- "Getting a stubborn dewback to move is as useless as shoveling a sand dune."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Dewbacks were large, four-legged, omnivorous, cold-blooded reptiles native to the Dune Sea of Tatooine. As such, they were well-adapted to the harsh desert climate. This and the fact that they could be easily domesticated made them commonly employed as beasts of burden by both the inhabitants of the desert planet and the off-worlders wandering its dunes. Due to their numerous useful traits and versatility, they were quite possibly the most respected of all the creatures native to Tatooine.
Biology and appearance
While they had a reputation for being solitary animals, wild dewbacks were also known to roam the seemingly endless deserts of Tatooine in single-file packs of two to five, searching for food and moisture during the day. During the hours between First Twilight and dawn, as temperatures dropped, the dewbacks would become sluggish because they were cold-blooded. To retain warm and conserve energy, the dewbacks huddled together. The dew that accumulated on their backs during the night was both a source of moisture in the morning and the origin of the species's name.
Adult dewbacks stood at 1.3 to 2.1 meters in height and could reach lengths of 2 to 3 meters. Though most of them were green, dewbacks with red, brown, gray and most rarely blue scales were known to exist. It was common for these scales to have a mottled or camouflage pattern to them. The special melanins contained within a dewback's hide, which cut down on the glare from the twin suns of Tatoo I and Tatoo II, preserved vital fluids and gave it the ability to go days without water and endure the extreme heat.
Dewbacks began their days by licking the dew that had accumulated overnight off of the backs of the other dewbacks in their pack. While this ritual provided much-needed moisture for the animals, it also strengthened the bonds between the members of the pack. The omnivorous reptiles would spend the day digging through sand dunes with their large teeth and sharp talons for grasses, underground tubers, desert sages, scurriers and baby womp rats. Solitary dewbacks would have to make do with chewing the roots of cacti for moisture.
Because of their large size, dewbacks could often scare off smaller animals, if it came to a direct confrontation. Dewbacks could also fight if they confronted a krayt dragon, but the outcome of such a confrontation would most likely end in the latter top-level predator's favor, so the dewback's usual instinct would be to either run or hide. Scavengers, such as woodoos were known to steal dewback eggs. It was also rumored but not confirmed that whole swarms of skettos were capable of killing a dewback by draining it of its precious bodily fluids.
Dewbacks originally evolved from aquatic creatures that had lived in the oceans of ancient Tatooine and were said to be distant cousins of thuvasaurs. They could be classed into four subspecies:
The most common and recognizable subspecies was the lesser dewback. They were known for their relatively gentle nature and were the most easily domesticated of all the subspecies.
Unlike the lesser dewback, the mountain dewback preferred to wander the more mountainous regions of Tatooine. Much like lesser dewbacks, mountain dewbacks possessed a calm disposition and could be domesticated.
Grizzled dewbacks were the largest known subspecies of dewback and were further distinguished from their smaller cousins by their patchy hides. Because of what appeared to be an insatiable appetite, they were considered to be dangerous to the other inhabitants of Tatooine. They could often be found stalking the Jundland Wastes in search of prey.
Cannibal dewbacks fell between lesser dewbacks and grizzled dewbacks in terms of size. They were considered to be extremely aggressive to the point of being undomesticable and were notorious for eating newly hatched dewbacks—a behavior that gained them their name. The deaths of many settlers could be attributed to the fact that there were few differences in the coloration of the hides of lesser dewbacks and cannibal dewbacks.
Once every year, dewbacks would cover the sands of Tatooine as they converged on the Jundland Wastes, which served as their traditional mating grounds. The Jundland Wastes served this role for both dewbacks and krayt dragons for one very important reason: The sands of the wastes were the ideal temperature for the incubation of eggs year-round. The dewback mating season would begin just after the krayt dragon mating season ended, thus ensuring that fewer of their own eggs would be destroyed.
Once there, male dewbacks would attract the attention of females by rolling on their backs and displaying their bellies, which would change to a color resembling that of a clear, blue Tatooine sky. Some time after mating, female dewbacks would dig holes in the sands of the wastes and begin to lay a large number of eggs. Once the laying of the eggs was finished the dewbacks would once again disperse into the deserts of Tatooine to return the next year. This tradition was so firmly ingrained in the behavior of dewbacks that it was impossible to breed them scientifically or even on different worlds. Nonetheless, transplanted dewbacks could be found on other dry planets like Breeka and Benja-Rihn.
While it was simple to domesticate a dewback, it was far easier to domesticate one if it was raised from the egg. A properly trained dewback would return the affections of its masters but the master would need to free it from captivity during mating season or it might hurt itself or others while it tried to escape to the Jundland Wastes. After mating, domesticated dewbacks usually would willingly return to their owners.
Mount and beast of burden
Though they were a primitive means of transportation, dewbacks were considered by the settlers of Tatooine to be better than walking if a landspeeder was unavailable at the moment. In some cases, dewbacks could be more reliable than mechanical means because they more easily endured the scorching heat of the desert and didn't have engines and intakes that could be clogged by blowing sand. They were employed by moisture farmers, local security forces and even offworld military organizations, (also due to the Dewback's ability to repel sand ticks) such as Imperial sandtroopers and a desert specialist team from the 4th regiment of the Alliance Special Forces as mounts and pack animals.
