On the surface, this may seem like a ridiculous or even stupid question. I love stupid questions, because they tend to yield an unexpected and very interesting answer once you get past the anticipated one. But before I get into it, let‘s first define our terms – just like my professors kept pounding into my head: “Define your terms!“ So let‘s do that.

So what is a dragon? Ask anyone this question, anywhere from any corner of the world, and they‘ll all have an answer. But ask five different people, and you‘ll get five different answers, because every culture has their own mythologies and fables.

Not really that long ago…

You could even pose this question to people at different periods of history, and again get all sorts of answers because the ideas and the stories about dragons are truly ancient. Most people today would describe a dragon as either a fantastical (fictional) creature, or an emblematic one (historically symbolic, as on a coat of arms), though whether they‘re good or evil beasts would again be up for debate.

But if you asked someone, say, 2000 years ago, “What is a dragon?“ They would likely point to several different animals, and if they didn‘t do that, they‘d tell you where to find some magical dragon bones. Amazingly, just 2000 years ago, people identified certain large wild animals as dragons, and men reportedly hunted them.

What did they think a dragon was?

Exactly what people considered to be a dragon (and what wasn‘t a dragon) is still being investigated by various sorts of scientists and historians, but here‘s a short list of animals (now extinct) that we know with a fair amount of certainty were thought to provide the bones of dragons from a deeper past.

Gomphotheres

Anthracotheres

Chalicotheres

Elephas hysudricus 

Giraffokeryx 

Sivatherium

If you look at the skeletons of any of these massive animals, it doesn‘t take much imagination to see how people might have called them dragons. Some people thought them to be beasts, some people thought them to have magical properties. Regardless, people wrote about them and that‘s why we know what we know.

So if someone asks you, “Do you believe in dragons?“ You can actually say YES and really – not only be historically accurate, be insanely cool and list their scientific names. 

It‘s so crazy! Crazy but true.