Wolshaks are primarily bipedal mammals, which have a lot in common with wolves. Despite their hunched over posture, they reach heights ranging between 1.7 - 2.0 m (5'7'' - 6'7'') at the head. Their heads clearly resemble that of a wild canine. They've long muzzles, pointy ears, and a cold black nose. Wolshak legs are akin to the hindlegs of wolves, but altered in such a fashion that they are strong enough to carry the creature on their own. Their feet are larger than the paws of the common wolf because they have to bear the entire weight of the Wolshak almost all the time. What were forelegs once have turned into long, muscled arms with proper hands with which they can manipulate their surroundings. The digits of their hands are as long as fingers and they do have an opposable thumb just like lin do, allowing them to be just as dexterous as the scaled bipeds. If a Wolshak wants to run fast, they use their arms as well as their legs to move in some kind of quadrupedal sprint. Wolshaks also have a fuzzy canine tail, which is used primarily to balance their bipedal stance. To accomplish this it is a bit thicker and longer than that of a normal wild canine. Usually it is held roughly parallel to the ground. However, it can also be used to display emotions, for example by wagging or dragging on the ground.
Nature equipped Wolshaks with the weapons they need to hunt and survive. Their fingers are tipped with sharp claws and, thanks to sharp teeth, long fangs, and strong jaws, their bite is also rather deadly. However, while Wolshaks do tend to use their natural weapons to put down prey, they prefer to use weapons such as the spear or the handaxe to kill opponents in a fight. The teeth are always ivory, but the claws are gray or black.
Wolshaks are completely covered in fur and have a summer and a winter coat. Naturally the latter is much thicker than the former. Wolshaks, which ancestors originate from the Boreal Zone, tend to have much thicker summer coats than their cousins in the south. With colors ranging from light brown over gray to black, there is a lot of variation among the Wolshaks. The winter coat is much lighter in color; often it is light gray or even white. Markings are a common sight on both the winter and the summer coat. The selection of markings includes soft gradients, splotches that have a different shade of the primary color, and accenting markings like dark areas around the eyes or lighter colored cheeks. Wolshaks, which originate from the Ironhead Flatlands, can also feature dark spots as a pattern that covers part of or their entire fur. The pattern is quite similar to that of hyenas. It is very common that Wolshaks have a lighter underbelly. Markings and patterns are either a shade of the main color, a light black, or soft white. The hide of a Wolshak is not thick enough to be considered useful protection against claws or weapons, but their fur is perfect protection against the environments. Clothes aren't necessary during any time of the year, which is why primitive Wolshak never wear any.
Especially long fur grows from the neck of a Wolshak. It stops growing at the shoulders, but it is so long that it almost reaches the middle of the back. Its color can be darker or lighter than the primary color; in fact it can have a completely different one. Of course it has to stay within the available spectrum of colors. Due to its length, this long fur can be styled. Some Wolshaks braid it or otherwise mess with it to be appealing to potential mates. Some even tie trophies into it, like fangs or small bones. The most common hair style is to simply let it grow and hang down the back.
Just like their feral cousins, Wolshaks possess a keen sense of hearing and a great nose. A Wolshak can easily sniff out prey and potential threats. Their eyesight is alright, but far from great. Their short range sight is clear and they can detect even the faintest movement. Wolshaks are also capable of seeing at night, which allows them to be active at any time of the day. Their eyes can have many different colors: Blue, gold, green, brown, and amber.
Sexual dimorphism isn't very pronounced in this species. Females tend to be smaller than males by roughly 10 cm (1/3 ft) on average and have less bulky builds. Both sexes also have six teats lining their abdomen, but only those of females actually have working mammalian glands. Males have canine external reproductive organs. For non-Wolshaks it can be difficult to tell males and females apart; Wolshaks simply rely on the sex-specific scent when they are up close.
Female Wolshaks go into heat once a year for roughly two weeks. These two weeks happen some time during late winter or early spring. When food is scarce, only the alpha male of the pack will mate with his alpha female and the rest of the pack may not reproduce. If food is more readily available, then more pack may have a litter of their own. The weakest pairing may only reproduce when food is abundant. After around 120 days, some time in summer, the pregnant females will birth two to four pups. With closed eyes and incapable of hearing, the pups are very helpless. Only their sense of touch and smell are active from the start. Both are eagerly used to their parents and the teats of their mother. The latter being the only way to gain nourishment until they have become half a year old. Due to the fur of newborns being rather thin, they need to be warmed by their parents.
Once they are half a year old, their eyes open and their ears begin to function. During that half year, they remained in the hut of their parents and were taken care of primarily by the mother. Now they are also weaned off and begin to eat solid meat just like the rest of the pack. They also explore beyond the boundaries of the hut and walk around the area, if under strict watch of their parents. After around seven years, they have half their adult height. Although they reach their full height at fifteen, they already become sexually mature at fourteen. The average Wolshak can become up to sixty years old, depending on living standard, and their physical prime lasts from fifteen to thirty-five years of age. A common life expectancy for Wolshaks living in the wild is roughly twenty-five years.
Wolshaks have slightly below human intelligence on average. This means they are less intelligent than the average lin, thus Wolshaks tend to more driven by instinct than logic. Due to their lower intellect they also never adopted animal husbandry or farming; they hunt for food. They do have their own proper language, which is called Wolsh. Overall, complex concepts seem to be out of their grasp and when they speak they sound rather simple as well. This is true even for the rare smart Wolshak, which makes it hard to appear as smart as they are.
