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Faith and spirituality in a modern world

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Are dragons real creatures?

Golden yellow dragon with wings spreadThere are a lot of references to dragons throughout history, but are dragons real?

These creatures are probably based on real, living dinosaurs that are described correctly, or they have been described with the combined features of several dinosaurs, or they may be based on a real dinosaur with additional exaggerations.

The dragons of legend are strangely like actual creatures that have lived in the past. They are much like the great reptiles which inhabited the earth long before man is supposed to have appeared on earth. Dragons were generally evil and destructive. Every country had them in its mythology.” [1]


In the 1500′s a European scientific book called Historia Animalium, listed several dragons as still living but rare. [2]

And the Vikings carved dragons as their figure heads on the front of their ships. [3]

Saint George and the dragonThe story of Beowulf [4], and the story of Saint George [5] killing a dragon are likely to have been based on some fact.

In 1572, Ulysses Aldrovandus heard that a peasant had killed a small dragon in northern Italy. So he got the carcass of the dragon, and put it in a museum.[6]


Oriental grey dragon
Oriental grey dragon
A serpent dragon
A serpent dragon

In China there is on record that there were dragons that laid eggs.
(Dinosaurs lay eggs, but it is not known whether all dinosaurs laid eggs.)

The first dinosaur fossils were probably found in China as early as the fourth century.

These fossils were referred to as dragon bones.


[1] Knox, Wilson, Dragon, The World Book Encyclopedia, vol. 5, 1973, p. 265
[2] Gesner, Konrad, Historiae Animalium, 1551-1587, p.224
[3] ‘Exploring the Vikings’ Google Books
[4] Beowulf
[5] Saint George and the Dragon
[6] Aldrovandus, Ulysses, The Natural History of Serpents and Dragons, 1640, p.402. Also see ‘Frontiers of Zoology’

Peter Reason

December 2011

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