Note: This article discusses material that was once considered canon but whose canonicity is now questionable.
"Do not underestimate the Squats. They survived for millennia cut off from the Imperium and assailed from all sides. Their determination and resilience is an example to all."
The Squats (Homo sapiens rotundus) were short, stocky and physically hardy Abhumans who were on average 1.4 metres tall and were adapted to the heavy gravity conditions that predominated on the worlds they had settled near the core of the Milky Way Galaxy. Of all the Abhuman types encountered by the Imperium, they most closely resembled baseline humans. Squats were the descendants of baseline humans who had colonised the worlds around the galactic core in the far distant past. These worlds are some of the oldest in the galaxy, formed when the galaxy's structure had not yet been fully stabilized. The Squat species was ultimately destroyed by the invasion of a Tyranid splinter Hive Fleet that consumed their homeworlds in the late 41st Millennium, though some survivors still serve in the Astra Militarum, hoping for revenge and to find a new beginning for the remnants of their race.
The Squats' ancestors were human colonists who reached the heavy-gravity mineral-rich worlds around the galactic core during the time of the initial expansion of humanity beyond Earth's own Solar System during the Dark Age of Technology, many millennia before the emergence of the Emperor of Mankind and the dawn of the Age of the Imperium. The colonisation came at the right time, as Old Earth's own mineral wealth had been largely depleted. The worlds at the galactic core were rich in rare and unique strategic minerals, but in terms of the existence of life they were barren and unsuited for human colonisaton. These worlds were dark and bleak planets. Their gravity was intense, usually two or three times that of the Earth. Their atmospheres were either thin or non-existent. Even those planets that did possess atmospheres were continuously blasted by tremendous radiation storms produced by the massive black hole located in the galaxy's core.
Once settled, these planets became rich Mining Worlds. The colonists were forced to become self-sufficient, providing their own underground hydroponically-grown food. Due to the hostile nature of these worlds' surfaces, the colonists formed underground societies. During the long isolation of Mankind produced by the Warp Storms of the Age of Strife, the Squat race genetically adapted to their new homes, evolving or genetically engineering themselves to better suit their environment, becoming far tougher, more resilient and physically shorter with a denser skeletomuscular system than found in the baseline human genome. The Squats had some of the best scientists and engineers in history who explored the frontiers of human science and technology without the constraints of religion and ritual, in contrast with the dogma-bound humans of the Adeptus Mechanicus who followed a very different path on Mars during the same period.
Some say the real history of the Squats began in the Age of Strife when their worlds were cut off from Terra and the race first developed, but their actual origins are found much earlier during the Dark Age of Technology, or as the Squats call it, the Age of Founding. Squats are sometimes called "Space Dwarfs" or just "Dwarfs" in the Imperium because of their uncanny resemblance to those mythical creatures of Norse legend (and to the Dwarfs of the Warhammer Fantasy universe who are their true progenitors). In war, the Squats used squads of motorcycles supported by massive artillery barrages from outlandishly large super-heavy tracked vehicles such as the Land Train, Colossus, Leviathan, and Cyclops.
The Squats' history is divided into five ages, each marked by a dramatic change in both galactic conditions and Squat society. These ages include the following time periods.
Age of Founding
The Squats' Age of Founding is equivalent to the Dark Age of Technology as described in Imperial records. This is not technically the first period of the Squats' history, as they had yet to evolve their current physical forms, but is the time of the founding of the mining colonies that would become the Squat Homeworlds. Almost 20,000 standard years ago, interstellar transportation and communication between these planets and Terra was continuous, testament to the importance of these colonies to the human homeworld and the great federation of planets it once led. Terra also kept the Mining Worlds well supplied with that which they could not produce for themselves in adequate amounts, primarily food. This period of contact and interaction lasted until the start of the Age of Strife in the 25th Millennium A.D.
Age of Isolation
The Age of Isolation corresponds with the earlier part of the Age of Strife -- around 18,000 to 16,000 Terran years ago. The galactic core was cut off from the rest of human space by the devastating Warp Storms that marked the dawn of the Age of Strife and the beginning of the gestation of the Chaos God Slaanesh in the Immaterium. Many worlds were swallowed by the Warp and disappeared forever, whilst others were trapped in stasis and became lost within the swirling tides of the Immaterium. Most survived this terrible period, although they were separated from Old Earth and all contact was lost with the rest of the human-settled galaxy. During this time of isolation and danger the Squat worlds still in contact with each other began to organise for their mutual defence. It was at this time that the Squats began to refer to their worlds as the Homeworlds. The Homeworlds remained isolated for thousands of years and their inhabitants learned to survive in a universe that was becoming increasingly hostile. Those that survived grew and prospered. Settlements were enlarged and fortified into impregnable strongholds. They soon developed alternative technologies to make up for the lack of supplies from Earth. During this isolation, the Squat Guilds were formed as politically and culturally important parts of Squat society, and the Squat colonies joined together in Leagues formed from complex trade and political agreements. The engineers produced by the Guilds were true engineers grounded in the Scientific Method rather than the religious dogma-bound Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus who understand very little about the true scientific principles that underlie most of the technology they so ardently hoard.
