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A Centaur Culture

Discussion in 'World Building' started by D. Gray Warrior, Jul 12, 2016.

  1. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour


    I am creating a conlang, and just like every language, it needs speakers, so I am considering being the language of the Centaurs, but what would their culture look like?

    I see Centaurs as having a Mongol-esque culture, living on the steppes. However, I feel like that has been done to death.

    Also what would they live in? Would they even need shelter, being half horse?
  2. You could look at horse behavior for ideas. The horse part of them has to have some effect on their nature.

    I don't think shelter would be necessary. They would have to build huge shelters to accommodate their size, if they did, and such a large shelter wouldn't be moved easily, ruling out the idea of nomadic centaurs, and that seems most natural to me.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I always look at this: economics, social structure, politics, culture (which includes religion).

    Economics first. Do centaurs engage in trade? If so, how, with whom, what, where, etc.? If not, how do they eat and do they need any other produced goods (including magical items)/

    What is their social structure? Easiest would be to treat them as herd creatures and do as DragonOfTheAerie says. Study horses.

    Do they have any politics? That is to say, do they form armies, raise taxes, legislate, judge? Do they treat with foreign powers?

    What is their religion? Do they create art? I arbitrarily put magic in this category, so do they have any magic?

    Once you sort through all of that, you will be well on your way to identifying key nouns and verbs and concepts for your conlang. See you in a few years! :)
  4. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I did try a book about centaur, I ran into a lot of trouble with their buildings.
    I built them around horse instincts but everytime I thought I had everything covered I realized they would have trouble with ____.
    I think a nomad culture might work. Tents would be easier to work with then solid construction. One problem with a solid construction, imagine 4-6 horses in a house. It would get crowded quickly. But if nomads, a tent would be a place to store your stuff and they would only sleep in them in bad weather. (horses do like to get out of the rain sometimes.)

    I built on the philosophy of the "druid" being the ideal power source. The plants and grass are very important to a happy herd of Centaurs.

    I just could not keep myself thinking as a horse-person. I also used the fear of something coming up behind them, because even though they can turn to look, their weakest point is the tail area. So they kick without thinking if something comes up behind them.
    Just some thoughts on what I did before I gave up on the idea. I did find anatomy pics (and names of every bone and muscle, and body part) of a centaur and the female centaurides. I will see if I can find them for you.
  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Centaurs come from Greece culture so a Greek influence would be understandable. Perhaps this can show-up in their art, like pottery and paintings, done in the style of Archaic period Greece.

    Perhaps Great Plains Native American would be a good influence since you get the semi-nomadic civilization with roughly the same geography as the Mongolians. All you really need is some kind of large animal that can be hunted (like buffalo). Perhaps, elephants or mammoths.
    Using the bones and skin of the elephants they hunt, they can construct tents and other makeshift structures as they follow their herds. Some of the more "civilized" centaurs have created villages of single-storied buildings made of limestone and large adobe bricks - which serves as adequate protection against both the elements and the predatory animals like wolves, mountain lions and bears. The homes always include large courtyards and the villages as a whole can take-up a lot of space (compared to human villages of equivalent population). Some herds/tribes live in this settlements only six months of the year, during which their food source shifts from hunting to agriculture (specifically corn) and livestock (sheep and cattle).

    Their clothing can have a Native American flavor to it but perhaps more Greek for the gentile class (togas for the chiefs and armor for the warriors).

    Given their semi-nomadic lifestyle, it is unlikely that the centaurs social structure would evolve much beyond tribal monarchies. Perhaps you can include confederacies of tribes, a system of fealty or some democratic elements if you want to make their government more sophisticated.

    So, that's what I've come-up with after five or so minutes of brainstorming.
    Swordfry likes this.
  6. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

    Thanks for the responses!

    I don't want them to too strongly resemble a RL culture and some people may be offended by Centaur Indians. I once had an idea of Orcs being a parallel of Plains Indian battling humans to take back their land, but scrapped it sice I figured that is offensive.

