The Rancor: Textbook Animal Cruelty
No matter the quality of the film, episode or comic, Star Wars has always had immensely cool, and mostly believable creatures. It even boasts one of the best speculative ecology field guides out there, and if you haven’t heard of it before then definitely check out The Wildlife of Star Wars by Bob Carrau and Terryl Whitlatch.
With The Book of Boba Fett having recently sauntered laconically onto our screens, we got a second look at a creature that made a brief but memorable appearance in The Return of the Jedi. That creature is the Rancor, the 5 metre tall basement dwelling biped that Jabba the Hutt (later Boba Fett) fed humans through a trapdoor on a semi-regular basis.
Now, that description alone should tell you that the Rancor isn’t exactly well treated. Any species that is at least semi-carnivorous and that big is going to need a fairly large range. So either Jabba the Hutt’s basement is enormous (it ain’t) or this is an obvious case of animal cruelty.
The sadism of keeping such a large creature locked in such a small space goes beyond that. The Rancor doesn’t seem particularly well-equipped for life on a desert planet like Tattooine, being that big and largely hairless. It would probably fare poorly, in comparison to the Bantha, (pictured below) a species much more reminiscent of Bactrian camels and probably better-suited for a desert environment than the Rancor*. Finding prey on such a sparsely populated planet would also be difficult, and indeed Star Wars lore suggests that the Rancor is a species not native to Tattooine, with other types of Rancor found on planets containing jungle ecosystems.
Whether these other types of Rancor are different species, different genera, or even just different breeds, we won’t speculate on here. What is clear is that it is probably having a really uncomfortable time on a desert planet, and justifiably expresses said discomfort during a rampage at the end. By the way, no offence to Baby Yoda, but the rampage probably ended too suddenly as a result of it being completely exhausted. Species the size of the Rancor have existed (check out the giant ground sloth Megatherium for an example), but I doubt the Rancor would have the capacity for such prolonged periods of activity, and was probably exhausted by the time Baby Yoda stepped up.
One last thing – there’s no evidence of any other food coming in on a regular basis for this Rancor (or Jabba’s). Do they have a Bantha farm out the back? Or is it just being fed the odd human? If that’s the case, add malnourishment to it woes. It’s also been given no company, which is animal cruelty in itself, given that Danny Trejo describes the Rancor as an emotionally complex creature.
What IS really cool about the Rancor we see in The Book of Boba Fett is the fact that its nostrils are so high up on its face. Could the species be semi-aquatic? One of the traits we saw in the whale’s terrestrial ancestors was the shift of the nostrils to further up on its head to make breathing while being submerged easier. Could the Rancor be an ambush predator on its home planet, snatching prey from the shores of lakes or swamps? We know that prehistoric aquatic sloths dragged themselves along the sea or lake bed to forage for food. It’s not inconceivable that the Rancor did the same at times.
If you want to hear more thoughts on the biology of the Rancor, check out our recent podcast episode!
*Yes I am aware that Tattooine was not always a desert planet, but quit with the pedantry ok?
Title Image Credit: Return of the Jedi, 1983