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Old November 9th, 2011, 08:05 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Like some exhausted phoenix rising from the ashes of half a bowl of cornflakes, I return! (That is to say, I return weirdly.)

Not sure how long it'll be before I post again, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Pokémon for Riding

Pokémon are the most versatile group of animals on the planet when it comes to moving around, and as such make excellent mounts. Forty years ago, the Doduo-riding tribes of the remote hills of West Kanto came into the public eye during their conflict with the government over land rights; since then, Doduo, and, to a lesser extent, Dodrio, riding has rapidly expanded in popularity all over the globe. It is now second only to horse riding, and this means, of course, that there is big money to be made in keeping a flock around for rentals.

But Doduo riding is but one path among many: there are Pokémon that can bear you into the sky, or across the sea. Lapras has long been the most popular method of Pokémon sea transport, but there are others, too – Relicanth, Mantine and Blastoise are all excellent (and often less expensive) substitutes. Blastoise racing in particular has taken off in the extreme sports community; contestants stand atop a cliff facing backwards and fire their shell-cannons as hard as they can, giving themselves a rocket-propelled head start.

This is not to exclude the flying mounts that are, despite their obvious dangers, becoming more and more popular. However, there are two main problems with riding a flying Pokémon, one being the danger of falling off and the other being the fact that flying Pokémon large enough to carry a person tend to be the sort of Pokémon that actually eat people. Salamence, Altaria, Staraptor, Garchomp – all are large, often fairly sadistic predators, and as such are not truly safe for riding by any but the most experienced keepers. The only one I might ever recommend is Togekiss, and only then when it is thoroughly broken in; their aversion to conflict often means that if they see an unpleasant event occurring, they roll over, tip their rider off their back and fly away alone, never to return.

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Doduo

Doduo (Dinornithis duocephalus) is a close relative of the extinct moa, a large flightless running bird native to New Zealand; the main difference between the two is that somewhere in the genetic code of the earliest Doduo, a mutation arose that caused the duplication of the head. For whatever reason, the mutated form apparently out-competed the single-headed form, and now it is the only species of Doduo to be found. In short, Doduo as we know them are an extremely lucky accident.

What of riding? That is, after all, the reason Doduo are mentioned here. They are naturally fast runners – they can reach 60 miles an hour unencumbered, around the same as an ostrich – and, when carrying a person, can attain a top speed of around 30 or 40. Do not make the common mistake of thinking they can fly; they have no wings, and therefore can do no more than jump. This deplorable error is once again the fault of Professor Oak, who notes in his Pokédex that both Doduo and Dodrio are capable of flight; further proof, if any was necessary, that having a degree does not confer immunity to being a moron.

Riding a Doduo is different from riding a horse, or even riding an ostrich. Once one has got onto its back – a not inconsiderable challenge in itself, given that Doduo are rather timid, and have a habit of sliding out from under you – it will immediately panic, even if it is very well-trained; this is a primaeval response evolved many millions of years ago that, it seems, cannot be repressed – at least, not without further eugenics programmes. In its panic, it will start running at top speed, find it cannot with you on its back, and stop dead, confused. At this point, your Doduo will be very susceptible to suggestion, and so you may take the time to convince it that everything is all right.

It then becomes quite easy to walk the Doduo around, and more inexperienced riders will be tempted to accelerate straight away – but this is inadvisable, as a Doduo moving at any speed other than a walk or a gallop throws its weight violently from foot to foot, dislodging its rider and usually resulting in some sort of spinal injury. Since paraplegic clients often do not return for a second ride, you might wish to warn them against this. If one can move swiftly through the mid-stage and into a gallop, the Doduo will straighten out both of its necks and run flat out. This will be marginally more comfortable than the mid-stage, somewhat less dangerous, and approximately five times as fast.

Diet: It is inadvisable to give them a choice of food; the two heads will not agree about which one to eat, and this will result in paralysis, as both brains will be transmitting conflicting signals to the body.

Housing: As a horse; however, only one head sleeps at a time, the other one continuing to take the body around and feed, and so Doduo does not need a stable unless the weather is very cold.

