Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vermihippus ferus

One of the very few species of limbless mammal, the
Pipesteed is an equine but not a true horse, although its native moniker — Kudasankutar, meaning “wild worm-stallion of the north” — emphasizes its very horse-like appearance. Some biologists trace it (with reservation) directly back to the Hipparion genus. Knowledge remains scant, as no Pipesteed has ever been captured live.

Its exclusive habitat is the impervious northern half of Sulepawak, where it twists between or through dense bushes and roots, forging paths when none are present and grazing on the fly. It apparently restricts its movements to aboveground, as its tough, leathery underside and robust frame (reaching 12 feet in length) seem optimized for negotiating rough surfaces and vegetation. Study of its skeleton reveals gaps between sections of grouped ribs (effectively a sequence of four ribcages), where oversized, hinge-like vertebrae allow it to assume the postures necessary for its style of serpentine locomotion (known as “the sinuous gait”).

Despite miniscule ears, a mere wisp of a mane and no distinct withers, the head of a Pipesteed is clear proof of its genus. The area from the forelock to the snout is best described as a common horse’s muzzle in caricature — stretched to one and a half times its original length and pinched somewhat at the end. Also reminiscent of its hoofed cousin is the Pipesteed’s ferocious whinny, which explains why kudasankutar is also the Coelobonese word for locomotive.

From: H. Viveam Constanelle, Known Wildlife of Sulepawak: A Field Guide, Mandaroeb & Sons, 1955: p. 212.