Age of Trade
The Age of Trade took place during a slight abatement of the Warp Storms that marked the Age of Strife and led to the Squats encountering other intelligent races, including the Orks and Eldar. At the beginning of the Age of Trade, some Squat strongholds were attacked, but the aliens quickly realised that the Squats were determined and tenacious fighters, and that trade and commerce with them was a more practical arrangement. The Squats took full advantage of their tremendous mineral wealth, which they traded for weapons, foodstuffs and the xenos' high-technology systems. To this day, Squat hydroponic plants, developed with Eldar help, are among the most efficient food sources in the Imperium. The Squats remained carefully neutral in the numerous conflicts between the Eldar and Orks, maintaining trade links with both sides. There were inevitably small wars from time to time, but for the most part the Squats' complex structure of treaties and trade agreements maintained a stable peace.
Age of Wars
The Age of Trade lasted for nearly three millennia, but finally collapsed when an enormous Ork battle-fleet, under the command of the Warlord Grunhag the Flayer, attempted a full-scale invasion of the Squat Homeworlds. Losses on both sides were astronomical, with vicious tunnel-fights through the mine workings and bloody pitched battles in the Squats' underground settlements. The Squats appealed to their Eldar trading partners for help against the invading Orks, but none was received, resulting in the development of a deep animosity among the Squats towards their former trading partners. The Age of Wars, as it became known, is regarded by the Squats as the blackest chapter in their history, and the double betrayal by Orks and Eldar gave rise to a cultural enmity for both races which still persists. Many strongholds were wiped out by the Orks, and the traditional Squat epic ballad known as The Fall of Imbach commemorates one such destruction. Even in the 41st Millennium expeditions were mounted from the Squat Homeworlds in search of lost strongholds, and these expeditions were often accompanied by Adeptus Mechanicus Tech-priests, eager to rediscover lost Squat technology.
Age of Rediscovery
The Age of Rediscovery was the most recent past phase of Squat history, corresponding to the Great Crusade and the current Age of the Imperium for the rest of humanity. As the Imperium of Man emerged from the Age of Strife and began to reunite the scattered worlds of humanity, the Squat Homeworlds were rediscovered and contact with the Imperium was established. The Imperium found that a distinct culture had developed on the Squat Homeworlds, and that the Squats had moved outwards through the galaxy, extending their own domains. Often they settled harsh planets similar in climate to their Homeworlds, but they also occupied more conventional worlds able to support normal human civilisations.
Age of the Imperium
The Squat Homeworlds were almost unique in the Imperium -- though they were officially a part of the Imperium of Man and owed allegiance to the Emperor of Mankind, they were not directly controlled by the Administratum. Instead, they were allowed a certain amount of autonomy, being ruled by their strongholds and Leagues just as they were before the Age of Rediscovery. The experiences of the previous millennia had left the Squats with a strong sense of cultural unity and a fiercely independent nature, and instead of rejoining the Imperium as subject worlds of the Emperor, the Homeworlds negotiated a series of treaties that enabled them to keep their local independence from the Adeptus Administratum's demands in return for military assistance to the Imperium and beneficial trading terms for Imperial merchants. The racial character of the Squats -- hard-working, tenacious, honourable, and inimical to alien races -- was almost perfect from the Imperial point of view, and the Imperium's High Lords of Terra were content to allow them a greater degree of self-government than normal -- and avoid the nightmarish task of unleashing a war of conquest against such a powerful sub-species of Mankind.
