Tux (also known as Tux the Penguin) is the official mascot of the Linux kernel.


The concept of the Linux mascot being a penguin came from Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. Tux was created by Larry Ewing in 1996 after an initial suggestion made by Alan Cox [1] and further refined by Linus Torvalds on the Linux kernel mailing list[2]. Linus took his inspiration from a photograph[3] he found on an FTP site[4], showing a penguin figurine looking strangely like the Creature Comforts characters made by Nick Park.[5] The first person to call the penguin "Tux" was James Hughes, who said that it stood for "(T)orvalds (U)ni(X)"[6]. However, many people observe that Tux is also an abbreviation of tuxedo, the outfit which springs to mind when they see a penguin.

Tux was originally designed as a submission for a Linux logo contest. Three such competitions took place; Tux won none of them. This is why Tux is formally known as the Linux mascot and not the logo.[7] Pictures of some of the other contestants can be found here. Tux was created[8] by Larry Ewing using the first publicly released[9] version (0.54) of GIMP, a free software graphics package. It was released by him under the following condition:

Permission to use and/or modify this image is granted provided you acknowledge me and The GIMP if someone asks. [10]
File:Little Blue Penguin (Eudyptula minor) -Adelaide Zoo.jpg

According to Jeff Ayers, Linus Torvalds had a "fixation for flightless, fat waterfowl" and Torvalds claims to have contracted "penguinitis" after being gently nibbled by a penguin: "Penguinitis makes you stay awake at nights just thinking about penguins and feeling great love towards them." Torvalds' supposed illness is of course a joke, but he really was bitten by a Little Penguin on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium, Canberra, Australia [11]. Torvalds was looking for something fun and sympathetic to associate with Linux, and a slightly fat penguin sitting down after having had a great meal perfectly fitted the bill.

In an interview Linus commented on the penguin bite.[12]

Linus: I've been to Australia several times, these days mostly for Linux.Conf.Au. But my first trip - and the one when I was bitten by a ferocious Fairy Penguin: you really should keep those things locked up! - was in 93 or so, talking about Linux for the Australian Unix Users Group.

Tux has become iconic for Linux, with one British Linux user group adopting a live African Penguin at Bristol Zoo on the occasion of Linus Torvalds' birthday.


Tux does not accurately portray any specific one of the nineteen species of penguin, although he somewhat resembles an Adelie or perhaps a Gentoo penguin. He is often dressed or portrayed differently[13], depending on context; for example, when representing the PaX, a Linux security patch, he wears a helmet and brandishes an axe and shield, and his eyes are red. Recently, Tux has been redrawn to blend more appropriately into "crystalized" desktop themes.

QuickTime penguin controversyEdit


Some people believe that the old QuickTime penguin is inspired by Tux and is a genuine free image. This is not the case; the image is copyrighted by Apple and not available as free content. Some free and open source software projects still use a modified version of this penguin, without the QuickTime logo, including Gentoo Linux.

Gown and PennyEdit

In some games that star Tux, a desire for more gender neutrality has resulted in allowing the players to play as either Tux or his female friend "Gown".[14] Gown is variously depicted as being a pink version of Tux (eg XTux) or as having a somewhat less fat appearance and wearing items of clothing such as a short skirt and a hair bow (eg TuxKart and Quest for Herring). In SuperTux and SuperTuxKart, there is a different female penguin called "Penny" who is purple and white. Tux's relationship with Penny is comparable to Mario's relationship with Princess Peach as seen in Super Mario Bros.


In some Linux distributions, Tux greets the user during booting, with multi-processor systems displaying multiple Tux characters. Tux is a character in the webcomic User Friendly. TUX is the name of a Linux-based web server.

Video gamesEdit

File:SuperTux-Milestone1 9.png

Tux has taken on a role in the Linux community similar to that which Mario holds in the Nintendo community. As such, several computer games, mostly free and open source and/or for Linux, have starred Tux, including:

Tux in popular cultureEdit

File:Ebu tux.JPG

Other usesEdit

  • Tux had an uncredited use in the Al Gore's Penguin Army controversy.
  • During the Q&A session following his COMDEX Fall 1999 keynote address, Linus Torvalds was asked if he had any idea how many stuffed penguins had been sent to Bill Gates. Torvalds' response was another question: "To the nearest thousand?"
  • Tux has been adapted to a Designer Toy called a Gwin and is distributed by October Toys. It is redesigned by different artists and sold in short collectable runs through the October Toys website and other collectable vinyl toy sites. There are also artists who buy a blank Gwin to hand paint and customize as a one-off art piece.
  • Tux is used as a cake template in the Australian Womans Weekly "Party Animals" Cake recipe book. The design is titled "The Penguin Prince" and no credit is given.



External linksEdit

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