Were Dragons Real? (Explained)

Knight fighting dragon


Dragons are a staple of fantasy worlds.

They’re fearsome beasts with thick, scaly, hides that breathe fire and other elements.

In stories, they’re sometimes dangerous monsters or wise guides.

Considering how many new and old stories depict dragons, you may wonder if they were once real.


Were Dragons Real?

Silhouette of fire breathing dragon with big wings


No, dragons were not real.

At least, not so far that paleontologists and archaeologists have discovered as of yet.

In ancient times, amateur paleontologists found bones belonging to dinosaurs and believed they came from fearsome creatures.

One of those creatures was the dragon.

In reality, those bones probably belonged to some dinosaur like the T. Rex or something similar.

Some legends can likely also have ties to other animals.

For example, ancient scholars may have heard of a beast that could strangle its prey.

They might call it a dragon when in reality it was a python or something similar.

While dragons do not appear to be real, there may be a small chance that paleontologists simply haven’t dug deep enough yet.

While humans have a pretty good understanding of what came before modern humans, there are still many mysteries yet to discover.

It could be that dragons did once exist, but they lived before the dinosaurs.

As such, their bones would be deeper in the earth.

More likely, however, they’re just mythical creatures that people mistook for dinosaurs.


Is The Komodo Dragon A Real Dragon?

Komodo Dragon


The Komodo dragon isn’t a real dragon in that it doesn’t fly around or breathe fire.

It is, however, one of the closest living lizards to an archetypical dragon.

Here are some of the ways that Komodo dragons are similar to real dragons.


1. Big

Dragon on the beach


One of the reasons a Komodo dragon is similar to a mythical dragon is its size.

While Komodo dragons aren’t as big as a house or castle, they’re the biggest living lizard to date.

Some adult males can even reach lengths of up to 10 feet.

That’s taller than humans.

While they don’t stand up high, with that sort of length, their heads are high enough to do some damage to a human.

Dragons were also notorious for being quite large.

Depending on the fantasy tale that you read, they could easily be the length of a skyscraper if laid out.

Unlike Komodo dragons, however, mythical dragons were so large that they could tower over humans.

Putting a human in their mouth was an easy task.

Their wings were also quite expansive and could add even more to the width and length of the creature.

When it comes to mythical creatures, few things are bigger than dragons.

The same goes for Komodo dragons.

In the world of lizards, there is nothing bigger than Komodo dragons.

While they may lack wings, their size puts them far ahead of other lizards.

As such, Komodo dragons and mythical dragons are quite similar due to their large sizes.


2. Sharp Teeth And Claws

Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis)


Another similar trait between Komodo dragons and mythical dragons is their sharp teeth and claws.

Komodo dragons have more than 60 teeth and claws.

All of them are sharp and can do serious damage to someone.

They use their teeth and claws to protect themselves and their nests and to hunt.

Due to their large size, they can also attack and eat many things.

They can even kill a human if the human is unable to get away from the creature.

This makes it very similar to a mythical dragon.

Mythical dragons also have sharp teeth and claws.

Due to their size, their teeth and claws are more like longswords than actual teeth or claws.

They’re so long that they could easily impale a human on them.

That’s one of the reasons why mythical dragons were the apex predators in most stories.

A single swipe of their claws could kill a human if they weren’t prepared to defend themselves.

A bite could tear a human in half if they didn’t have adequate armor or a shield.

It isn’t known how many claws and teeth mythical dragons have.

Some fantasy novels may give a full account, but the legendary tales don’t always give a specific number.

Considering that dragons were carnivores, you can likely expect that they had several, sharp, teeth.

Dragons also tend to have feet similar to a dinosaur.

Specifically, they tend to have feet similar to a T. Rex.

If that’s the case, then they might only have three or four claws on each foot.

Either way, they knew how to do massive damage with those claws.

The Komodo dragon is no different.

The Komodo dragon and mythical dragon are similar because of their sharp teeth and claws.


3. Sharp Senses

Komodo dragon in the grass


Another similarity between Komodo dragons and mythical dragons is their sharp senses.

When it comes to the Komodo dragon, they’re able to smell prey at least a mile away.

