Cardassians are humanoid in form, but have distinctive ridged arches connecting their shoulders to the top of their necks. They also have ridges on either side of their forehead, ridges surrounding their eyes, and protrusions on their chin and below their nose. They also have a spoon-shaped feature starting in the center of their forehead and running down the length of their nose. This has earned them the derogatory name of "spoonheads." The spoon shape is also on their chest. This odd feature has also been described in gynecological terms and inspired a Saturday Night Live skit making the satirical point that the facial features of some Star Trek aliens resemble non-facial human body parts.
Their skin is tan or gray in color and hair is dark brown or black. However this trait may not be common to all Cardassians, just as some humans have blonde hair. Their eye color is usually dark-brown, however there are some exceptions to this rule, such as Gul Dukat and Garak, who have blue eyes. Since scale patterns on Cardassian necks have been shown to change from appearance to appearance.
Compared to humans, Bajorans, and many other humanoid races, Cardassians prefer warmer and darker climates. Elim Garak once noted that Deep Space Nine's environment was very cold and very bright by Cardassian standards.
Cardassians tend to be predatory in nature, like wolf packs, always seeking out the dominant position in any social gathering. In normal courting behavior, Cardassian couples routinely act bitter and snap at each other. Cardassian society is generally non-sexist - both men and women can rise to high ranks in the military, for instance. However, some fields are not so diverse, such as the scientific community which is mostly female.
Cardassia's educational system is legendary throughout the quadrant. From a very young age, Cardassian children are trained in techniques such as photographic memory which allow them to retain vast amounts of information. Cardassian mental disciplines are rumored to be so complete that a Cardassian will prove almost totally resistant to torture; a Vulcan mind meld is also usually ineffective against a Cardassian who is properly trained.