Dewbacks were capable of speeds as fast as 50 kilometers per hour for short periods of time—a speed at which a sandcrawler could be overtaken. Settlers also preferred dewbacks over banthas because they did not shy away from the challenges presented by sandstorms. However, using a dewback for transportation did have an important drawback: as the local temperature decreased at night time, the reptiles became sluggish.
Dewbacks were sold by Rothana Heavy Engineering to be used as mounts by Imperial troops. They were bundled in a herd of six animals and cost 16000 credits. However, at least in the case of the Imperial Army, dispatching them to areas where the local temperature was below the freezing point of water was forbidden due to the Dewbacks' ectothermic thermophysiology. Luke Skywalker, who had himself hailed from Tatooine, a desert world where Dewbacks were plentiful, cited that getting a stubborn Dewback to move was impossible, comparing it to shoveling a sand dune, and expressed doubts that even the Empire was capable of getting them to move.
Source of food and raw material
Dewbacks were also considered to be a source of food and clothing for the inhabitants of Tatooine. Dewback ribs were a popular foodstuff in Mos Eisley and dewback hides were used to make clothing, accessories and tents. Jabba Desilijic Tiure's chef Porcellus often set aside dewback offal from the palace's slaughterhouse for Malakili, who fed it to Jabba's rancor by the cartload. Settlers and Tusken Raiders alike hunted them, but unlike the settlers, Tuskens did not distinguish between wild and domesticated dewbacks. This practice did nothing to endear settlers to the Tuskens. Filet of baby dewback with caper sauce and fleik-liver pâté was a luxury meal.
Behind the scenes
For the original filming of Star Wars, the dewback was a mechanized lifesize puppet featuring limited articulation. On location in Tunisia, the dewback would not work properly, so it was tucked away in the background of shots rather than seen close-up. A single dewback could be seen during the Imperial search for the droids. The same puppet was placed outside the Mos Eisley Cantina.
Dewbacks were employed by sandtroopers in Episode IV: A New Hope because George Lucas believed that the use of an organic means of transport instead of mechanical means, such as a landspeeder would give the desert search scene an "element of surprise." However, the dewback that was eventually produced for the movie was not created with movement in mind so it was relegated to the background.
In 1995, additional footage for the scene of the sandtroopers searching for the droids was filmed in Yuma, Arizona for the 1997 Special Edition of A New Hope. Computer-generated imagery was used to add dewbacks to the scene.
Though many early reference books stated that the dewback is herbivorous, the second edition of the Star Wars Sourcebook stated that dewbacks were omnivorous. With the publication of The Essential Guide to Alien Species, readers would learn that dewbacks would eat small animals, and their own kind, and were still herbivorous. The New Essential Guide to Alien Species once again designated the dewback as an omnivore.
There are a few points of conflict between the information presented on dewbacks in The Wildlife of Star Wars and other reference books. The Wildlife of Star Wars contradicts the majority of other sources when it provides illustrations and information claiming that dewbacks group in herds. Additionally, The New Essential Guide to Alien Species claims that female dewbacks lay thousands of eggs instead of the fifty to eighty-five eggs per year as claimed by The Wildlife of Star Wars.
- "In the Beginning"—Star Wars Tales 11
- "Smuggler's Blues"—Star Wars Tales 14
- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
- Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars
- LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga
- LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace
- Trooper (In flashback(s))
- "Skippy the Jedi Droid"—Star Wars Tales 1 (Vision)
- LEGO Star Wars: Microfighters – "Episode 1: Bantha Shakes"
- Star Wars: Yoda Stories
- "Fortune, Fate, and the Natural History of the Sarlacc"—Star Wars Tales 6
Notes and references
- The New Essential Guide to Alien Species
- Stay on Target
- Star Wars: Head-to-Head Tag Teams
- The Essential Guide to Alien Species
- Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised Core Rulebook, page 336 - Dewback entry.
- Star Wars Character Encyclopedia
- The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, page 43 - Dewback entry.
- The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide, page 19 - Dewback entry.
- The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide, page 18 - Dewback entry.
- The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide, page 35 - Sketto entry.
- Galaxy Guide 1: A New Hope, page 23 - Dewback entry.
- X-Wing Rogue Squadron 14, page 2
- The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, pages 42-43 - Dewback entry.
- Star Wars Sourcebook, Second Edition, page 88 - Dewback entry.
- "The Secret of Tet-Ami"—Star Wars Tales 13
- Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley, page 23 - Police Deployment.
- A Guide to the Star Wars Universe (Third Edition), pages 153-154 - Dewback entry.
- Rules of Engagement: The Rebel SpecForce Handbook, page 54 - Dewback entry.
- Star Wars: Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide
- Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley, page 41 - Gep's Grill.
- A Boy and His Monster: The Rancor Keeper's Tale, p. 28.
- Taster's Choice: The Tale of Jabba's Chef, pp. 41, 46.
- Star Wars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 258 - Dewback entry.
- Nightlily: The Lovers' Tale
- Anatomy of a Dewback, Introduction.
- Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, pages 18-19 - EXT. TATOOINE—DESERT—DAY.
- Star Wars Sourcebook, Second Edition, page 87 - Dewback entry.