Skags dwell in underground burrows. Though skags primarily carve out their burrows by using their hard, hook-like claws to dig, the molded appearance of their den entrances evidences the use of corrosive compounds - common to some types of skag - to break down the Pandoran stone. Skags seem to behave like meerkats, with most of the pack inside the den and a few roaming just outside.
Skags' distinctive mouths consist of a relatively immobile lower jaw supporting two vertically aligned upper jaws which, when opened, seemingly cause the face to split. Despite the ferocious appearance of their mouths, skags do not appear to have teeth. Instead, a series of barbs extends from the end of their lower jaw and along both edges of their upper jaws. This suggests that skags might ingest prey in the same manner as alligators on Earth - by ripping apart the flesh rather than biting it in chunks.
Skags' tongues grow with age. When at the 'elder' stage of maturity and fully extended, this strong, potentially prehensile organ may be up to twice as long as the body.
As suggested by the appearance of Skrappy, Pinky & Digit, and Dukino, and further reinforced in The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, skags can be domesticated, at least partially. The Midgets have been observed riding the smaller variants of skags (although sporadically they mount even the Alphas and Elemental strains). How they manage to tame these wild beasts remains unknown.
Skags are armored brutes that typically attack in groups of 3-6 individuals mobbing their prey. They are moderately tough, and all breeds sport appreciably armored areas around their head, shoulders, and along their back. The armor on these sections is thick enough to cause some trouble - even the weakest skag pup will take only half damage when shot in the head or shoulder as opposed to the gut, causing players to waste ammo while more skags crawl out of their dens. Fortunately, skags have a weak spot - their open mouths can be exploited when they stop and roar.
Shotguns, and to a lesser extent Revolvers, work extremely well against skags, despite half the damage being absorbed by their frontal armor. Like other weapons, shotguns can cause a tremendous amount of damage to a skag when fired into an opened mouth. The rate of fire between shots and poor recoil handling make aiming for the soft flanks or open mouth a must. Combat Rifles are another good choice, since skags, like Spiderants and Lance Defenders, flinch and become agitated after suffering multiple heavy hits to the armored spots. When agitated, skags start to shake with anger and roar, exposing their vulnerable mouth to the line of fire. Assault rifle-style combat rifles not only deal tremendous critical damage, but generally hit hard and accurately enough to make flanking shots from the hip feasible. Repeater Pistols and Submachine Guns are best used only for taking down the smaller breeds. Sniper Rifles can take down a skag with one hit to the open mouth, and at a distance can reliably hit the flanks. Rocket Launchers are effective, especially the incendiary variety.
Skags are vulnerable to Incendiary damage, which causes about 33% additional damage (though still reduced by armor), and 1.5 times the damage a like-leveled enemy would take per second from the triggered effect. Larger, more developed skags have more armor and are thus more vulnerable to corrosive damage than younger skags. The "Alpha Skag" and their Badass forms are the most heavily armored of all skag species. Spitter and Elder Skag are completely immune to Corrosion.
- Main article: Skag Pup
Skag Pups are the earliest skags encountered in the game. They are relatively weak and are little more than a nuisance to all but the lowest level character. They can occasionally flank when the player is focusing on other skags. They attack by leaping forward short distances with their mouth open, by biting at their prey, and lashing out with their tongues.
- Playthrough 2: Annoyed Pup Skag
- Playthrough 2.5: Colicy Skag
- Main article: Skag Whelp
Skag Whelps are very easy to kill, being only one step up from a skag pup. They attack almost exactly like the Skag Pup except their tongue has a longer reach and their leaping attack causes minor knock back effects.
Their armored sections reduce all bullet and melee damage by half.
- Playthrough 2: Angry Skag Whelp
- Playthrough 2.5: Querulous Skag Whelp
- Main article: Adult Skag
Adult Skags are the first truly dangerous breed a player will encounter. While whelps and pups can be a problem when grouped, adults are a threat even when alone. Adult skags can leap long distances to deliver significant damage, and are capable of knocking back prey. Adult skags have been known to charge, and this attack deals even more damage, and causes even stronger knock back than the leaping attack. They are also capable of tongue-whipping to inflict damage as well.
- Playthrough 2: Feral Skag
- Playthrough 2.5: Bestial Skag
- Main article: Spitter Skag
Spitter Skags are a rangy, smaller form of Skag compared to an adult. They have a dark green coloring and an annoying tendency to hang back and spit globs of caustic spit while other skags in the pack attack at close range. They will also bite and tongue-whip when alone. As they are smaller, they have lower health than Adult Skags and while in-game information says otherwise, they are no more vulnerable to melee attacks than bullets.