To do so, they do something that many snakes and other lizards do.

They stick out their tongue.

Their tongue can smell scents in the air with incredible accuracy.

This enables them to start heading for their designated prey to eat.

Dragons also had sharp senses.

Depending on the lore or story, they also sometimes had tongues similar to Komodo dragons.

They’d stick their tongue out to sniff out their prey.

It was also highly accurate which meant it was incredibly difficult to hide from dragons.

Besides a great sense of smell, dragons often had good eyesight When flying overhead, they could easily spot herds of sheep on the ground below.

This also meant that it was often difficult to sneak up on a dragon since they could easily spot you.

Finally, dragons also had a great sense of hearing.

While it may not be as vast as their sense of smell or sight, it did enable them to hear people scuffling around in their lairs.

A dragon could use all these great senses to their advantage to find and kill its prey.

A Komodo dragon relies on its sense of smell, but it and a mythical dragon all share strong senses which make them similar to one another.


4. Breath Weapon

Komodo Dragon mouth open


One of the hallmarks of a mythical dragon is that it has some sort of breath weapon.

Ancient myths and legends of dragons can usually breathe fire.

However, in more modern tales, dragons could use other elements as their breath weapon, too.

They might breathe acid or poison, for example.

You might not see a Komodo dragon breathe fire, but they do have a breath weapon of their own.

Komodo dragons have deadly bacteria in their mouths.

When they bite their prey, the bacteria from their mouths have a chance of getting into the bloodstream of their prey.

This can weaken them, and it might even kill them.

That’s why a Komodo dragon doesn’t always chase after their prey after having bit it.

They know that the bacteria in their mouth will likely finish it off or seriously weaken it.

If it kills it, then they can just walk over and feast.

If it’s weakened, then it will slow down and allow the Komodo dragon to catch up and finish it off.

That’s why Komodo dragon attacks are dangerous to humans.

Even if you survive the initial attack, you might die later because of the bacteria.

As such, the Komodo dragon has a pathogen breath weapon.

Dragons, on the other hand, tend to have slightly different breath weapons.

While some stories may have them leaking poison or acid from their mouths, the majority have them blasting some sort of weapon from their mouths instead.

For example, a classical mythical dragon can breathe fire.

They exhale it from their bodies and blow it out like a flamethrower.

This is one of the reasons why dragons are so dangerous in the stories.

They have a close-range attack that’s deadly as well as a deadly long-range weapon.

Both the Komodo dragon and mythical dragon share the ability to kill prey with some type of breath weapon.


5. Tough Hides

Varanus komodoensis.


One of the hallmarks of a mythical dragon is its hard scales.

In many fantasy worlds, dragon scales are highly prized.

They make for beautiful jewelry or fantastic pieces of armor.

Komodo dragons also have extremely tough hides.

For one, their hide is leathery and tough.

Considering that they’re apex predators in their natural habitats, you may wonder why their hides are as tough as they are.

One of the reasons is to limit damage taken when hunting and attacking.

If their prey were to easily injure them, they wouldn’t be successful predators.

Their tough hides ensure that they can attack their prey while minimizing how much damage they take, themselves.

Another reason is that it provides protection from other Komodo dragons.

Komodo dragons can sometimes get into arguments with each other.

They might fight each other for mates, territory, food, or any other reason.

Considering that each Komodo dragon can do pretty decent damage, having a tough hide ensures that they’re able to survive a disagreement with another Komodo dragon.

Even more interesting is the fact that Komodo dragons don’t just have a tough hide.

They also have their own version of chain armor.

A study found that adult Komodo dragons develop a chain, or network, of bones that’s weaved throughout their hide and embedded in their skin.

The older that a Komodo dragon lives, the thicker and more complex the weave of bones.

This ends up creating a chain of armor of sorts.

That makes them very similar to mythical dragons whose scales were also as hard as armor.

It made piercing the dragon’s flesh incredibly difficult.

Some swords would simply glance off the hard scales instead of doing any damage.

Due to their tough hides and scales, Komodo dragons and mythical dragons are very similar.


