The mythical Minotaur or "Bull of Minos"1 was the son of Pasiphae (Queen of Crete) and a bull, originally intended for sacrifice to the gods which her husband had instead kept for himself. Annoyed at being robbed the gods cursed Pasiphae to fall in love with the bull and apparently the master engineer Daedelus built a model cow to assist her mating with the bull. The ancient Greeks and their gods seem to have been prone to that sort of thing.
Obviously that sort of thing never ends well - Pasiphae gave birth to a son with the head of a bull, who quickly grew into a anthropophagous (or possibly cannibalistic) monster, prone to savage rages and deep melancholies, made worse by being around people. His official father King Minos - probably none to pleased to have a cuckoo of any kind in his nest, let alone a monstrous, man eating one - imprisoned him in a maze beneath his palace known as the labyrinth and fed him with a tribute of young men and women levied from Crete's subjugated enemies. Eventually one of these tributes, the hero Theseus, killed the minotaur and overthrew Minos and that, apart from the myth, was the end of things.
Unless you happen to write fRPGs that is. In that case there's an entire race (or possible species) of minotaurs kicking about (sometimes they're even female), mostly living in underground mazes and often eating people. Frequently they have an innate ability to navigate mazes2 of any kind and favour battle axes as weapons (given that the labyrinth is related to the word labys - a form of double bladed axe). If there are no females, they may well mate with human women instead (and/or cows) with the apparent species of the offspring being determined by gender. For those that wish to tie into the original myth (or an expy of it), the young women given as tribute may not have been food in all cases, and this may be how the minotaur "race" got its start.
Philippine mythology records a very similar creature called the Sarangay - although this may be more bull-like, to the extent of being an anthro-bull (which would fit pretty well with most modern depictions of minotaurs anyway). These were apparently known for having a precious stone in their ear - possibly a jewelled earring - of which they were highly protective.
Game and Story Use
- Note that centaur meant "bull killer" - they might make good natural enemies for minotaurs.
- In a given setting there may not have been any Theseus - the original, immortal (or at least unaging), minotaur could still be kicking about somewhere - or leading a nation of his sons and their human (or bovine) wives and concubines.