In exchange for this freedom, the Homeworlds provided troops for the Imperium and traded exclusively with other Imperial worlds. This commerce made the Squat Homeworlds very wealthy. The Squats also allowed the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus free access to their advanced technology, as the Squats possessed several STC technologies never before seen by the Mechanicus and a higher proportion of working devices dating from humanity's Dark Age of Technology than anywhere else in the galaxy. The Squats were also expected to follow Imperial policy in external affairs, which was not a problem as they were a very inward-looking and xenophobic society following the Age of Wars.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the relationship between the Squats and the Imperium was that the Squats did not follow the Imperial Cult. Instead, they practised a form of ancestor-worship, venerating their dead clansmen and their families. They believed that when a Squat died he joined his ancestors, adding his own honour to that of his forebears, but a part of their name and their honour remained with their living descendants, forming a constant link between the living and the dead. Squats ensured that their deeds in life would reflect honourably on their ancestors, adding glory to their clan and their family. Squats guarded their reputation fiercely, willing to go to great lengths to blot out a disgrace to their honour or the honour of their clan. When Squats served alongside the troops of the Imperial Guard, they adopted certain aspects of the Imperial Cult, incorporating them into their own ancestor-worship. Imperial orthodoxy, as preached by the Imperial Guard Commissars and Ecclesiarchy priests who came into contact with Squat forces, was that the ancestor-spirits of the Squats were watched over by and emanated from the Emperor of Mankind, and the Squats were happy enough to accept this idea and participate in the rituals of Emperor-worship on those terms.
During combat, the Squats used squads of motorcycles supported by massive artillery barrages from juggernaut war machines such as the Land Train, Colossus, Cyclops and Leviathan. They also used an advanced form of Power Armour fit to their smaller size, called Heavy Exo-Armour.
Squats and Chaos
To their eternal shame, many Squat strongholds and Brotherhoods sided with the insidious Forces of Chaos. During the wars of the Horus Heresy, Squat forces fought on both sides, and inevitably some fell prey to the corruption of Chaos. Like the other followers of Horus, many of these Squat followers were banished into the Eye of Terror, but rumours persist of isolated groups of Chaos Squat raiders in various parts of the Imperium. It has even been rumoured that some of the Squat strongholds which were lost to the Warp Storms of the Age of Isolation may have survived, their horribly mutated inhabitants raiding into the Imperium from time to time.
Squat Anatomy and Physiology
The Squats are the most Human-like of the Abhuman races, standing about two-thirds the height of a normal Human at four feet or 1.4 metres with a stocky, powerful build. Their hair is very strong and fast-growing, and most Squats cultivate short, pointed beards, or at least moustaches and sideburns. Despite their short, thick-fingered hands, Squats have a very high degree of manual dexterity, and are able to operate the most intricate machinery with ease. Squats are extraordinarily long-lived by normal Human standards. A lifespan of 300 Terran years is normal, and some Squats, known as Ancestor Lords, are often so ancient that their true age can only be guessed at. In character, Squats are an honourable race, but they are also irascible and often short-tempered. In battle they are renowned for their doughty resolve and tenacity as warriors. Coupled with their amazing abilities as miners, engineers and workers of metals, this has made them a valuable asset for the Imperium.
Squat society was based on the social unit known as the stronghold. A stronghold may have been a surviving mining community from the original colonisation of the Squat Homeworlds, or a so-called "newhold," founded when the Squats expanded during the latter part of the Age of Isolation and the early part of the Age of Trade. Strongholds were self-contained, autonomous communities, ruled by a hereditary Squat Lord and an aristocratic class known as the Hearthguard. They were comparable to the city-states of early Terran cultures, and a great number of strongholds sometimes co-existed close together on the same world or in the same star system. Strongholds joined together into Leagues for mutual defence, trade and other dealings with the Imperium. A League often varied in size considerably; the League of Emberg, for instance, consisted of 4 strongholds, while the powerful Kapellan League was comprised of over 3,000. Each League was ruled by a High Council, comprising the Lords of each member stronghold. The High Council debated all matters which affected the League as a whole, and ratified trade and other agreements on behalf of its member strongholds; it also served as a court of appeal for cases which involved the death sentence. There was no formal organisation between the Leagues on any of the Homeworlds, although they maintained constant communications and acted together in times of war.
Near-Extinction of the Squats
The Tyranids are not usually drawn to relatively barren planets like those that comprised the Squat Homeworlds; nonetheless, what little life they possessed was consumed by a Tyranid Hive Fleet, most likely a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Behemoth in the late 41st Millennium. The Squat race was essentially destroyed, and the few remaining homeworlds were annexed outright by the Imperium of Man over the two centuries after the attacks. Only a few scattered and embittered settlements of Squats survive throughout the Imperium at the present time, though some continue to serve in the regiments of the Astra Militarum and eagerly lend their aid to the destruction of Orks and Tyranids alike.
"Of all the races of the universe the Squats have the longest memories and the shortest tempers. They are uncouth, unpredictably violent and frequently drunk. Overall. I'm glad they're on our side!"
