The bantha is one of the most adaptable herbivorous creatures in the galaxy and can be found on several worlds. They are able to survive in almost any extremes of environment and can go without food or water for several weeks. Although bantha subspecies have diverged from their baseline ancestors, most shared similar characteristics. They are quadrupeds that are covered with shaggy fur and have large curved horns. A common bantha adult (Banta majorus) is between eight and nine feet tall and can weigh up to 8,800 pounds. Their lifespan is between 80 and 100 years and they reach sexual maturity at the age of 20.

Bulls (males) tend to be slightly larger than the cows (females) and both genders grow a pair spiral horns. Most female banthas achieve just a single spiral during their lifetimes, while a male can achieve two full spirals before its death.

The distinctive spiral horns of the bantha grow at the rate of a knob each year. Thickness and condition of the horns are an indication of the bantha's health and environment. Bulls fight each other by butting heads in ritual combat, and the spirals on the horns can cause a pair to become entangled. This almost always means death for both banthas as the pair would eventually collapse with exhaustion and starve to death.

Banthas use their dexterous, sensitive tongue as a sort of hand, pulling up grass and shrubs from the ground. Also located on the tongue are breathing and scenting spiracles which allows the bantha to determine if an object is edible without stooping or reaching awkwardly. Male banthas raise their tongue as a way to signal their readiness to mate.

Banthas travel in herds of up to twenty-five individuals, led by the oldest, strongest female. A herd which grew too large was split, with the second oldest and strongest female taking the new herd. The gestation period is 30 months and the newborn's birth weight was about 110 pounds.