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Should My Minotaurs Have Humanoid or Bovine Heads?

There's something I'm trying to decide with the Minotaurs in my story setting. I know that they will have cloven hooves for feet and the horns, ears, and tail of a cow, but I'm not sure if their heads should be otherwise humanoid or if they should have completely bovine heads. That is, should their heads look more along these lines...

minotaur_oc_line_by_artgerm_by_halimunali_ddfapo5-fullview.jpg

or these lines?

othello_by_zack_awesome_ddvdo6s-fullview.jpg

Alternatively, I could have their faces be humanoid but the nose is rather bovine. So, something like this:

arevik_by_astaeroth_db6nq37-fullview.jpg

The issue with them having a bovine head is that their mouths wouldn't be able to pronounce humanoid speech very well. I do have a way to get around this. There's an ability called Psionic Vocalization in my story setting. Via Psionics, some sapient creatures who either do not have humanoid mouths (like Dragons) or are entirely devoid of vocal cords (Spiderlings) can either generate the sounds of speech or modify sounds they create with their bodies to imitate humanoid speech. However, I don't want to overuse Psionic Vocalization. Further, I do like Minotaurs with more humanoid faces. The problem is I also like them with purely bovine heads as well, which is the main reason I'm having difficulty reaching a decision on this.

As for what my Minotaurs are, they were originally Orcs who were transformed into the first Minotaurs during the Divine War. Thus, they tend to have a similar disposition to Orcs, namely in having an aversion to idleness, an unrivaled work ethic, a strong sense of honor, and, of course, a potent pragmatism. Where they differ from Orcs is that they tend to lose their sense of control when they lose their tempers. An enraged Minotaur can be extremely dangerous and nobody knows that better than them, which is why they do their best to train themselves to control their anger rather than letting it control them.

Physically, my Minotaurs run a little larger than Orcs, generally averaging around 7'6" to 7'8" for females and 7'10" to 8' for males. Both sexes are extremely muscular, though Minotaur males have well over twice the muscle mass of females (and females have a lot!) Female Minotaurs are known for having cello figures (an hourglass figure with wide hips but also broader shoulders) as well as very ample breasts while Minotaur males are known for having thick, barrel chests, wide shoulders, and brawny arms with hands that are a bit large in proportion to their bodies. Both sexes tend to have throaty voices. I'm not sure if they have hair over their entire bodies or not, the way a cow does, though perhaps I could have it be that males do while females don't, as another way of making them sexually dimorphic.

Anyway, that's what I have so far. What do you guys think? Should their heads be humanoid, humanoid with a bovine nose, or entirely bovine?
 

jacksimmons

Scribe
The most important thing is that what you choose fits your setting. If your fantasy races and mythological creatures generally look like normal humans with the odd horn, maybe upright talking cows would be incongruous. Setting considerations aside, personally I would go with what is cool and that’s making them more monstrous and ‘cow-like’.

The speech problem isn’t a problem. You’re just creating hard work for yourself and over engineering an aspect of your story that the reader isn’t going to care about (unless it has relevance to the plot). Just make your minotaurs able to speak if you need them to.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Agreed that the mouth thing is over-thinking your setting. In our series we have dragons. They can fly, they can drive, and they can speak English (or any other language, really). They also all speak Draconic, no matter what form they're in: full form, half form (think great big pissed off velociraptor), and in human seeming. But, the hard part isn't getting a dragon to speak English; it's getting a human to speak Draconic. We describe it as, "something rolling and formed of soft growls and various other sounds that seemed impossible for a human mouth to make."
 
One could make the mixed bovine/orc heritage manifest differently individual to individual—some more 'human' in appearance, some more cattle-like. That might complicate matters but also open new possibilities.

Now that's an interesting idea. Perhaps a combination of factors, including breeding patterns, adaptation, and environmental effects, have resulted in there being different varieties of Minotaurs, with some having more bovine heads and others more humanoid. The more bovine-headed Minotaurs could be called something like "Greater Minotaurs" while the more humanoid-headed Minotaurs could be called something like "Lesser Minotaurs." Those names could also be a reference to the physical stature, with the former being larger and more powerful while the latter are smaller but more nimble.
 
Ok, here’s a thought: What if Minotaurs with humanoid heads are called Aurochs while those with bovine heads are called Urus? Both those names are related to bovines AND have a similar sound to “Orc.”
 
Do you want them to be kissable for regular people or do you want them to be kissable mostly for furries/monster lovers? That's how I'd make my decision.

If I go with my idea of having both types, Aurochs and Urus, then I can appeal to both demographics and increase my market appeal.
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
What qualities do you want to emphasise in them? For more human qualities, have more human characteristics; for more animal ones, choose more bovine characteristics. I think it depends on how you view minotaur psychology. And what role you want them to play in the story.
 
