- "And I thought they smelled bad...on the outside."
- ―Han Solo
Tauntauns were a species of omnivorous reptomammals who were indigenous to the icy planet of Hoth. Tauntauns were commonly used as pack animals during the Rebel Alliance's stay at Hoth. Tauntauns were also used as patrol mounts when it was learned that the Rebel Alliance's own vehicles could not cope with the very cold weather.
Tauntauns were genetically similar to kybucks and featured a mix of traditionally reptilian features, such as a lack of mammary glands and scaly skin. They were also warm-blooded, covered in fur (which ranged from gray to white), and gave birth to live young; mammalian characteristics. Known subspecies included the glacier tauntaun, scaly tauntaun, climbing tauntaun, and the giant tauntaun (also referred to as the common tauntaun).
Tauntauns possessed numerous evolutionary adaptations to the bitter, cold environments of Hoth. Those adaptations included wide feet for running across icy surfaces, swiveling ears, thick blubber, chambered lungs and dual nostrils, and a digestive system that excreted wastes as oils through skin pores, producing a distinctive odor. Han Solo commented on the smell after he sliced open his recently deceased tauntaun with Luke Skywalker's lightsaber to keep the latter warm. Their four nostrils served to warm inhaled air. Their larger pair were used to bring oxygen into the blood stream during physical exertion. When lying down to sleep, the larger pair sealed to keep snow out, and the second pair took over. A well-muscled tail extended a meter from their bodies to help maintain balance. They had clawed feet and hands to gain purchase on the ice. Their feet were also tridactyl, with splayed toes to act as natural snowshoes. The most important feature of tauntaun physiology was their unique blood mixture that was resistant to the tundra winds and kept their organs from freezing.
Despite these adaptations, tauntauns sought shelter at night to avoid the extreme nighttime temperatures of Hoth. When shelter was unavailable, they used their evolved ability to hibernate during low nighttime temperatures. Some tauntaun breeds actually froze to death if awakened after sundown. When not eating the fungus that grew beneath the frost layer or lichens found in hoarfrost,[source?] the omnivorous tauntauns were also known to eat ice scrabblers and Hoth hogs.
Tauntauns were matriarchal animals and lived in herds of twenty to thirty individuals. Horn-butting matches were common among both males and females who hoped to establish dominance. Tauntauns were able to give birth to two young at a time, which would occur twice within one Hoth year. Though they lacked mammary glands, tauntauns could regurgitate a form of "milk" produced in their crops.
They tended to be ill-tempered, a natural result of evolving in such an inhospitable environment. A peculiar form of "attack" among the females, and some of the males, during mating season was their spitting ability. Tauntauns would spit at each other's eyes, with surprising accuracy. While their smelly saliva was by no means deadly, it was quite inconvenient to have any liquid freeze near their eyes in Hoth's blizzards.
Tauntauns were the primary prey of the wampas. Besides their horns, natural camouflage, and their safety in numbers, tauntauns also relied on their ability to run 90 kilometers-per-hour to survive. The Wampas got around this by ambushing their prey -- attempting to kill them before they could escape.
If domesticated, tauntauns would require a grooming parlor to breed. Such a place would stink like the dirtiest imaginable kitchen to a sentient.
Although they were stubborn creatures, tauntauns made ideal patrol mounts for the Rebel Alliance's Echo Base in the absence of repulsorcraft, which were unreliable in Hoth's extremely cold climate. Personnel such as Corporal Vyn Rolado were responsible for taming the alpha female of a tauntaun pack, which allowed the Alliance to easily train the remainder of the pack. It was discovered that the ultrasonic frequencies given off by certain droid models irritated the mounts, and they would use their tail to swat any of those droids who happened to wander too close. Tauntauns were occasionally attacked by Wampas in the ice caves of the rebel base.
The Hutt gangster Jabba Desilijic Tiure was known to keep the head of a tauntaun as a trophy hanging on a wall in his throne room. Captain Ozzik Sturn also had a head of a tauntaun in his private quarters on Kashyyyk.
Some years after the Galactic Civil War had ended, tauntauns were exported from Hoth to the cold-climate regions of other worlds such as Coruscant. They were used as mounts, beasts of burden and tourist attractions. However, they longed for their old home and became surly and stubborn because of this homesickness.
Also by the time of the Second Galactic Civil War, small stuffed tauntauns were available as children's toys. The smooth, silky fur of the plush made it pleasant for young children to snuggle with. Jacen Solo had given one to his daughter Allana as a gift to make sure that she and Tenel Ka were not the sacrifice he had to make to become a Sith Lord.
Behind the scenes
The creatures were represented on screen through a combination of puppetry and stop-motion animation.
Before settling on the hairy creature seen in the films, the design of the tauntaun went through several different looks, ranging from a large rodent-like creature to a more reptilian look.
In Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds the Tauntaun is the preferred creature for the Rebel Alliance mounted trooper regardless of the climate of the planet.
Players of Star Wars Galaxies are capable of obtaining a DNA profile for bio-engineering a tauntaun by completing various tasks in the Battle of Hoth instance. Once the creature is born and trained, it can be used as either a mount or combat pet by the Beast Master profession.
In Return of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt has a stuffed and mounted tauntaun head as one of his grisly trophies, right next to the frozen form of Han Solo.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Tauntaun Ram is a minipet given to all players with accounts active since April 21, 2012, and Tauntaun Fawn is a limited-edition minipet given to people who attended PAX East 2012.
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