- Playthrough 2: Hawking Skag
- Playthrough 2.5: Sputum Skag
Elder Skags are the pinnacle of the regular skag breeds, with more muscle and agility than an adult, and a more damaging projectile than a spitter. Though these skags can leap, they rarely do, preferring instead to either find range and lob acid at their enemies, or line up a charge attack, or sweeping lash of their tremendously long tongues. They will also swipe their claws at prey that gets too close.
- Playthrough 2: Hulking Elder Skag
- Playthrough 2.5: Stalwart Elder Skag
- Main article: Alpha Skag
Alpha Skags are some of the largest skags that can be found and are covered in thick armor. The armor is tough enough that not even sustained sprays by Combat Rifles or Shotguns will take much of a dent out of their health bar. Alpha Skags can leap an incredible distance, and though they sometimes employ a strong tongue-whip attack, they are more fond of charging at their prey for heavy damage. They will also stalk forward and swipe at targets with their claws, and this is also exceptionally deadly.
For the reasons of their armor and damaging attacks, special tactics need to be used. When beginning a charge, the Alpha Skag will retreat away from their target to increase the charge distance. This provides the opportune moment to attack the skag. Following it and shooting at the lightly-armored hind legs while it retreats will cause it to stumble as it tries to regain its footing, rendering the skag largely harmless for a brief period. Repetitive shots to the hind legs using an assault rifle or a submachine gun will take out the skag while keeping it in this staggered state. This “kicking it while it is down” tactic is an effective method of taking down the Alpha Skag with little effort.
Another tactic that can be used is to face the Alpha head-on to counter their charge. Because Alphas move very quickly while charging, running away or jumping to the side will often not be enough to evade the attack. Instead, a player can stand his ground and open fire as it charges, then run forward and jump as it nears. This will cause the character to land on top of the Alpha. As the Alpha is moving, the character will end up dropping off its back, providing opportunities to shoot or melee it from the flank. Having missed with its charge, the Alpha will continue running away. Because it takes time and space to turn around, a player can fire at the maneuvering Alpha while getting ready to meet its next charge. This method can also be used against Badass Alpha Skags.
Alpha Skags are also quite vulnerable to the more powerful fire-based Maliwan weapons. Hosing an Alpha Skag with incendiary damage can completely immerse it in fire, sometimes causing it to become disoriented and unable to track targets and allowing players to find cover. This can be particularly effective when encountering Alpha Skags in large groups such as in the Lost Cave.
There is a bug that can cause an Alpha Skag to perform a continuous leap in mid air. This can happen if a character is "bleeding out" from an Alpha Skag doing a leap attack.
- Playthrough 2: Hardened Alpha Skag
- Playthrough 2.5: Armored Alpha Skag
Badass Skags are tough opponents, with high health, significant damage reduction, and powerful attacks. Additionally, all Badass Skags employ a body slam against the ground that creates an area-of-effect shock wave with a knockback effect and even an elemental effect if the skag has an element type.
There are three basic kinds of Badass Skags in the game: A skag that looks very similar to an Adult Skag, but is slightly larger than an Alpha, a lean, spiny range-attacking type similar to Elder Skags, and the rarer, hulking, rounded, bull-like Alpha type that focuses more on close quarter combat. While both are named “Badasses” in the game, the latter will also display “Alpha” in their nameplate while being as armoured, massive and tough as non-elite Alpha Skags.
All Badass Skags are further divided into either elemental (Corrosive, Incendiary or Shock) or non-elemental types. Elemental Badass Skags attack mostly from medium range by spitting elemental attacks at their targets. A short ranged spray of fire over a wide area; a single arcing bolt of electricity that bursts and causes splash damage on impact; or a medium ranged stream of acid that deals a lot of damage in seconds. They will try to stay away from close combat, retreating if enemies get too close. When defeated, they have a chance to drop an Artifact related to their element.
Similarly, Badass Alphas also come in elemental types but no non-elemental Badass Alpha Skag exists. These elite Alpha Skags prefer to engage at close range. They often charge at the player, running into them like a bull to inflict heavy damage while knocking them back. They will also viciously claw at their target while near. Their breath attacks are sustained, harder-hitting and more direct versions of those used by the Elder-like Badass Skags. These Badass Alphas also drop Artifacts based on their element.
Non-elemental Badass Skags are unique among all skags for having glowing blue eyes and a stark black-gray coloration on their hides and black armor plates. Lacking an elemental effect for ranged attacks, they are likely to engage a player in close combat. Instead of being called “SuperBad” after Playthrough 2, they are unique in being identified as “AssKicking” by the game, whether “AssKicking Skag” or “AssKicking Alpha Skag”. These stone-colored skags drop Explosive Artifacts.