My story setting is partly intended to explore how mythology beings could be part of societies. For instance, what roles could Centaurs, Harpies, and Merfolk play, what jobs would they be best suited to have, and how would other races treat them. My conclusion is that cultures that accept such beings would have certain advantages, especially military advantages, over cultures that rejected them. This would lead to a majority of cultures at least tolerating their presence because there would be strong incentives to keep them around. Thus, my purpose with Minotaurs is to explore how they would fit into various cultures. Minotaur characters would be used as part of that explanation of ideas.

I suppose that gives me another reason to use both variations of Minotaur, actually. Would the ones with more bovine heads (Urus) be less acceptable or would they be preferred because of the ones with humanoid heads (Aurochs) don’t have as much strength and therefore offer fewer advantages to the cultures that allow Minotaurs to live among them? I’m going to have to mull this over.
 
So, do all elves, dwarves, etc. in the world speak the same language, or is there a "common tongue" that everyone in the world that's a "good race," speaks? If not, then people who speak different languages will have to learn to understand each other one way or another anyway, just like in the real world. Just because say an elf can't form the words of a minotaur's speech and vice versa doesn't mean they can't communicate. Maybe they use sign language. Maybe those members of each species that communicate frequently form a pidgin language composed of those sounds that both can pronounce? Or maybe each simply speaks their own tongue and their neighbors learn to understand what they say? Or maybe the people of the world use magic to understand each other. In the latter case, you can add more detail if they still talk because then you can describe the sounds they make to enrich their characters.
 
So, do all elves, dwarves, etc. in the world speak the same language, or is there a "common tongue" that everyone in the world that's a "good race," speaks? If not, then people who speak different languages will have to learn to understand each other one way or another anyway, just like in the real world. Just because say an elf can't form the words of a minotaur's speech and vice versa doesn't mean they can't communicate. Maybe they use sign language. Maybe those members of each species that communicate frequently form a pidgin language composed of those sounds that both can pronounce? Or maybe each simply speaks their own tongue and their neighbors learn to understand what they say? Or maybe the people of the world use magic to understand each other. In the latter case, you can add more detail if they still talk because then you can describe the sounds they make to enrich their characters.

I’m still figuring out languages for my story setting, but I do know the “universal language” is Telepathy, as the intended meaning of the words you transmit is relayed, along with tone, like sarcasm. However, Telepathy isn’t known by everyone (though nearly anyone can learn to use it) and it can open your mind to intrusion if you don’t have any defenses in place. (That said, you almost always know when someone is trying to read your thoughts and the connection nearly always works both ways, which is why Psychics are very careful about mind reading.)

As Minotaurs were originally Orcs, their language would be heavily influenced by Orcish, specifically Old High Orcish. As they spread and interacted with other races, their language would have been influenced by the languages they encountered. That said. I’m considering that the gods in charge of language may have installed certain mechanisms that prevent dialects from morphing too much in a particular direction. That is, the Dwarven languages are all very similar so if you learn High Dwarven, it’s not difficult to adapt to local dialects. You don’t have to learn a completely new one in order to communicate, essentially.
 
I like the detail on language and complications to telepathy. I see so many fantasy works that mostly hand-wave language with a common tongue or the like that seem like they are missing an opportunity for more richness. What you describe with telepathy makes me think of a number of studies of relatively intelligent non-humans species from primates to birds that suggest deception and sussing out trickery are a big part of the evolution of intelligence. I like the storytelling convenience of telepathy combined with still having the worldbuilding depth of languages. Wish I'd thought of it, tbh. ;)
 

Almyrigan Hero

Minstrel
What I'd do is give the baseline minotaur a sort of part-human, part-bovine face, and then have things like 'muzzle' length, nose and mouth width, and ear size just be genetic factors. They don't necessarily need to be two different 'types' of creature, and the best part is you can push basically any character to whatever end of the spectrum you want.

And since I'll never pass an opportunity to plug my art, (even when it's unfinished,) here's an example of how far you can push the human facial template just by stretching and pulling and applying a bit of color.
untitled - Copy (2).png
 
What I'd do is give the baseline minotaur a sort of part-human, part-bovine face, and then have things like 'muzzle' length, nose and mouth width, and ear size just be genetic factors. They don't necessarily need to be two different 'types' of creature, and the best part is you can push basically any character to whatever end of the spectrum you want.

And since I'll never pass an opportunity to plug my art, (even when it's unfinished,) here's an example of how far you can push the human facial template just by stretching and pulling and applying a bit of color.
View attachment 2945

First, you clearly have artistic talent. Second, I agree with your idea of having baseline Minotaur face. If I do go with the Aurochs/Urus route, both will be descended from that baseline but have moved in opposite directions over time.
 

