The tarn is a large, crested bird, similar in looks of that of both a hawk and jay of Earth, although hundreds of times larger. These birds are raised, bred for both colors of plumage, as well as intelligence and strength, and trained to be ridden. It is one of the most common mounts found on Gor. Depending upon the variety of tarn, they are used among the military, in the hauling of goods, and in racing. A powerful bird, the musculature developed for quick take-offs from its perch, rather than a running start as most large birds, the tarn is known amongst its riders, known as tarnsmen, as Brothers of the Wind due most likely to the kindred bond man and beast develop. The tarn is neither a pet, nor a beast to contend with if you are not a tarnsman, replete with the necessary implement to remain in control of your mount, the tarn-goad.
Wild tarns are especially dangerous, for they have no fear of anything, and never tasted the sting of a goad. Wild tarns would be found in mountainous regions, known also as the Mountain Tarn, where they have their aeries, or nests, strategically located away from other predators. The wild tarn will bring its prey back to its nest to tear apart and devour.
The draft tarn is bred primarily for strength and gentler dispositions for use in transporting goods. Tarn caravans, utilizing these larger tarns, often travel with hundreds of these birds, baskets hanging filled with goods.
Racing tarns are smaller birds bred and trained for racing competitions in the larger cities.
The war tarn, is the largest of the breeds of tarns. The plumage of the war tarn can vary, from black, white, and multi-colors, depending on purpose or vanity of the warrior. They are bred for strength, speed, agility, swiftness and combative instinct, and can fly for great lengths of time, their stamina quite great.
"The Goreans believe, incredibly enough,
that the capacity to master a tarn is innate and that some men possess this
characteristic and that some do not. One does not learn to master a tarn. It
is a matter of blood and spirit, of beast and man, of a relation between two
beings which must be immediate, intuitive, spontaneous. It is said that a
tarn knows who is a tarnsman and who is not, and that those who are not die
in this first meeting.
My first impression was that of a rush of wind and a great snapping sound, as if a giant might be snapping an enormous towel or scarf; then I was cowering, awe-stricken, in a great winged shadow, and an immense tarn, his talons extended like gigantic steel hooks, his wings sputtering fiercely in the air, hung above me, motionless except for the beating of his wings." --Tarnsman of Gor, page 35
"Though the tarn, like most birds, is
surprisingly light for its size, this primarily having to do with the
comparative hollowness of the bones, it is an extremely powerful bird,
powerful even beyond what one would expect from such a monster. Whereas
large Earth birds, such as the eagle, must, when taking flight from the
ground, begin with a running start, the tarn, with its incredible
musculature, aided undoubtedly by the somewhat lighter gravity of Gor, can
with a spring and a sudden flurry of its giant wings lift both himself and
his rider into the air. In Gorean, these birds are sometimes spoken of as
Brothers of the Wind.
The plumage of tarns is various, and they are bred for their colors as well as their strength and intelligence. Black tarns are used for night raids, white tarns in winter campaigns, and multicolored, resplendent tarns are bred for warriors who wish to ride proudly, regardless of the lack of camouflage. The most common tarn, however, is greenish brown. Disregarding the disproportion in size, the Earth bird which the tarn most closely resembles is the hawk, with the exception that it has a crest somewhat of the nature of a jay's.
Tarns, who are vicious things, are seldom more than half tamed and, like their diminutive earthly counterparts, the hawks, are carnivorous. It is not unknown for a tarn to attack and devour his own rider. They fear nothing but the tarn-goad. They are trained by men of the Caste of Tarn Keepers to respond to it while still young, when they can be fastened by wires to the training perches. Whenever a young bird soars away or refuses obedience in some fashion, he is dragged back to the perch and beaten with the tarn-goad. Rings, comparable to those which are fastened on the legs of the young birds, are worn by the adult birds to reinforce the memory of the hobbling wire and the tarn-goad. Later, of course, the adult birds are not fastened, but the conditioning given them in their youth usually holds, except when they become abnormally disturbed or have not been able to obtain food. The tarn is one of the two most common mounts of a Gorean warrior; the other is the high tharlarion, a species of saddle-lizard, used mostly by clans who have never mastered tarns." --Tarnsman of Gor, pages 35-36
"Almost immediately from somewhere, perhaps from a ledge out of sight, rose a fantastic object, another giant tarn, even larger than the first, a glossy sable tarn which circled the cylinder once and then wheeled toward me, landing a few feet away, his talons striking on the roof with a sound like hurled gauntlets. His talons were shod with steel-a war tarn. He raised his curved beak to the sky and screamed, lifting and shaking his wings. His enormous head turned toward me, and his round, wicked eyes blazed in my direction. The next thing I knew his beak was open; I caught a brief sight of his thin, sharp tongue, as long as a man's arm, darting out and back, and then, snapping at me, he lunged forward, striking at me with that monstrous beak, and I heard the Older Tarl cry out in horror, 'The goad! The goad!'" --Tarnsman of Gor, page 37
