by Chris Wayan, 2004
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Bos are scaly, fork-tongued, saurian... mammals. Definitely mammals. You can be sure of this because they'll flaunt their breasts at you on the slightest excuse. Yes, the boys too. Both sexes feed the young (and, in a curious psychological not-quite-parallel, both sexes tend to fetishize breasts as symbols of sexiness.) Structurally, bos are typical of small dinosaurian bipeds, leaning forward, with a heavy tail to balance. But the tail has a hairy flyswatter tip, like a cow's (or zebra's or giraffe's--or any grazer who evolved in warm open land with flies and room to swat). Big cowlike ears add to their... bovinity? The expressiveness of those mobile ears is just the most visible sign of a fourth mammalian feature: expressive facial muscles to signal mood, which dinosaurs never evolved.
Bos like warm brushlands, jungle and open woods at low latitudes and altitudes. They hate snow (understandably--poor bald things). Bos originally browsed at ground level for fruit, seeds, grubs, leafbuds and roots; today they garden and trade as well. They occasionally eat meat, though they're not fast enough for serious hunting. But when it comes to snagging fish from streams, they're as good as bears. Indeed, despite their appearance, that's probably the closest Terran analogue to their eclectic niche. Biped, kangaroolike, skinny scaly bears--with huge brains. And a perverse sense of humor.
In recent millennia they've colonized Tharn's few rainforests, too, planting fruit- and nut-trees developed by elaffes and lebbirds, and discovering native ones to add to the mix. Bos aren't true arboreals, but are decent climbers--their birdlike feet and long tails can grasp treelimbs, freeing the hands to prune or harvest. This silviculture isn't as pure as lebbirds'--bos still live on the ground, and plant herbs in the shade of their trees--but it doesn't exhaust the soil like the human strategy called slash-and-burn.
Bos also tend colonies of edible termites that cut leaves to feed a symbiotic fungus in hothouses deep in their mud towers. Tharn's the only world I know of where farmers farm farmers! The bos harvest a sort of honey, eggs, termites themselves, and the fungus too: four crops in one! Termite-taming originated among lobbras but has spread to other species including bos.
Bos may not look it, but they're mystics. They reject all religious authority and tradition, though--each individual must build up an inner spiritual language and cycle of visionary tales, which become something like currency in bo social life, defining one's worth as much as a bowerbird's sculpture. And despite their anti-hierarchical attitude, bos are highly social--extraverts, in fact. Psychologically astute, and sure they deserve all the attention they can get, Bos make superb actors, singers, and clowns. The illustration above is typical; no bo in history has ever been photographed without mugging.
Bos always wear ornaments and usually clothing. It serves a very human function of both concealing taboo regions yet drawing the eye with bright colors. Even the pose above is very human--flaunting cleavage?! Bos are about the only people on Tharn with nudity taboos and body-part fetishes. It's suggestive (in both senses) that such human behavior occurs despite our very different bodies. The normal Bo stance is bipedal, though more like kangaroos than humans. But it's upright enough to display genitals and breasts--and remember, rearing up while facing another is a threat display for many species. Most Tharnians are quadrupedal centauroids, not bipeds. Yet bos aren't unique: mamooks, mops and camaroos normally stand upright too, yet only camaroos even have the modesty concept, and clothing for them is generally optional. But only bos' scaly skin is bare; these other bipeds are all feathered or furred.
Could it be that bipedalism and baldness are the one-two punch that generates the modesty concept... and clothes?
Bo speech hints at their character. Like them, it's florid and resonant if slightly comical. Some place names of bo origin, mostly in warm, woody or brushy regions: Aroba, Bundaroo, Ganlebba, Gerboon, Madhu, Mozhalda, Obilla, Ruvallin, Zhalorran, Zhirada.
You'll notice there are no voiceless consonants at all--no P, T, K, no F, TH, or KH, no S, SH or CH. This isn't cultural but physical--Bos just can't seem to make voiceless sounds, even when speaking Trade Camaroo, the pidgin tongue used between species all over Tharn.
So when a bo tells you "Lizzen, we godda have a liddle dog" this does not propose the acquisition of a small, yapping pet...
And since bos have rather squeaky voices for their size, the result sounds like Betty Boop with a head cold.
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