No Username

New Member
Well, I have always thought of Minotaurs being rather stupid and unintelligible, so personally I would go with the Bovine head. That way, they have the intelligence of a dog or something similar. This way, they are used as torturers, and used in gladiatorial games. But if you want to have they a smart of self-sufficient race, make them have more humanoid heads. This means that they are (in my opinion) smarter, and not used by smart creatures.
 
Well, I have always thought of Minotaurs being rather stupid and unintelligible, so personally I would go with the Bovine head. That way, they have the intelligence of a dog or something similar. This way, they are used as torturers, and used in gladiatorial games. But if you want to have they a smart of self-sufficient race, make them have more humanoid heads. This means that they are (in my opinion) smarter, and not used by smart creatures.

While I don't think the ones with bovine heads (Urus) would be "dumb," per se, they might be less inclined toward intellectual pursuits and prefer being "people of action." That would also line up with their bodies being more physically powerful. By comparison, the humanoid headed Minotaurs (Aurochs) would be less powerful physically but more inclined toward developing strong intellects. I could also see them being more magically adept than Urus. That would certainly make for some interesting contrasts. Of course, there would always be the exception to the rule. An Urus could still potentially become a brilliant Alchemist, for instance, and an Auroch could still train himself to be a formidable martial artist. But, generally, one variety could be more physical while the other is more intellectual.
 

JunkMonger122

Troubadour
I love your split divergence method. I also include Minotaurs in my setting, although they are actually based off the Norse Huldur with Minotaur elements added in. I call them Bovikin because using names based on the word cattle makes me uncomfortable. If your whole point is to explore the interactions between mythological creatures in a semi-realistic setting, then maybe add Fey elements to the Lesser Minotaurs(Aurochs as you called them) to balance them out. The thing about divergent character evolution(not quite "character" evolution but hear me out) is that both parties need to be roughly equal. If the Urus are physically stronger and Aurochs are smarter, that means that Aurochs are theoretically better at magic, assuming your system runs on squishy wizard logic. If they're going to inclined towards magic, then why not add some Fey blood into the old ancestry chart? Alternatively, the more furry Urus could be the Fey ones, because the bovine head would make them closer to nature in a sense. That would break your balance, but it also opens up room for my favorite fantasy class: the berserker spellblade armed with Fey magic! I don't know if Fey are your thing, but if you're considering them at all I recommend taking a bite out of this plate of food for thought. My Bovikin are Fey, so I guess I'm biased. I hope everything goes well for you, I know you're on to something good here!
 
I love your split divergence method. I also include Minotaurs in my setting, although they are actually based off the Norse Huldur with Minotaur elements added in. I call them Bovikin because using names based on the word cattle makes me uncomfortable. If your whole point is to explore the interactions between mythological creatures in a semi-realistic setting, then maybe add Fey elements to the Lesser Minotaurs(Aurochs as you called them) to balance them out. The thing about divergent character evolution(not quite "character" evolution but hear me out) is that both parties need to be roughly equal. If the Urus are physically stronger and Aurochs are smarter, that means that Aurochs are theoretically better at magic, assuming your system runs on squishy wizard logic. If they're going to inclined towards magic, then why not add some Fey blood into the old ancestry chart? Alternatively, the more furry Urus could be the Fey ones, because the bovine head would make them closer to nature in a sense. That would break your balance, but it also opens up room for my favorite fantasy class: the berserker spellblade armed with Fey magic! I don't know if Fey are your thing, but if you're considering them at all I recommend taking a bite out of this plate of food for thought. My Bovikin are Fey, so I guess I'm biased. I hope everything goes well for you, I know you're on to something good here!

The Aurochs wouldn’t become Fae as Fae are a VERY specific category of creatures in my setting. Specifically, those that will begin to die if their bodies run out of Aethyr. Their blood comes in either green or blue, as they don’t have hemoglobin but use copper as a means of transferring oxygen. I’m thinking the two colors are what separate Seelie from Unseelie, with Seelie having green blood and Unseelie having blue.

That said, Aurochs becoming more magically adept in both the Arcane and Psionic departments would be a good way to balance them with the Urus, who have great physical prowess. Indeed, I could see that being a mechanism the Orc gods installed to counter the evil god beefing up (pun very much intended) the Urus. Of course, Aurochs having a connection of some sort with the Faeries could be interesting. Perhaps they had to take refuge on the Faerie Homeworld. That wouldn’t turn them into Fae but it would further enhance their magic potential, plus they’d have access to people who could help them develop their magic potential further.
 
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