    I do intend for them to be nomadic though and maybe have some Greek influences.

    What about food? Horses are herbivores, but a Centaur is capable of eating meat, I just dont know if they would choose to be vegetarians and be like horses by only eating plants, or if they are omnivores.
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I assume centaurs would have both the teeth and the digestive tract for meat.
  8. Using Native American cultures to influence your centaur culture isn't a bad thing, but i would avoid making it too close a copy of any real life culture. However, issues of culture and race and such are so sensitive that you're going to offend someone no matter what you do if you try to address them at all. I suspect the reason that using plains indian cultures would be considered offensive is that people tend to stereotype the Native Americans as one homogeneous culture involving vermilion, war whoops, savagery and tree hugging without actually attempting to understand anything. However, i would argue that you can't really understand what its like to be part of a culture you are not actually part of. You can't learn culture like you can learn languages and facts. It's something that's a part of you.

    As for food, a centaur would have both a human and a horse stomach, but only human teeth. So...I don't know. It seems like they would need a horse diet to sustain their horse part, and a human diet to sustain their human part.

    Has anyone considered making Centaur-like creatures from hoofed mammals other than horses? say--antelope or mountain goats? They could be plains centaurs and mountain centaurs, respectively.
  9. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    For the record: I wasn't trying to suggest making your Centaurs fantasy-versions of Native Americans.
    I was suggesting that due to their environment, your Centaurs could be semi-nomadic hunters who construct adobe buildings and are dependent on a large four-legged animal. And I used Native Americans as an example.

    Having traits in common with Great Plains and Southwestern Native Americans does not make your Centaurs a one-to-one copy. Especially, when there are quite a bit of nuances in Native American culture.
  10. Swordfry

    Swordfry Troubadour

    You could make their digestive system like that of a cow's: multiple stomachs. Having to process a human diet and lots of grass would take multiple stomachs to process all of it. Or you could possibly even somehow make it so that one or more stomachs only digest the grass. Something like that.

    I like the idea of leaving the centaurs as natural as possible. They are a more wild, yet intelligent race known for their love of nature. I would think that building buildings, even carrying around portable tents, would be too much of a hassle for them, and they would see it that way too. If need be, they can seek natural shelter like caves, underneath trees, etc, but would otherwise tough out the weather.

    Have you considered clothing? Sure pieces for the human part would be easy, but what about the horse part? Is it considered normal for the centaurs to have their horse junk all exposed to the world? This would go with the mindset of having them be natural. One with nature. Many real life tribes of people just shrug off nudity and don't even care.
  11. Saproxylic

    Saproxylic New Member

    From a nutrition point of view, I would lean towards an omnivorous centaur with a hefty part of their diet consisting of meat. The reason is simple. An average horse needs around 18 000 kcal (compared to 2000-3000 kcal of a human) which translates in a huge volume of plant food. Even a regular horse with a horse sized mouth and teeth fit for eating roughage spends several hours a day eating. If one has to munch through so much plant food with a mostly human shaped mouth, your centaurs would be basically constantly eating. So I reckon they should be consuming some calorie richer food.

    This also brings up a question I have been pondering about a lot. When a baby centaur is born and needs to be nursed, does the momma centaur use her human breasts or horse teats to nurse the kid or both?
  12. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Troubadour

    I agree. I figure they will only cover their human parts and use animal skin.

    I also like the idea of having multiple digestive systems.
  13. You know, foals can run almost as soon as they're born, but babies can't even hold themselves up for months. How does that work out?!
  14. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

  15. Yeaaaaaaah....
  16. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    I knew that pic would pop up as soon as I saw that question. The most logical answer, to me, is that the development of each part would parallel each other so that you would give birth to a baby centaur with human and horse halves both either baby human-defenceless or foal-ready.
    Ireth likes this.

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