Cycles: Fake Fur Surface Shader?

So, I have some anthro (part human, part animal/beast) characters in my web comic, and I wanted to use simulated fur on them. Doing it using blender’s hair simulation turned into a dead end however, as even at 1/10th of needed fur density was enough to bankrupt my GPU’s RAM (2gb) and the sufficient density would also bankrupt my system’s main RAM (8gb). I could optimize it, but since I would possibly have at least two such characters visible, I don’t think I’d be able to optimize it enough unless I learned C++ and optimized the hair simulation itself.

So, given the low resolution of my renders, I’m wondering if it’ll be possible to fake the appearance of short fur by using a custom surface shader in cycles. Any thoughts or suggestions on how and where to start?

I have never done nothing similar, just a thought tough,
you could sculpt a high res copy simulating the fur, then bake textures for bump or displacement; to make use of vertex paint Dirty Vertex Color and baking it too, could help you to get the texture for the color.