"It’s easy to dismiss such beasts as just that, little more than pests, when you’re sitting in the turret of a battle tank. At least until you’ve seen one rip the turret off a Leman Russ and eat its crew."
- — Captain Torvus Grymm, 14th Synford Armoured Brigade
The Great Knarloc is a Kroot lifeform native to the jungles of the Kroot homeworld of Pech that is often domesticated for use as a beast of burden, assault weapon or combat mount by the Kroot warriors who serve the Tau Empire. The Great Knarloc is much larger than the more common standard Knarloc. Like the Krootox and the Kroot Hound, the Great Knarloc is an evolutionary dead-end of the broader Kroot species, but its sheer raw power and strength make it a powerful living weapon for the Kroot mercenaries who serve the Tau. The Knarloc makes an appearance in Dawn of War - Dark Crusade as the Tau's most powerful unit, requiring the ownership of a relic to field.
Biology and Physiology
Imperial studies by the Magos Biologis of the Adeptus Mechanicus have revealed that the jungle world of Pech is home to many creatures that are unusually close genetic relatives of the native Kroot. The Great Knarloc is an evolutionary strain of the Kroot species that developed into a large, solitary carnivorous predator. Its effectiveness in this ecological role would seem to be limited by its small eyes and the resulting poor vision, its small, almost vestigial forearms, its slow running speed and its unusually light skeletal structure, despite the beast's bulk.
Yet the Great Knarloc has a few advantages, including excellent stamina for long-distance running, brief bursts of intense speed, aided by its well-developed Nymune Organ, a trait still retained by some of the Great Knarloc's smaller relatives, including the Kroot. While the Great Knarloc lacks any olfactory lobes, its long tendrils, concentrated at the back of its head, provide excellent sensory information to the beast's relatively small brain. Whilst its eyesight is poor, a Great Knarloc can effectively track prey by scent and sound, running it to ground over long distances.
All of these adaptations indicate that the Great Knarloc is an animal which is a scavenger as well as a hunter. Whilst all carnivores are happy to eat dead flesh, they always prefer fresh meat. The Great Knarloc seems to be the same, hunting on occasion, but at other times proving quite happy to simply scavenge carcasses. It is also adept at foraging amongst jungle growth for fruit or using its long claws to seek insects or grubs. The Great Knarloc has evolved to hunt by one of two methods, either lurking in dense undergrowth to suddenly ambush passing prey or by using its sensory organs to detect prey at long distances and then run it to ground.
Like the Krootox, the Great Knarloc is not predisposed to violence unless it is hungry, threatened or goaded. A Great Knarloc is a solitary creature, spending most of its time alone beneath the jungle canopy of Pech, foraging for foodstuffs and scavenging, exploding into extreme violence only should suitable prey be discovered.
The Great Knarloc's natural characteristics make it useful to the Kroot mercenaries who serve the Tau Empire in a number of ways. They are most commonly used as beasts of burden to carry heavy equipment and supplies, because they are large and strong enough to bear heavy loads and possess the stamina to move over long distances, and are easily led once domesticated. The only drawback is that the beasts remain prone to sudden outbursts of extreme aggression. It is notable that Great Knarlocs in domestic service for the Kroot are always kept muzzled and chained. Occasionally, a Kroot baggage column might be caught up in a battle, for instance, if a Kroot column is ambushed. In this case, the Kroot handlers and the Great Knarloc will be forced to fight to defend themselves.
Another common use for the Great Knarloc is on the battlefield where its Kroot handlers, called Goads, will goad the creature into one of its aggressive outbursts, enraging it through the use of barbed Goad Sticks and excreted biochemicals. Once angered, the beast is them goaded towards the enemy lines to wreak havoc. But once its aggression has been unleashed, the animal will attack anything that comes within range of its claws or sharp beak, including other Kroot. The excretion of specific biochemicals and pheromones by the Goads means it is unlikely that the creature will attack Kroot since they are not its natural prey, but the Great Knarloc's mercurial nature means that many unwary Kroot handlers and Goads have become a Great Knarloc's next meal.
The creature's basically placid nature also makes it useful as a Kroot riding mount. Several Kroot warriors can mount the animal and use it as a stable weapons platform for mounting Kroot guns, rifles or the Kroot Bolt Thrower, much like the more common Krootox. This function may be aided by the excretion of certain biochemicals to calm the beast in battle and make it more manageable. These weapon-mounted Great Knarloc are rarer than those used as beasts of burden, who are easier to train. They make effective assault troops supporting Kroot Carnivore Squads, and are able to provide heavy weapons fire, or quickly advance and join an assault, using the Great Knarloc's natural predatory instincts and weapons for effective close combat. The Kroot Bolt Thrower often mounted on a Great Knarloc is a primitive but effective weapon, used by the Kroot since long before they encountered the Tau Empire. As with Kroot rifles and guns, the Tau have aided their auxiliaries by using advanced Tau technology to improve the Kroot's primitive weaponry. Instead of the basic sharpened wooden or metal bolts long used by the Kroot, the Tau provide impact-fused high explosive tips for each bolt, making them far more dangerous. These tips are a miniaturised version of the warheads used by the Tau's own missile pods. The Kroot Bolt Thrower is fired by a hand-crank system that drops bolts from the weapon's magazine into position and then quickly redraws the bow string, allowing it to keep up an unusually high-rate of fire for what is essentially a modified pre-industrial weapon.
Great Knarlocs, used as both beasts of burden or combat mounts, accompany many Kroot mercenary forces aiding Tau operations and they have even been identified by Imperial forces fighting alongside the Kroot's great benefactors when they integrate Kroot contingents into their own Fire Caste's order of battle.
- Imperial Armour Volume Three - The Taros Campaign, pp. 217-220
- Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (PC Game)
- Only War: Enemies of the Imperium (RPG), pg. 104