- — Report to the Imperial Guard High Command (Thuro)
Squats have long memories and never forget an act of treachery or a broken promise. The Squats carry grudges for millennia, and none so strongly as that they bear for the Orks, who betrayed the Squats on more than one occasion and inflicted many losses upon them in war. The relationship between the Squat homeworlds and the Imperium has always been strained, and the history of the two peoples is studded with bouts of war and ill-feeling. Squats are not diplomatic by nature, and their brutal manners and fierce tempers do not always inspire confidence in men. But the Squats care little for the effete ways of men or the mincing delicacies of the Aeldari. Squats are robust in body and gruff in manner, and consider other intelligent races --including their human kin -- fragile and lacking in the good, honest Squat virtues of comradeship and directness.
It appears that the Squats were almost entirely wiped out by the Tyranids, though presumably those who were in the interior of the Imperium of Man during the attacks remain alive and enraged, surely harbouring a truly heroic grudge against the Tyranid Hive Mind.
Squats in Warhammer 40,000
At first the disappearance of the Squat army from the game rules was explained by a background story describing that the race had been devoured by the Tyranids. The story went that the Squat race had been virtually destroyed, and the few remaining Homeworlds were annexed by the Imperium over several hundred years after the attacks. Only a few scattered and embittered remnants of Squats survived throughout the Imperium.
Then, for a long period of time, Games Workshop took the stance that the Squats had simply never existed -- older republished novels were edited to remove all references to the Squats. In other cases, books were not republished due to the stories featuring Squat characters or other obsolete races. However, the Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook for the 6th Edition of the game reinserted them into the universe's background when it explicitly named them as an Abhuman race officially recognised by the Imperium
The Demiurg, a xenos species currently allied with the Tau, were a revitalisation of the Squats' original "Space Dwarf" concept. According to the former Games Workshop designer Jervis Johnson, the Squats will probably never be a major Warhammer 40,000 race again, rather remaining in the background of both the tabletop miniatures wargame and the universe's fiction, largely because the Games Workshop designers eventually regretted transferring the Squats over from Warhammer Fantasy and never felt that the Dwarf-like race really had a clear identity or fit very well in the Warhammer 40,000 universe as it developed over the decades. Despite this, certain miniature companies have been producing Space Dwarf models, and some players have even converted the rules of Warhammer 40,000 to allow them to play. However popular this trend has proven to be, the official ruling from Games Workshop is that only official Warhammer 40,000 races can be used in the tabletop game. Another solution favoured by fans was to field an Astra Militarum army made up of Squat models, which is allowed under current rules.
Finally, in 2018 following the introduction of the highly successful 8th Ediiton of the game, Games Workshop formally reintroduced Squats into the setting with a Squat character and miniature in Necromunda: Underhive.
- Citadel Journal 20, "Epic 40K: Squats," by Warwick Kinrade, pp. 35-46
- Citadel Journal 14, "Epic 40K: Steel and Stone - The Steel Hawk & War Hawk Gyrocopters, Specialist Land Train Battlecars," and "Ahoy There! Ye Mutinous Dogs! - Pirate Armies, Part 2," by Phil Lowles, pp. 27-31, 43, 49
- Codex Imperialis (1st Edition), pp. 71-75
- Codex: Titanicus (2nd Edition), pg. 60
- Ork and Squat Warlords (Warhammer: 40,000 Epic Supplement)
- Warhammer 40,000 Chapter Approved: Book of the Astronomican (1st Edition), pg. 42
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium (1st Edition), "Warhammer 40,000: Squats - Space Dwarf Warriors & Mercenaries," by Bryan Ansell, Nigel Stillman & Graeme Davis, pp. 164-183
- Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook (6th Edition), pg. 405
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pg. 175
- White Dwarf 170 (UK), "Squat Cyclops," by Andy Chambers & Gavin Thorpe, pp. 11-13
- White Dwarf 154 (UK), "Space Marine Battle Report: The Battle for Golgotha - Orks vs. Squats," by Andy Chambers & Jervis Johnson, pp. 34-49
- White Dwarf 153 (UK), "'Eavy Metal - Epic 40K: Squat War Machines," by Games Workshop Studio Staff, pg. 11
- White Dwarf 151 (UK), "Cover: Warlords," by Dave Gallagher, "Mekboyz & Squats - The Land Train & Iron Eagle Attack Gyrocopter," by Andy Chambers, "'Eavy Metal - Epic: Squats - Land Trains & Squat Warrior Brotherhoods," pp. 45-48, 50-53
- White Dwarf 127 (UK), "Squats: How To Design A Squat War Host," by
- White Dwarf 113 (UK), "Volskheim Brotherhood," by Paul Bonner, pp. 6-7
- White Dwarf 111 (UK), "Squats," by Bryan Ansell, Nigel Stillman & Graeme Davis, pp. 27-46, 48-50
- Extinction of the Squats, Jervis Johnson