Tamriel Infinium: The many breeds of Elder Scrolls Online’s cat people, the iconic Khajiit

    
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In the real world, I am not a cat person. Actually, I’m not a pet person. But in video games, I collect minipets, tame as many creature mounts as I can, and of course, play a creature handler as often as possible. Consequently, the Warden is my second favorite class to play in Elder Scrolls Online. I made a gif of Dro-m’Athra Senche mount that exploded on Twitter. And my favorite mini pet is my Senche-Panther.

Wait. Wait. “Those are just cats, right? Those aren’t Khajiit, are they?” you might ask. In Tamriel, you will actually find 17 different “breeds” of Khajiit, and some of them resemble other types of creatures in Tamriel, which make things extremely confusing. With our trip to Elsweyr coming in June, we should probably familiarize ourselves with the different types of Khajiit and what separates them from other felines.

Phases of the moons

The breed or furstock of a Khajiit is based on the phases of Nirn’s two moons, Masser and Secunda. At some point I should probably explore how this is scientifically possible, but for now, we will just accept that it’s a kind of magic. A good chunk of information regarding the Khajiit breeds isn’t found in any Elder Scrolls game but in an in-character interview conducted by The Imperial Library with Jobasha, owner of Jobasha’s Rare Books. (I believe that this “interview” was conducted in-character because it allows for some exaggeration and perspective bias. To be honest, I wish more games developers would conduct interviews this way.)

Back to the subject at hand: If a Khajiit is born when Masser is full, the Khajiit will be quadrupedal and large. When Masser is in the new moon phase, small bipedal Khajiit are born. The waning and waxing of Masser give us everything in between. The phases of Secunda determine how bestial the Khajiit appears. Despite the Khajiit’s appearance, though, all are intelligent and sapient.

Bipeds

Although there can be exceptions, the player-character breed of Khajiit in ESO is the Cathay or Cathay-Raht. This species is born during the Waxing of Masser and the full moon of Secunda or the waxing moon of Secunda. They look like what most people would imagine feline-humans to look like. They have a very human-shaped form with a feline head and tail. They speak like men and mer, and for the most part, integrate well within other societies. Cathay-Raht are bulkier and slightly taller than the Cathay, but otherwise they appear the same.

Some roleplayers in ESO will likely consider their Khajiit Suthay or Suthay-Raht. As another roleplayer, I’d accept that because the physical differences between a Cathay and a Suthay are minor. As a rule, Suthay are shorter than Cathay. But the biggest difference is the digitigrade legs. Cathay legs are plantigrade, like human legs, but Suthay legs have a shorter femur and a longer metatarsus (foot bone). These breeds are born in the new-moon phase of Masser and the new-moon and waning phases of Secunda

The last playable breed of Khajiit are the Ohmes. Just like the other breeds, there are Ohmes and Ohmes-Raht, but from a man-or-mer perspective, these two breeds have the largest distinctions. Ohmes are the Khajiit breed seen in Elder Scrolls Arena. This breed was likely birthed from a retcon (retroactive continuity). In the games after Arena, the Khajiit appear much more feline. Ohmes look very similar to Bosmer: Their ears sit lower and they have very little fur, and of course, they have no tail. Roleplayers could even use a Bosmer character model to say they are Khajiit. The Ohmes-Raht have a similar physique to an Ohmes, but the ears are set on top of the head, and of course, this one has a tail. The Ohmes and Ohmes-Raht are born during the new moon of Masser and full- and waxing- phases of Secunda.

The mysterious ones

Now we start to get weird. During the waxing of Masser and the new moon of Secunda, Tojay are born, and the Tojay-Raht are born during the waning of Secunda. The Tojay breeds are bipedal because that’s what their moon phase indicates, but other than that we don’t know anything about them. In unofficial art, they have been depicted as being about the size of a bobcat if it stood on its hind legs. We can assume they are wilder than Cathay, but there is nothing in lore that says what they are. Maybe when we explore the Tenmar Forest in Elsweyr, we will find out.

The Dagi and Dagi-Raht live in similar mystery as the Tojay. There just isn’t a lot written about them. According to the Masser waning moon phase, they should be quadrupedal, but the stories of the Dagi would indicate that maybe they aren’t. In a book in Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim called Mixed Unit Tactics in the Five Years War, there is a story of Dagi attacking a group of Bosmer. They cast spells of silence and fire. That’s all we know for now. I imagine that situation was similar to when the lion opened the car door:

More feline than fellow

The book of Mixed Unit Tactics also mentions the Alfiq: “One of the surviving Bosmer told me that he saw a few ordinary cats among the Dagi and even claimed that these ordinary cats are known as ‘Alfiq’ and that they were the spellcasters, but Bosmer are almost as unreliable as the Khajiit when it comes to the truth, and I cannot believe that a housecat can cast spells.” That sums up the Khajiit born during the waning phase of Masser and full moon of Secunda.

The Pahmar and the Senche are the most common quadrupeds in ESO and all are born during the full-phase of Masser. There have been depictions of Pahmar and Pahmar-Raht as bipeds, but it’s clear that they shouldn’t be. And there has been a question if the Senche mounts in ESO were actual Khajiit. Loremaster Lawrence Schick, who recently retired from ZeniMax, wrote as Moon Bishop Hulan in February of 2015:

“Many hairless ones are confused by the term ‘senche,’ since we Khajiit use it to mean a variety of things. It is used as ‘senche’ and ‘senche-raht’ to refer to two of the seventeen distinct furstocks, or ‘breeds,’ of Khajiit. The senche-raht, in fact, are the largest of us! But we also use the term ‘senche-tiger’ to refer to our more catlike cousins of lesser sentience. Indeed, depending upon the appearance of these cousins, we might even call them ‘senche-leopards’ or ‘senche-panthers.’ So you see that the term ‘senche’ is very flexible indeed, as changeable as the Moons.”

