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"I thought they smelled bad on the outside!"
Han Solo — (audio) Listen (file info)[6]

Tauntauns (pronounced /ˈtɔːn-tɔːn/) were a species of semi-sentient reptomammals native to the snowy plains of Hoth. They were used by members of the Rebel Alliance after they domesticated some of them when they built their new headquarters on Hoth, as the extreme conditions made airspeeders unreliable.

When Luke Skywalker was injured by a wampa, Han Solo used the sliced open corpse of his recently deceased mount to keep Skywalker warm until Solo was able to construct a shelter.

Jabba Desilijic Tiure kept a stuffed tauntaun head in his palace beside Han Solo, who was at the time frozen in carbonite.

Biology and appearance[]

"A pulse! The big gal's alive!"
SWL40 Tauntaun Riders Unit Epxansion box art

A Rebel trooper riding a tauntaun mount on Hoth

Tauntauns' thick skin helped them survive the icy conditions on the planet Hoth that few other creatures could.[9] Sure-footed and furry, the tauntauns were well adapted to the daytime temperature on Hoth, although they could not handle the chilling extremes of the night, which often reached below −60°C. They had scaly skin beneath their heavy layers of fur and secreted thick, pungent oils to attract mates, as scents were one of their main methods of communication. They gave live birth to young called taunlets.[1]

Their long claws helped them climb icy surfaces and scrape away lichen and small ice plants which often grew in glacial caves and grottos, the crevices serving as their homes due to heat from the planet's core often coming up through the openings. Sunlight that passed through the ice of the caves allowed the small plants to grow, thus providing a source of food for the creatures. Although Tauntauns also ate plants, they were actually omnivores and were known to eat Ice Scrabblers and even Hoth Hogs.[7]

In the wild, tauntauns often traveled in herds of 25, and could burrow into the snow for warmth.[10] Their tails helped to keep balance while running.[3] The herds were lead by a female matriarch.[1]

The creatures had an odor that was unpleasant to humans due to layers of fatty blubber that helped them acclimate to the temperatures of Hoth, but was apparently nothing compared to the smell from the inside of a fresh tauntaun corpse.[3]


"If there's one thing I've learned about training tauntauns, you gotta use what you have…and make the best of it!"

A wampa feasts on a tauntaun in its cave.

There were fifteen varying tauntaun subspecies, all of which were prey to the towering wampa ice creatures. As they were swift, docile and able to run at speeds up to 90 kph, they were often able to outrun their wampa predators and could use their horns for combat if necessary.[3] Tauntauns were migratory, with migration routes across the surface of Hoth. Their strength and hardiness made them well suited for use as transports.[9] Tauntauns could be domesticated for various purposes. When the Alliance to Restore the Republic established their new headquarters on Hoth, they utilized the native tauntauns as mounts.[11]


As the Alliance to Restore the Republic set up Echo Base,[12] the new recruit[13] Vulaada Klam used her pet Qaberworm Gurtyl to herd Tauntauns. Captain Magna Tolvan had at one point ordered Klam's beast be killed, but her request was overruled by Princess Leia Organa, who saw how skilled the pet and its owner were in herding. With Gurtyl safe, other rebels saw the pet's usefulness in herding the Tauntauns despite the loud noise it caused. One day, Klam and Gurtyl were herding Tauntauns into Echo Base when Tolvan approached with a message from Chelli Lona Aphra.[12]

Behind the scenes[]

Tauntaun concept

Rodent-like concept sketch

Tauntauns first appeared in Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back.[11] Phil Tippett, Joe Johnston, and Ralph McQuarrie all provided concepts for the Tauntaun design. Before settling on stop-motion, the filmmakers considered using an actor in a suit, but such was impossible given George Lucas's hope to make the creature one with unique physicality. By virtue of being the first Star Wars creature to appear in a film since those of Star Wars: A New Hope, a great deal was riding on the Tauntaun and thus it needed to be a believable effect. Star Wars Insider 220 summarized the effect as needing to be an "incredibly realistic creature." The fleding stop motion depart under Tippett at Industrial Light & Magic were tasked with making the Tauntaun and turned the techniques of 1933's King Kong.[14]

Early Tauntaun model

Reptilian-style model

Stop motion scenes were filmed with motion-control cameras. A full-sized prop was created in London by Stuart Freeborn's team. The full size prop enabled the actors to "ride" the beast. The head contained animatronics controlled with cables, which were fed through the prop's legs.[14] The sounds of the tauntauns were created from a recording of an Asian sea otter.[15] The Pantone colors used by the film's production for the tauntaun were 427U, 467U, and 463U.[16]


Non-canon appearances[]

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Non-canon sources[]

Notes and references[]