The Lovian dassie (Procavia capensis lovensis), also known as the Lovian rock hyrax, is a species belonging to the family Procaviidae and the genus Procavia. It is a subspecies of the rock hyrax found across Africa and the Middle East that came into being after it was introduced to Lovia. The dassie thrives in Lovia, and is commonly considered Lovia's equivalent to the squirrel or rabbit, small animals that are quite common in most parts of the world besides Lovia.
It is a medium-sized terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail. The species is found across Lovia but the population is more dense in the Central Heights on Kings and the southernmost islands of Seven. The Lovian dassie typically lives in groups of up to forty animals. Their most striking behaviour is their docile nature: a dassie hardly ever runs away because he has very few natural enemies.
Physiology and behaviorEdit
An adult dassie can reach a length of 50cm and weighs around 4 kilos. The males are approximately 10% heavier than the females. Their fur is thick and grey-brown of color. Prominent and apparently unique to the dassie is its dorsal gland, which excretes an odour used for social communication and territorial marking. The gland is most clearly visible with the dominant males. The head of the rock hyrax is pointed, having a short neck with rounded ears. They have long black whiskers and a prominent pair of long, pointed upper teeth. The soles of the feet have large, soft pads that are kept moist with sweat-like secretions. The body temperature of the dassie varies with a daily rhythm to ensure that it stays hydrated.
Dassies feed on a wide variety of different plants including grasses. Sometimes they eat small insects too. The animals forage for food up to about 50 metres from their refuge, usually feeding as a group. Lovian dassies are able to go for many days without water due to the moisture they obtain through their food. Despite their seemingly clumsy build they are able to climb trees. Rock hyraxes are very noisy and sociable. Adults make use of at least 21 different vocal signals. The most distinct sound is a loud grunting while moving its jaws as if chewing. The rock hyrax spends approximately 95% of its time resting.
Image and popularityEdit
Because the Lovian dassie rests most of the time and is somewhat slow to flee it has the name of being a lazy or clumsy animal. Dassies are actually very smart and docile creatures that can defend themselves pretty well if they have to. The dassie is by most people regarded as the signature animal of Lovia, though there is no such statute officially given. The dassie is a common character in a lot of local folk tales and especially Kings counts a lot of 'dassie lovers'. Some have protested against what they call 'the dassie madness' for the sake of the animals, but they don't seem to bother. Dassies are used to human presence and sometimes seen wandering across the streets or hanging out in someone's backyard.
It is a mystery how the species made its way to Lovia. Most biologists believe that the dassie was introduced to Lovia at some point during the 20th century, perhaps as the pets of immigrants, however there are some accounts of a rodent-like species that matched the description of the dassie having already existed in Lovia, found in the journals of the Lovian Founding Father George Eisenhower. If these were indeed descriptions of the Lovian dassie, this would suggest that the species had somehow made its way to Lovia from Africa and the Middle East at an earlier point in history.
Another dispute is whether there is a significant enough distinction between the Lovian dassie and the rock hyrax for the variety commonly found in Lovia to be considered a subspecies. The only known difference between the dassie and their Lovian counterparts is how the Lovian ones all possess a lighter, almost golden colored fur.
Symbolism in popular cultureEdit
The Lovian dassie appeared in many documentaries, including Wildlovia, the masterpiece directed by film director John Keeper. Oceana Late, a show hosted by Ygo August Donia for Oceana television, dedicated an entire episode to Lovian nature and the Lovian Dassie.