Size: In the wild, they seldom reach more than five feet in height; however, generations of selective breeding on the part of the Kantan hill tribes, and further genetic experimentation in certain Soviet bloc states, have left them closer to seven or eight. This renders their bones more fragile but makes them far more ridable; just don't crash.

Lifespan:
Anywhere from 30 to 70 years; in the wild, seldom longer than 36.

Evolution: Only for the brave. Dodrio riding is considered by some to be an extreme sport, and by others to be suicide; they run at well over 90 miles per hour, and tend to reduce most of the bones in their body to powder if they trip.

Breeding: Difficult; both heads have to agree that they want to mate with the potential partner, and the same goes for the other Doduo. They are prone to a curious disorder known as bicephalic narcissism, where each of the two heads falls in love with the other; this often leads to complications, and more often than not broken hips.

Acquisition: Fairly easy. Doduo are ranched all over the world, especially in Kanto and, curiously enough, in Mongolia; anything that can be ridden was generally domesticated by the Mongols.

*

Rampardos

An unlikely addition to this list, Rampardos (Brutocephalus perditor) is an exceptionally easy Pokémon to race. Male ones perceive any large, fast-moving object as a potential rival in love, and charge it at full speed; this is not particularly fast, but since their skulls weigh the same as a small rhinoceros, most things that they meet break on impact. A member of the dinosaur family known as pachycephalosaurids, Rampardos are far less timid than Doduo, so riding them is easy – it is stopping that proves the hard part.

One might consider Rampardos too dangerous for the sane person to ride, and one would probably be correct; however, there are often times when one needs to make a swift exit through the nearest wall, such as when one is discovered in Professor Juniper's laboratory at four in the morning for sound reasons that cannot, for whatever reason, be discussed with the police. Alternatively, you may enjoy the feeling of riding the Pokémon equivalent of a bulldozer crossed with a sports car; it certainly makes one feel more powerful, as long as you have swift enough reflexes to dodge the flying debris.

There are, of course, several problems with Rampardos racing, by far the most popular of their (admittedly few) uses. One is the fact that no one may stand by the sides and watch, for they will distract the Rampardos and therefore become a new target. Another is that if any of the Rampardos see each other, they will attempt to prove their dominance in what they perceive to be a herd in the only way they know – a headbutting contest. This usually flings the riders over the heads of their saurian mounts, with the comical result that they smash their heads together; funny for the bystanders but less so, as I'm told, for those involved.

How does one overcome these problems? The best answer is that you shouldn't. Rampardos have been extinct for over 65 million years, and frankly the world is better off without them, especially the parts of it that have buildings, people or any breakable objects at all in them. If you really must race Rampardos, though – and do consider safer alternatives such as tiger or Garchomp racing first – then you should have each beast run down its own sealed-off, reinforced-concrete corridor, following some sort of moving target. If you have the money, this can be a mechanical device; if not, you may wish to set up operation in a less economically developed country, where it is often possible to obtain a stock of replaceable street urchins to perform this role for you.

Diet: Despite the claims of esteemed Professors Rowan and Oak that Rampardos chase prey through the rainforest, Rampardos neither dwell in the jungle nor eat meat: they belong to a group of mainly herbivorous dinosaurs. It hardly seems necessary to point it out at this point, but serious errors of this sort occur with alarming frequency in texts published by established Professors, and so you are probably better off throwing them out and just keeping this one instead. Returning to the topic of Rampardos feeding: they come from an era before grass had evolved, and require tough, fibrous shoots and shrubs to subsist on; they also enjoy large insects such as Yanma or Beedrill. Do not make the common mistake of giving them Scyther, Pinsir or Heracross; Rampardos only take insects live, and each of those three large species of bug are more than capable of putting a sizeable dent in your herd (something that, given their temperament, may be no bad thing).

