferring the term companion, as hobbits are so used to communal living the dogs are accepted as another member of the household. That is not to suggest they are treated as equals - the hobbits still view them as animals, not people, as some besotted humans are wont to do. Instead the hobbits show an affection and respect for their dogs as living creatures, not as a substitute child to be pampered and praised, or an expendable tool, as dogs are often treated in human societies.
The most common use of the Koda, besides companionship, is as a herding dog or a performing dog. The long haired and Dari-koda varieties of Hob-hound have been bred for each task, though an ordinary Koda can still be trained to herd and guard livestock or perform tricks. In the last hundred years, the Dari-dog variety has become widely used by the Black Butterfly Rovers. One can normally find several Koda scurrying about a Rover's camp at any one time, often under the supervision of the troop's beast master, or even a specialized dog trainer.
In the rest of Sarvonia the breed is popular as a lap dog or a hunting dog. Its miniature proportions and good temperament make it a desirable ornamental dog, while the more vicious Guard dog variety of koda is suited to hunting. The Guard koda’s combination of small size, ferocity and agility have seen it trained to hunt smaller creatures such as martens, weasels and foxes. Humans have recently begun to cross the Dari-Koda with the Guard Koda, to produce a small and fairly obedient dog ideal for scurrying down burrows to chase out smaller animals into the hands of waiting humans above ground.
Myth/Lore. As with their Kodael ancestors, it is rare but not unheard of for a pup to be born with a pure white coat. Unfortunately for such dogs, white Hob-hounds are considered extremely unlucky by the halfling race, who associate the colour with death and malign spirits. Such animals are often abandoned at birth or even killed. If they are allowed to live by a kind-hearted dog owner, the dog will often be blamed for anything that goes wrong in a hobbit community. Some might even remark that hobbits like to keep a white Hob-hound near simply so they have something to explain mishaps and misfortune with. This stigma is pretty much unknown in human communities, where white dogs are more often than not valued for their rare coat.