So are Senche mounts the Khajiit breeds? I’d say yes unless it’s a senche-panther or senche-lion.

Well, I learned something today, and perhaps you did, too. You might also notice that there are only 16 breeds listed when I said 17. Well, the last one is the Mane. This breed is born during the rare Third Moon phase. And according to the lore, there is only one of them at a time. It would be very interesting to see what happens to the living Mane when another Mane is born.

I’m also very interested in how this all fits into Elsweyr and the dragon story, but that’s an article for another day. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.

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Mewmew
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Mewmew

I love my Khajiits in ESO but wow Ohmes-Raht are so beautiful and cool looking!

The Elsweyr collectors edition comes with this:

“Senche-raht mount – Largest of all the furstocks, or “breeds” of Khajiit, the Senche-raht is fully intelligent, and in combat often serves simultaneously as warrior and mount.”

So we’ll be getting an intelligent Khajiit to ride haha… It still mostly looks like a mount but it’s funny to think it’s fully intelligent as well and we’re riding around on it :D

Side note – The lions opening car doors is pretty hilarious. In doing a quick search for the video I see numerous videos of lions opening or trying to open car doors. Actual Khajiit are among us pretending to be Lions!

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Here’s a picture of my favorite Khajit, shes the Mane of the house.

20190207_140911.jpg
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Matt Comstock

So these cats need to be real precise when they choose to mate… lest they end up with a kitten very different from them…

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Not really. It’s the moon they’re born under that determines what the baby will grow into and not the parents!

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Matt Comstock

lol, yes, but they need to time it right for the birth to be under the right moon phases ;)

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François Verret

You don’t know how big or small the kittens will be or even on how many legs they’ll try to stand. Buying baby clothes for a pregnant Khajiit must be horrible.

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Schlag Sweetleaf
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Utakata

Nya-Nyans

An imagined hoped for species of Khajiit only this pigtailed otaku of an idiot just thought up that look not unlike Miqo’te…

“You could always play FF XIV instead to roll one of those, Uta!”

….I suppose. :(

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I wouldn’t want to see that. I really enjoy that in ESO the cat people are actually cat looking. I’d rather not have a sexy furless Japanese version in ESO. They have their place in Final Fantasy but I wouldn’t want to see them in ESO.

Ohmes-Raht however are a nice compromise. They’re still very cat looking with fur and can be extremely beautiful at the same time. They lean more human in facial features than the ones we have now and I’d love to play one of them.

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Utakata

*Pigtails wonder if those are cat ears in your avatar or an oddly displaced bow*

…but that doesn’t matter. I was joking. And each to their own. :)

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agemyth 😩

Man, I was just reading about all of this yesterday after almost trying to play Arena for myself. I instead read about Arena on UESP and noticed that the Khajiit don’t look like cats at all! They’re just face-painted humans. Argonians also looked awwwful in that game.

And yeah, then I ran into all this stuff about phases of the moon that Larry covered. Retcon or not, I like the result we have with the moon kitties. Gotta learn the differences of each before you walk into Elsweyr and accidentally drop some ignorant speciesist terms on our furry friends.

Also, is the whole Cats+Moon significance thing a fantasy trope? I could be forgetting something, but I know it is an Elder Scrolls and EverQuest thing. Ok, I looked it up before I posted and I guess it would have come from Bastet/Bast in Ancient Egyptian mythology. I would still like to know if there are any other notable things that connect Cats+Moon.

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agemyth 😩

I wanted to attach these two images from Elder Scrolls: Arena but forgot.

AR-Race-Khajiit_Female.gif
AR-Race-Khajiit_Male.gif
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PanagiotisLial1

ES: Arena was one of the first 10 RPGs I played on PC

My very first was Eyes of the Beholder though, and it even had a Papyrous map. Speaking of we all know Bethesda, but anyone still remembers Strategic Simulations Incorporation aka SSI that help Dungeon & Dragon rights for PC for many years

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Kevin Flanagan

I think they published a lot of the Gold Box games, didn’t they?

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PanagiotisLial1

Yes some where if I recall well, but many favorites there, here is the SSI Game’s List, best to sort it by year for ease

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Eamil

Khajiit, confusingly, call all large cats “senche.” UESP says:

Senche are very often confused with the lesser sentient Senche-Tigers[18][44] due Khajiit using the name Senche as collective term for all of their tiger-sized catlike cousins.[UOL 2][UOL 5] Even Khajiit rarely call their own breed Senche-Tiger.[53]

I believe the senche-raht mount will be the first time we actually see the Khajiit senche in a game.

It would be very interesting to see what happens to the living Mane when another Mane is born.

The Reaper’s March zone provides a ton of insight into this. (I just finished leveling my own Khajiit through there.)

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PanagiotisLial1

“This One is impatiently waiting for the new expansion”

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Legend Of Vinny T

That is an absolutely astonishing display of backstory gymnastics to explain why the graphics improved between Elder Scrolls releases. Bravo, Bethesda.

On the one hand, I’m sure Bethesda’s writers had great fun making up all these different breeds years ago when they didn’t think they’d need them all in one game at one time. ZOS, on the other hand, probably wishes Bethesda simply followed the example of “Trials and Tribble-ations”: Have M’aiq the Liar glare directly into the camera and growl “We do not discuss it with outsiders.”