Throughout the Halo games we, the players, gain a complex and deep insight into the Covenant military in all its forms, since they comprise the main bulk of the enemies fought in the Halo games, particularly the original trilogy. From the diminutive, cowardly Grunts to the easily angered Elites and every Jackal, Hunter and Drone in between, Halo fans basically know the Covenant warrior castes inside out.
However, despite interacting on the front lines with various Covenant troops, we are never shown or told in-game exactly how many species make up the Covenant. So today, we will be taking a look at all of the species that we know to be in the Covenant, be it military, leader or civilian.
The primary races of the Covenant, as previously mentioned, are the military. Led by the Elites, the armed forces of the Covenant represent one of the most effective fighting forces in the Galaxy, not least due to its impeccable methods of species-based specialisation. In other words, every race of the Covenant that has a potential combat role to play is put to work in the military.
The classic Sangheili that we all know and love, the Elites form the backbone of the Covenant military hierarchy in the majority of Halo games. Not only do they use their influence to keep frightened Grunts or mischievous Jackals in line, but they also represent one of the most powerful soldiers on the field with powerful energy shield and the best Covenant weaponry.
Like the Elites, the Grunts are probably the first thing that pops into your head when you think of ‘Covenant’. Known to the Elites as ‘Unggoy’, these diminutive, goblin-like creatures make up the vast majority of the Covenant military.
Despite their large numbers, Grunts are individually weak and cowardly, although they will stand and fight if being led by an Elite or other powerful commander.
These avian aliens are somewhat unusual among the Covenant military in that they are not devout believers in the Covenant religion like the Elites, Brutes or Grunts. Instead, Jackals (or ‘Kig-Yar’) work solely for profit.
Protected by personal energy gauntlets, the standard Jackal infantry can present a challenge, particularly in groups, but by far the most lethal is the infamous Jackal Sniper.
These gigantic titans always work in pairs, and each one is actually a hive-creature composed of hundreds of Lekgolo worms. When a Lekgolo colony reaches a certain size, it will split into two and form the bond-brothered Hunter pairs, known as the Mgalekgolo.
Since joining the Covenant, these behemoths have been outfitted with heavy armour, huge shields and a distinctive fuel rod cannon.
Having only joined the Covenant relatively recently after almost wiping themselves out in constant civil war, the Brutes (or ‘Jiralhanae’) have a newfound fervor for the Covenant faith, although their hulking forms and obtuse personalities make them difficult to get on with.
The Brutes have a longstanding rivalry with the Elites, and this would erupt into a full-blown conflict during the Great Schism that ultimately shattered the Covenant Empire.
Flying insectoid creatures that live in hives and thrive on carrying out mechanical repairs, the Drones (known to the Elites as Yanme’e) are not particularly enamoured by the Covenant religion but have used the Covenant’s technological superiority to their advantage.
Having enhanced their flight capability and armed themselves with Covenant weapons, the s are one of the most dangerous races in the Covenant military.
These races are key members of the Covenant Empire but, for one reason or another, they were deemed unworthy of combat duty and serve purely logistic or technical support roles. As such, they are rarely seen by humans, with some having gone the entire length of the 25 year Human-Covenant War without being seen by a single human.
The first species on this list that occupy a purely non-combat role, the Engineers are life forms that were artificially created by the Forerunners during the waning days of their conflict with the Flood.
Known to the Covenant as Huragok, these createures care only for carrying out repairs and building new things. Engineers are docile and could even be considered cute, and many joined the UNSC after the downfall of the Covenant.
The figureheads of the Covenant religion as well as the political leaders of the Covenant Empire, the Prophets (or San’Shyuum) were once tall, athletic creatures capable of extraordinary feats of physical combat.
However, due to the loss of their homeworld before the Covenant was even formed, the Prophets today are feeble and rely on gravity belts or thrones in order to move around.
Following the destruction of High Charity and the downfall of the Covenant, very few of these enigmatic creatures remain.
These races, although still Covenant Civilians, have their own sub-faction within the Covenant, in that they are races that have an alliance with or have tentatively joined the Covenant, but have no active role in either the military or the main logistic hubs of the Empire.
For example, many races of the Covenant Fringe live on the outskirts of Covenant space, light-years from even the most remote human settlement. As such, these species are even rarer than regular Covenant civilians, and because the Fringe has not been fully explored in any form of Halo media, even 343 industries aren’t certain exactly how many races the Fringe consists of. We do know of a few, however.
Yonhet are diminutive, humanoid creatures that have a particular knack for hunting down Forerunner relics. For this reason some were inducted into the Covenant to use as artifact retrieval specialists or scouts, but none were ever involved in combat. It wasn’t until after the war, when the Covenant was splintered, that the Yonhet emerged to find a role in the post-Covenant galaxy.
Although their canon status was in limbo for over a decade, the elusive ‘Drinol’ – a cut race from Halo: CE and Halo 2 – has finally been confirmed to exist within the Halo universe, and they are assumed to be one of the members of the Fringe.
These giant creatures are used for their brute strength and are known to cause massive collateral damage, so were rarely seen even on the front line of the Covenant war.
So, with all the known Covenant races listed here, we can conclude that there are at least ten races in the Covenant at the height of its power. However, as previous stated, neither we as players nor the development team of Halo are sure exactly how many species the Covenant consists of.
The previously unknown Covenant Fringe are a relatively new concept that has not been explored properly in Halo games, books, TV shows or comics, so until we get a full outline of what species are in the Fringe, we will never know exactly how big the Covenant really was.
Still, even without the Fringe, the Covenant is still a large and diverse alliance of alien species, and although it inevitably ended in disaster, one cannot help but admire the fact that the Empire stood for so long despite being made up of so many opposing races. What the Covenant lacks in transparency, it makes up for in diversity.
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