Due to being closely related to their feral brethren, Wolshaks are naturally very aggressive and territorial. For the primitive Wolshaks that means they will defend their pack's territory to the last drop of blood if need be. For the more civilized Wolshaks that usually means they are more possessive of their belongings and only share with people who they consider members of their pack.
Thanks to their intelligence, they are able to make tools, build huts, and formulate plans. It especially helps them on hunts. Wolshaks use teamwork and elaborate plans to catch big and bigger game. Even gryphons, wyverns, and sometimes Trezkul are potential quarry in the eyes of an eager, strong pack. Equipped with physical strength, spears, and enough wits to use rudimentary pack tactics, whose going to stop them?
Lin, usually. Only few circumstances can make a Wolshak pack give up its territory, and among the most common ones are a lack of food and lin soldiers that drive them away. Lin are simply more numerous and wittier, which is why they have become the dominant species. It doesn't help that Wolshaks are carnivores either, which means they can't as easily nourish their population as the omnivorous lin.
Being with other people is very important to Wolshaks. They require a social group to be happy and be able to develop into healthy beings. A firmly established, social group of Wolshaks is simply called a pack. A pack can consist of many individuals and is primarily limited by the food available in the pack's territory. Packs that count more than thirty Wolshaks are extremely rare. Within a pack, Wolshaks are practically family. They help each other and stand up for each other.
However, a firm hierarchy does exist. Strong Wolshaks are at the head of the pack, the weak ones trail along. At the very top is the alpha male and his female. They decide what the pack does, who is allowed to mate, and how the resources of the pack are used. It is possible that a subordinate male challenges the alpha in a trial of combat. The winner becomes/remains the alpha of the pack. The bottom of the pack's hierarchy, so the runts, aren't treated badly, but they can be the target of ridicule.
When faced with another sapient species, Wolshaks react as if they are meeting a wild animal - distrust, caution, hostility. They outright do not trust lin. Even among each other Wolshak packs have a hard time warming up to each other. However, establishing contact is generally possible. The Wolshaks just have to be in a good mood, preferably well fed, and perhaps in need of some assistance. Some packs even trade or work together with other sapient species.
Those who grew up among a civilization have a quite different social behavior. Wolshaks that have lived their life among lin treat them much better than wild Wolshaks would. In fact, Wolshaks are able to see their local community of lin as pack members, even if they don't actually call them that. Their subconscious simply sees them as such and the Wolshak acts accordingly. This ability to accept even non-lin as pack mates has led to Wolshaks integrating themselves well into the civilizations of the lin. If they are allowed to integrate, anyway. Many lin see Wolshaks as senseless, aggressive brutes and rather stay out of their way or get rid of them.
More about how wild Wolshaks live can be found on the Wolshak Packs page. Examples of Wolshaks living among lin civilizations can be found on the pages of the Gren Kingdom and Treztown.
Both males and females are active when it comes to finding a partner. They both seek strength, good proportions, and a good size. However, males will only extremely rarely settle with females who are as large or larger than themselves. It appears they just can't accept it when a female is taller than them, which likely led to the fact that females are shorter on average. Scent is also important. It allows the Wolshaks to subconsciously tell how closely related they are to a potential partner; they prefer to take partners who are as distantly related to them as possible.
When they finally found a partner, they will usually exchange affections and copulate. Offspring can only be created by mating in the late winter. Wolshaks are aware of that, which is why the alpha male usually bans mating for the duration of this season. It is a time where the cold can only be staved off with one's own fur and maybe a hug. Actually reproducing is limited to the alpha pair or, if food is available in large enough amounts, to other pairings of the alpha pair's choice.
The Wolshaks inhabit the entire Temperate Zone and the taiga of the Boreal Zone. The tundra is simply too cold and barren for the Wolshaks, who prefer to live in dense forests. Hot, forested regions like the Starless Jungle aren't any good for the Wolshaks, who prefer more moderate temperatures overall. Wolshak packs also require a lot of game to be available in a given region, so they usually settle far away from other civilizations and packs. That way they don't have to compete for hunting grounds, even if they gladly pick up weapons to do just that.
Wolshaks are carnivores. Eating plant matter would cause stomach aches and their guts might end up being backed up horribly. It is overall not a pleasant experience for a Wolshak to digest a salad. Being purely carnivores has a rather large drawback - the packs are difficult to feed. Unlike lin, Wolshaks can't farm or gather edible plants. To make matters worse, hunting in Threa can be rather risky due to the dangerous beasts inhabiting the wilds. What makes finding food a bit easier is that Wolshaks don't refrain from eating lin. They're a different species, so they're food! The fact that they are sapient doesn't bother the simple minded Wolshaks in the least.
Wolshaks have to deal with a lot of creatures who compete for food or are even a threat to them. Wargs, wolves, wyverns, gryphons, Trezkul, etc. - the list is long. The worst competition are the lin, more specifically the Truzlin and Trezlin. Not only do they compete for living space, the lin, thanks to their higher intelligence, have managed to come out on top. With better, bigger civilizations they have free reign when it comes to what they do with the Wolshak packs on their land. Most of the time they just live side by side, avoiding each other when possible, killing each other when it isn't. However, there's also Wolshak packs who have managed to establish good connections to the tribal lin societies, and some Wolshaks have also chosen to simply live among lin.