Covered in dense muscle and a thick grey hide, full-grown mammoths weigh over a hundred tons. They stand on four massive legs, each ending in a broad, flat foot. Two thick arms jut from their bulky torsos, each ending in a three-fingered hand. The mammoth has a broad bone crest growing from the skull with a row of sharp horns along the lower perimeter. Adult mammoths have long, curled tusks they use in combat and in dominance displays. Males grow a smaller secondary set of tusks that protects the primary pair from damage.
Mammoths move through the valley in small herds. The amount of food required by a single mammoth could quickly strip acres of grassland, so the herds move constantly, keeping sources of fresh water nearby. Mammoths are not obligate herbivores, however. They supplement their diets with the occasional meat and are especially fond of cattle, though they will also consume carrion when no fresh meat is unavailable.
A herd consists of a dominant female, several younger females and their offspring. Young males remain with a herd until capable of defending themselves, then they break off. Adult males are solitary and join herds only briefly during the mating season, when rivals use their tusks in long bouts to determine mating rights. Small mammoth herds range over territory that overlaps with that of the vicious desert hydra, and the two species clash brutally where they encounter one another. It is often difficult to determine which is the predator and which is the prey.
When not in danger or roused to anger, mammoths are slow, but they can move with surprising bursts of speed when willing to invest the energy to do so. When a mammoth perceives a threat or potential challenger, it emits a low, resonant bellow and charges to attack with its tusks. It will then use both arms to grapple with creatures of similar size, such as a competing male or desert hydra, and to crush smaller creatures or hurl them away.
Mammoths can fly into a rampage from even minor provocations. Unlike other large creatures, they are quick to drive off or devour creatures of any size that intrude on their territory or threaten them. Males are much more aggressive than females, although the latter are violent when protecting their young. Adult females circle around to shield their young from attack while coming out singly or in pairs to trample and gore predators that come too close.
Mammoths have been known to the skorne for more than a dozen generations, but the risks and expense of capturing and housing them have kept them out of reach of all but the most powerful houses. Besides the staggering cost of feed, there is the price paid in the structural damage they regularly inflict and in slain handlers. Mammoths are nearly impossible to breed in captivity, so they must be seized in the wild. Even experienced beast handlers consider their capture among the greatest challenges they can confront.
In order to restrain them, teams of beast handlers add powerful soporifics to their feed and insert harnesses for pain hooks and controlling blades into the beasts’ hides. When these precautions fail, the mammoths may awaken prematurely, erupting into a frenzy to decimate all nearby. Still, the terror a mammoth instils in the enemy makes the efforts worthwhile to those who can afford it.
The skorne have long considered mammoths to be the perfect platforms upon which to haul their great cannons to war. Training mammoths to aim and fire the weapons proved considerably more difficult than with titans, but their size and strength enable them to carry even larger ordnance.
When Vinter Raelthorne IV led the Army of the Western Reaches against Cygnar, he forbade the skorne from bringing mammoths, citing the strength of the bridges that traverse the Abyss as insufficient to bear the beasts’ weight. After deposing Vinter, Supreme Archdomina Makeda discovered this to be false, and has authorised the empire’s beast handlers to send mammoths west to join the vanguard of her army. Under the supreme archdomina’s direction, empire-funded weaponsmiths invented a multibarreled, self-reloading mechanism with a rate of fire that exceeds the limits of a mammoth’s natural coordination. When commanded by a skorne warlock, however, they can lay down a fusillade capable of wrecking enemy formations and fortifications. Left to its own inclinations, a mammoth prefers either to close on the nearest enemy and smash him with its gauntlets or to gore nearby foes with its tusks.