Housing: Pits work well as enclosing devices, if only because they cannot ram their way out of them. It is uncertain whether or not Rampardos are warm-blooded, as attempts to sedate them require tranquilliser darts, the pain of which makes them angry enough that they run until they drop dead of heart failure, and consequently very few details of their anatomy are really well-documented. Upon death, of course, they revert to stone, as all so-called fossil Pokémon do. Most Rampardos live outside full-time, which might help you; experiments I conducted indicate that they freeze to death in the Arctic, and submit to sunstroke in the Gobi desert, so maintaining their quarters at heat levels somewhere between these two extremes might be desirable.

Size: Around five metres long, though their tremendous bulk means they can weigh up to two tonnes.

Lifespan: They often succumb to heart attacks and adrenaline poisoning, which is usually a blessing for the owner; if they manage to survive these, they could well live for twenty or thirty years.

Evolution: Cranidos have a tendency to break when sat on, which makes them unsuitable for riding. Some celebrities have attempted to use a Cranidos as an exotic pet, but they aren't suited to it, owing to their fondness for kneecapping passers-by with their skulls.

Breeding: Not difficult, but males have a tendency to kill each other over females, and females, not wanting to miss out on a fight, will often charge into the fray and end up killing the victor. Left alone, a herd of thirty or forty will produce about twenty-five eggs between them, and approximately ten or twelve of them will die or be seriously injured in the process.

Acquisition: The scientists at Sinnoh's Oreburgh Museum are the only source; they have been producing Cranidos since 1985, at around the time of the cloning revolution. In fact, that was the source of the wild stock that lives in the badlands south of Oreburgh; when, as was inevitable, several Rampardos escaped the holding pens, they fled there and settled, forming a herd that no one really dares go near these days.

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Lapras

Neither a turtle nor a tortoise, Lapras (Pseudopaleochelonis princeps) is a unique aquatic glyptodont, the only surviving member of this once-widespread group. More closely related to armadillos than to tortoises, they have since time immemorial been used as sea transport; it was on Lapras-back that the Aboriginal Australians first arrived on what is now their native soil, and the first Kantan colonists reached Kanto. The species has also been an inspiration to poets and writers without number: undoubtedly, it is the basis of several sea serpent legends (although Gyarados played its part there too) and also provided Hugh Lofting with the idea for the Great Glass Sea Snail, of Doctor Dolittle fame.

They have a reputation for tremendous gentleness and sagacity, which arises from the fact that most members of the species that you will ever meet are domesticated; in the wild, Lapras are fast and cunning predators, filling a similar role in Quarternary oceans to that of Tylosaurus in the seas of the Cretaceous. If ever you see a Lapras on a beach, it is inadvisable to approach, since it is probably birthing, and, in common with many human mothers, it will assume that anyone within a four-hundred-foot radius of its progeny is about to steal or devour it. In fact, it is best to call the local authorities; failure to properly inform people has caused rather a large number of fatalities over the years – especially in Cornwall, where wild Lapras have learned to play dead on beaches so that they can catch and eat the humans that come to check if they are all right.

That, however, is somewhat immaterial. What we are interested in is riding Lapras, and I am relieved to say for once that this is extremely easy. Lapras born in captivity and broken in early are very docile unless provoked; their long centuries of association with man have more or less entirely removed their fears of us. Lapras are happy to move along on the surface of the water, where you can breathe, and a well-trained specimen can be steered with a touch on the right or left side of the head. They are rather elegant, and suitable for dressage, but don't expect any wild rides; without submerging, Lapras rarely attain any great speed.

Diet: Meat, and lots of it. They are fond of seals, but will take fish, and in fact most animals from the ocean. Their favourite is dolphin, but you may well wish to deny them this treat, as people these days tend to complain quite vociferously when you feed live dolphins to anything.

Housing: Lapras must be kept in groups of at least five, or they will die of what appears to be loneliness; consequently, keeping them is tricky, as they all need food and space enough to stave off disease and stay healthy. Loch Ness has proved an ideal location: huge and deep, it is also connected to the sea. If you have a similar sea loch, then by all means keep your Lapras there; otherwise, you will have to fence off a bay from the surrounding ocean or something similar.