"They are diurnal hunters and eat only what they catch themselves, usually one of the fleet Gorean antelopes or a wild bull, taken on the run and lifted in the monstrous talons to a high place, where it is torn to pieces and devoured. Needless to say, tarns are a threat to any living matter that is luckless enough to fall within the shadow of their wings, even human beings." --Tarnsman of Gor, page 54
"The tarn, a brown tarn with a black crest like most wild tarns, streaked for that vague, distant smudge I knew marked the escarpments of some mountain wilderness." --Tarnsman of Gor, page 111
"The tarn-goad is a rodlike instrument, about twenty inches long. It has a switch in the handle, much like an ordinary flashlight. When the goad is switched to the on-position and it strikes an object, it emits a violent shock and scatters a shower of yellow sparks. It is used for controlling tarns, the gigantic hawklike saddlebirds of Gor. Indeed, the birds are conditioned to respond to the goad, almost from the egg." --Outlaw of Gor, page 13
"The tarns were, of course, racing tarns, a bird in many ways quite different from the common tarns of Gor, or the war tarns. The differences among these tarns are not simply in the training, which does differ, but in the size, strength, build and tendencies of the bird. Some tarns are bred primarily for strength and are used in transporting wares by carrying basket. Usually these birds fly more slowly and are less vicious than the war tarns or racing tarns. The war tarns, of course, are bred for both strength and speed, but also for agility, swiftness of reflex, and combative instincts. War tarns, whose talons are shod with steel, tend to be extremely dangerous birds, even more so than other tarns, none of whom could be regarded as fully domesticated. The racing tarn, interestingly, is an extremely light bird; two men can lift one; even its beak is narrower and lighter than the beak of a common tarn or a war tarn; its wings are commonly broader and shorter than those of the other tarns, permitting a swifter takeoff and providing a capacity for extremely abrupt turns and shifts in flight; they cannot carry a great deal of weight and the riders, as might be expected, are small men, usually of low caste, pugnacious and aggressive. Racing tarns are not used by tarnsmen in war because they lack the weight and power of war tarns; meeting a war tarn in flight, a racing tarn would be torn to pieces in moments; further, the racing tarns, though marvelous in their particular ways, lack the stamina of the common tarn or the war tarn; their short wings, after a flight of perhaps only fifty pasangs, would begin to fail; in a short-distance dash, of course, the racing tarn would commonly be superior to the war tarn." --Assassin of Gor, page 134
"The tarn is a land bird, generally of
mountainous origin, though there are brightly-plumaged jungle tarns. The
tarns crowded into the holds of the round ships were hooded. Feeling the
wind and the cold suddenly strike them they threw back their heads and beat
their wings, pulled against the chains that bound them to the keel timbers.
One was unhooded, the straps that bound its beak unbuckled.
It uttered its scream, that pierced even the freezing winds of Thassa.
Men shook with fear.
It is extremely difficult to take a tarn far out over the water.
I did not know if they could be controlled at sea.
Generally even tarn-goads cannot drive them from the sight of land." --Raiders of Gor, page 277
"It could only be, I conjectured, some sort of giant bird. I lay trembling in the dirt, helpless, the man's foot on my back. I would learn it was indeed a large bird, one called a "tarn." And, I would later learn, it was not even a warrior's mount, bred for swiftness and aggressiveness, a war tarn, but a mere draft tarn." --Dancer of Gor, page 157
"The references to "greens" and "meat," and such, were pertinent to draft tharlarion and tarns, and so, too, the references to stabling and cots, respectively. It might be of interest to note that when I had come to Gor, some years ago, domestic tarns, like wild tarns, almost always made their own kills. They may still do so, of course, but now many have been trained to accept prepared, even preserved, meat. Ideally, they are taught to do this from the time of hatchlings, it being thrust into their mouths, given to them much as their mother bird would do in the wild. Tongs are used. With older birds, on the other hand, captured wild tarns, for example, the training usually takes the form of tying fresh meat on live animals, and then, when the tarn is accustomed to eating both, effecting the transition to the prepared meat. Needless to say, a hunting tarn is extremely dangerous, and although its favorite prey may be tabuk, or wild tarsk, they can attack human beings. This training innovation, interestingly enough, and perhaps predictably, was not primarily the result of an attempt to increase the safety of human beings, particularly those in rural areas, but was rather largely the result of attempting to achieve military objectives, in particular those having to do with the logistical support of the tarn cavalry. Because of it, for the first time, large tarn cavalries, numbering in the hundreds of men, became practical." --Renegades of Gor, page 45
"There is here, too, a oneness of man and beast. There is even the legend of the tarntauros, or creature half man, and half tarn, which in Gorean myth, plays a similar, one might even say, equivalent, role to that of the centaur in the myths of Earth." --Renegades of Gor, page 136
NOTICE: There are many versions of the Gorean Saga books in many languages. Because of this, page numbers are not always the same from version to version. All quotes on this website are from the English, print version published by E-Reads commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first book, Tarnsman of Gor.