In Borderlands 2 all types of elemental badass skags have the ability to grant elemental powers to other skags. They now come in slag in addition the original three elements.
Their armored sections reduce all bullet and melee damage by three quarters or so. Skags will not charge what they cannot reach.
- Playthrough 2: Badmutha Skag
- Playthrough 2.5: SuperBad or Asskicking Skag
Spitter Skags are a small form of skag that have a darker green color. They usually use ranged attack: they hang back and spit corrosive globs at the player. They have health roughly equivalent to an Adult Skag. The True Vault Hunter Mode version of the Spitter Skag is the Hawking Skag.
A Barf Skag will use a mid-ranged attack similar to a Defiler, but if approached at close range will sometimes resort to a standard Skag Melee attack. They have health roughly equivalent to an Elder Skag. The True vault hunter mode version of the Barf Skag is the Vomitous Skag.
Badass Skags make a return, this time with new traits and abilities. Badass Skags can turn other skags around them into the same elemental type as themselves, increasing their threat level significantly and giving the surrounding skags immunity to a certain elemental type as well as new abilities. Non elemental badass skags no longer exist, but are replaced by Badass Skags with resistance to Slag.
Chubby Skags are very rare spawning skags. They are very tough to take down, having more or less the health of a badass, and around the same attack power. These skags have a high chance of dropping rare loot and killing one unlocks the achievement "Cute Loot".
Skrakks are Dr. Zed's freakish hybrids between a skag and a rakk, with the body of the former and the wings of the latter. They are encountered in Monster Mash: Part 3. Upon seeing a Skrakk one of the Vault Hunters will activate a Badass warning i.e. Axton might shout "Badass in range!"
Skags that have been domesticated and harnessed for riding. They can only be found in Lynchwood, under the service of the Rats and the Sheriff's Posse. These skags are heavily armored and as so have a yellow health bar. Once their rider has been killed, they will adopt one of two combat methods. The first is a charge with considerable knock-back effect. The other is a spitting attack, where the skag horks large yellow balls. These balls are explosive in nature and will explode upon contact with a player or if they miss, after a few seconds. Armored Skags are vulnerable to corrosive damage.
True Vault Hunter Mode
Rabid Skags can be identified by their lighter skin tone, their signature fast paced sprinting animation, and that they have what look like knives sticking out of their back. Rabid Skags are much, much tougher variants of normal skags, being stronger and harder to kill than many Badass enemies. Due to their high attack power and unrelenting and speedy attacks, Rabid Skags can easily destroy shields and down a player in just a few hits at higher levels. They also have a habit of repeatedly ramming a target instead of just following, unlike other skags. Rabid Skags are also known to give generous amounts of experience (roughly 5000 per kill) and can allow for rapid leveling. Rabid Skags can be found anywhere skags spawn, specifically: Arid Nexus: Boneyard, Arid Nexus Badlands, and Three Horns Valley.
Horned Skags replace regular skags in True Vault Hunter Mode and are easily recognized by their green heads and large horns. Aside from this difference in name and appearance, they are about the same as regular Skags, but will often rut the dirt with their front paws before performing a flying charge that deals damage and knock back upon impact
Skag-Traps are Skags that have been assimilated by the Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Claptrap to fight on the side of the Robot Revolution. Skag-Traps act exactly the same as their normal counterparts however their appearance will differ somewhat. Skag-Traps wear the "claptrapped" headgear of an assimilated creature, have some or most of their organic armor plating replaced by riveted metal plates, have visibly pulsing lines that appear similar to fiber optic lines, and often have one eye replaced or augmented by a Claptrap-type red reticle. Skag-Traps appear only in Claptrap's New Robot Revolution.
- Alpha Skags will sometimes drop "Skag Pearls" which, when collected, give up large sums of money.
- "Skag" was used as a derogatory term for a young biker who followed Nightrider in Mad Max.
- Since Skags are probably the most common animal species on Pandoran soil, they achieved some sort of iconic status among the inhabitants of Pandora. Their name serves as a brand, and their image is used as a logo (on Scooter's workshop in T-Bone Junction). They have even made their way into Pandoran pop culture, as evidenced by a mention of "skaggy-style" intercourse in some graffiti.
- Skags are also referenced to in several curse words as evidenced in Zer0's personal ECHO recordings where the bartender says "HOLY SKAGSUCK, YOU DECAPITATED ZEKE!"
- Skags eat everything. Anything they cannot digest is regurgitated into a Skag Pile.
- Skag pearls release a hunger inducing pheromone, as stated by Helena Pierce in her ECHO recordings.
- Skags eat and defecate out of the same hole, i.e. their mouth.