Size: Approximately five metres long; their immense shells mean that they weigh rather a lot, but also prevent them from collapsing under their own weight when on shore.

Lifespan: Very long. No one is entirely certain what the maximum limit for Lapras life is, but there is one that has been in the British Royal Family's possession for at least two hundred years; it may well be that Charlie, as he is known, will surpass the famed Adwaita in terms of age. The thing to take note of here is that a Lapras is a long commitment; even more than a puppy, they are not just for Christmas, but for life, and your children's lives, and your grandchildren's lives.

Evolution: Not applicable.

Breeding: Sporadic. Despite their long domestication, no one is quite sure how to induce Lapras to breed; they simply do so every so often. The mother is then left by the father to look after the young, and does so with great vigour and much bloodshed for about four weeks, at which point she abandons it.

Acquisition:
Almost anywhere; most countries have a Lapras dealership in them somewhere. Those from northern waters tend to be stronger and fitter; Icelandic breeders have a good reputation.

*

Togekiss

As we come to the end of our list, we come naturally to Togekiss (Stegoptera pacifis). I have tried to avoid mentioning it so far, because it seems to me that trusting one's continued existence to a temperamental chunk of feather and bone is not a smart move, but popular support for flying is growing and the best I can do is to offer what wisdom I have gathered from my own Togekiss-related misadventures.

Togekiss are afflicted with a terrible fear of anything that might disturb the peace. If they could be persuaded to fight back, they might make admirable policemen, but no; when they see something that seems like it could cause strife, they simply divest themselves of all weights – which usually means the rider – and drift away through the sky, to seek some more peaceable area to dwell in. Understandably, since they live in a world now dominated by humans, Togekiss are running out of suitable places to inhabit, and suicide rates are hitting an all-time high as some of them, unable to bear existence in such an angry world any longer, resort to the Hemingway Solution. It is inadvisable to own both a shotgun and a Togekiss.

In terms of actual steering, Togekiss are quite easy to fly; they are intelligent and highly sensitive, and if you can't always make it clear where you want them to go, they will try and interpret you as best you can. This has occasionally caused some problems at aerial dressage contests, where I remember one partially-deaf Togekiss attempt an unwanted loop-the-loop, launching its rider spectacularly into the judges' stand and killing three people. I would include a photograph, but the police confiscated my camera; it seems that hanging around until three in the morning taking pictures of smashed corpses is a crime now. I later heard that the Togekiss involved flew head-on into an oncoming bus in order to atone for its crimes, and that, since two passengers died in the resultant crash, its entire family sacrificed themselves in order to make up for it.

It should by now be clear that Togekiss are not the easiest of animals to keep. Keep a DVD of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse handy to lift their moods. On no account let them watch Bambi; studies show that they tend to implode under the weight of the depresion that overcomes them.

Diet:
Berries and happiness. Berries are easy to obtain; happiness, not so much. Try a clown or other children's entertainer; their happiness is only superficial, but it'll do the job.

Housing: If Togekiss wants to leave and cannot, it will die of unhappiness. It is probably better to keep inside the house, where they can feel loved and ruin the furniture.

Size: For some reason, wild specimens die before reach maturity, but in captivity Togekiss can reach up to seven feet in length.

Lifespan: Uncertain. No Togekiss has ever died of natural causes.

Evolution: You cannot ride a Togetic, or a Togepi for that matter. Attempts to do so are taken very seriously by the Pokémon welfare authorities.

Breeding: It only occurs during times of great peace and jubilation; if you live in a country with a monarchy, the Diamond Jubilee is probably a good date to pick. If not, try a wedding; the more happy everyone around them is, the more fertile Togekiss become. Breeding Togekiss, as you might imagine, requires a lot of planning.

Acquisition: Difficult. Togekiss breeders rarely stay in one place, travelling continually to find happy places in which to mate their Pokémon. Your best bet is to search online, and find their travel routes on their websites.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.

Last edited by Cutlerine; November 9th, 2011 at 08:14 AM.
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