6. Speed

Komodo dragon ( Varanus komodoensis )


Komodo dragons may not look fast, but they’re actually quite speedy.

They’re more sprinters than long-distance runners, however.

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Komodo dragons can reach speeds of up to 13 miles per hour.

If you don’t regularly run or work out, you might find it difficult to outrun a Komodo dragon.

That becomes even more unlikely if you’re suffering from a bite.

A Komodo’s dragon bite makes your blood pressure drop significantly.

As a result, you end up feeling very weak and woozy.

You may not have the energy to propel yourself as fast as you need to to get away.

Another thing that the bite does is that it removes your body’s ability to form blood clots.

As a result, you continue to bleed.

That weakens you even further.

While humans may be able to escape a Komodo dragon if they’re relatively fit and unbitten, small prey aren’t usually so lucky.

They may not be able to outrun a Komodo dragon which means they end up being dinner.

This makes a Komodo dragon similar to a mythical dragon because they’re also fast.

One of the reasons mythical dragons are fast is because of their large size.

They’re able to cross long distances quickly simply because they have a wider gait.

Their wings give them another advantage.

While a dragon may be somewhat fast on land, they’re incredibly fast by air.

Their powerful wings allow them to soar through the air and quickly cross distances to get at their prey.

Because both the Komodo dragon and mythical dragon are quite fast, they’re similar to one another.


7. Solitary

Komodo Dragon beach


A final reason that Komodo dragons and mythical dragons are similar is that they’re both solitary creatures.

Adult Komodo dragons tend to spend more time alone than in groups except for the breeding season.

When the breeding season starts, they look for females and sometimes have to fight off other males for access to their mate.

Then they return to their burrows.

Some Komodo dragons may also live close to one another, but they don’t hunt in packs.

Adult Komodo dragons also have a reputation for engaging in cannibalism.

For example, they tend to eat their young if they come across them.

That’s why hatchlings run up trees shortly after hatching from an egg.

Other Komodo dragons might eat them otherwise.

Since adult Komodo dragons can’t climb trees as easily, the hatchlings are a bit safer up there.

That also teaches them to live more solitary lives.

Mythical dragons are also solitary creatures.

You rarely read a story in which a group of them share a treasure horde.

In some stories, dragons even loathe other dragons.

They’ll get into fights if they come across another dragon and try to take their treasure horde for their own.

Komodo dragons and mythical dragons are similar because they’re both solitary creatures.


What’s The Difference Between A Wyvern And A Dragon?

Scene of the wizard reaching hand out to his dragon standing


Although dragons were never real and were likely mistaken for dinosaur bones, you may wonder about wyverns.

Wyverns are very similar to dragons, and it’s easy to mistake one for the other.

Here are a few differences between dragons and wyverns.


1. Legs

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a dragon and a wyvern is the number of legs that it has.

Dragons have four legs while wyverns have two legs.

The front legs of a wyvern are usually part of their wings.

Some wyverns might have little limbs that they use as their talons, but in most cases, they lack any type of limb at all since they’re fused with their wings.

Dragons, on the other hand, have four large legs that allow them to easily walk on land.

That said, it also means that they’re not that as agile as wyverns.

With only a few limbs to account for, wyverns can quickly move around.


2. Size

Another major difference between a dragon and a wyvern is their size.

Dragons are considerably larger than wyverns.

Sometimes they may be twice the size of wyverns.

Their larger size usually means that dragons are stronger and more powerful than wyverns.

That said, a wyvern’s small size allows them to be quick and deadly.

In terms of dinosaurs, you can think of a dragon as a T. Rex while a wyvern is more like a raptor.


3. Breath Attacks

A final difference between dragons and wyverns is their breath attacks.

Both usually have some form of breath attack.

However, a dragon’s breath attack is usually more powerful and has a larger range.

A wyvern can also be quite deadly with their breath attacks, but because they’re smaller, they usually have to be a bit closer to make their breath weapon reach their target.



Dragons were never real and likely came from discoveries of dinosaur bones.

The closest living animal to a dragon today is the Komodo dragon.

Another similar creature to the dragon is the wyvern which isn’t real either and differs from mythical dragons.

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