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Did you know these ten facts about “classical” dragons?

Want to know some cool facts about dragons?  Then get on the wagon, because we’re about to swoop into a dragon’s hoard of dragon facts!

But first, have we met?

Read more about me, a modern dragon, 

and why I started, an outreach project

A dragon-cat fountain shoots water in a park
I’m telling you, they’re more like cats than you might think.

A modern dragon writes about “classical” dragons based on his own experience, a review of The Literature, and consultation with his in-house dracologist!

You dragophiles and drago-curious folks sure know how to make a dragon feel appreciated.  The questions about dragons have been trickling in steadily!  

Dragon questions?  You can contact me on this page.

You may already have seen my post covering ten fascinating facts about life as a modern dragon, but if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, please give it a read and let me know what you think.

In today’s post, I, a modern dragon, sink my slightly manicured claws into ten facts about my “classical” dragon ancestors.  You know, the kind who didn’t have bank accounts with ATM cards and instead sat triumphantly upon their hordes of gold.

A red dragon sits contentedly on a pile of gold
Red is looking very pleased with himself!

A modern dragon does research 

And before we begin, let me acknowledge that like most of the Internet, the collection of nifty dragon facts that I’ve assembled below combines personal experience with research.  

Why not just base this exposition of fascinating facts about dragons on my own personal experience as a dragon alone? 

As a modern dragon living in a wealthy country where every meal features foods you can eat with ketchup, I’m privileged to enjoy many nice things in life, like soaring through the air and being respected as one of the most powerful creatures in the forest, as well as slightly more mundane activities, like taking the subway to work downtown and planning the dragon-fire barbecue for this summer’s block party.  

But I admit I have less direct experience in so-called “classic” dragon skills like aerial warfare and terrifying villagers or munching on castles or influencing the weather or that sort of thing.  

So, not wanting to rely exclusively on my own experience, which does have some gaps, I reviewed The Literature and consulted with my in-lair dracologist before finalizing this post. 

As a result, I hope you will feel confident that the following list of cool dragon facts is thoroughly vetted!

A green dragon with wings spread is about to pounce!

10.  What are wing claws?  Most Western dragons have wing claws.

Where better to begin than an amazing dragon feature that is sometimes overlooked but definitely not overrated:  wing claws.  (Wing claws!!!)

What is a dragon wing claw?  First, consider dragon anatomy.  Western dragons generally have four legs, each with between three and five talons.  And to state the obvious, Western dragons also have wings

Wings are the absolute coolest.  

I’m gonna do a post just about wings!  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, coming soon you can read about dragon flight generally!

Before we get to the wing claws, let’s talk about the talons on dragons’ feet.  Most Western dragons use these fantastic instruments for carrying prey and other cargo during flight, for gaining traction when perching on uneven surfaces (like castle turrets tree canopies and mountaintops) and even for slashing during battle.  

The wing claw, by contrast, is a specialized talon that generally appears on the anterior wing ridge, as pictured here:

Black dragon in profile with wing claws visible
Note the positioning of the wing claws on the anterior wing ridges

The wing claw is especially designed for climbing and gripping against steep, jagged mountain faces.  It essentially allows the dragon to use not just four but up to six appendages for stability.

Although typically used for climbing (and, these days, also for holding grocery bags), the wing claw also functions in battle as a melee weapon of last resort.  

Most dragons are reluctant to deploy the wing claw in battle because the wings themselves are super important and yet also vulnerable to attack: damage to a wing’s flight membranes can be slow to heal and can drastically reduce flight efficiency.    

9.   All dragons are tufted to some degree

Do all dragons have tufts?   Yes!  All dragons have tufts.

All of them!

You might be wondering:  I thought dragons were scaly–how can they also have tufts?  The answer is that all dragons have tufts, and it’s just a question of degree and form.  

Take neck tufts, for instance.  On especially scaly dragons, the neck tufts generally harden together into spikes and even backplates. 

A fierce green and blue dragon's head and neck is on display

Dragon tufts are versatile:  depending on the kind of dragon, they help a dragon thermoregulate, provide a grip for passengers (these are called riding tufts), and even harden into defensive armor.  And more!

You can also spot tufts on a dragon’s face, frequently taking the form of whiskers or tuft spikes.  These kinds of tufts help the dragon detect air currents and gravity fields, two features especially useful for flight.

8.   What sounds does a dragon make? Dragons have many vocalizations. 


The study of creature noises is a delightful endeavor that, even in the modern era, continues to yield fruitful developments.  For instance, thanks to exhaustive research, we no longer need to wonder what the fox says.  

On this question we need wonder no more

For their part, dragons make a wide variety of impressive and useful vocalizations.  I’ll cover just a few of them for now:  

  • Squawk.   Usually deployed as a general greeting, to get attention, or to express concern or jubilation.  If you hear a dragon squawk, you are welcome to squawk back if you feel comfortable doing so. 
  • Hiss.   Expresses warning or disapproval.  If a dragon hisses at you, back up! 
  • Roar.   Often used as part of a threat display and/or to get attention.
  • Common tongue.  Can dragons speak?  Yes.  Most dragons understand and many can speak at least one, and sometimes multiple, human languages.
  • Song.  Dragons sing songs for one another and for those closest to them.
  • Trill.  And finally, I can’t not mention the all-purpose trill.  Many creatures have a creature trill and dragons are no different in that regard.  This sound is most commonly used as a call-response with other creatures in the dragon’s lair or nearby.  It is used most especially to seek and give acknowledgement. I asked my in-lair dracologist if she can help me find a recording that I can share with you all.  I’ll let you know what she says.  A dragon’s trill is a delightful and impressive thing to hear!

Here, I don’t want you to leave this page before you get to experience a roar:

7.  Dragon tails are amazing but can be a little clumsy at times, and plenty deadly

“Watch out for the tail!” is a refrain commonly heard around my lairhold and many others.  And for good reason.

Let’s start with the tail itself.  Dragons have long, scaly tails, usually with armor, spikes, or both.  The tail helps the dragon maintain stability in flight and when perched on precarious mountain peaks, the spires of tall castle keeps, taquerias, etc.

A red dragon with a long tail sits on the ground, looking backwards
Watch out for the tail!

And pro tip for my young dragonet readers out there.  You’ve probably noticed that your tail is also extremely useful when curling up for a nap.  If you get the technique right, you can even cover your eyes with your tail if you want things to be a little darker for sleeping.  

And then there’s thwacking.  

If a dragon is impatient, he might shoot a little smoke out of his nostrils or thwack his tail on the ground repeatedly.  Here is an illustration of the phenomenon in a context that will probably also be familiar for non-dragon readers: 

Curiously, sometimes the dragon’s tail seems to twitch and thwack of its own accord.  It’s sort of like this:  the tail operates on its own unless the dragon pays attention to it and controls it. 

If the dragon’s attention moves onto something else, then the tail regains control of tail operations until the dragon reasserts control again.

And, while dragons are graceful creatures, when socializing with one it is not uncommon to be thwacked accidentally by an errant tail.  Watch out for the tail!

Finally, for completeness, the dragon’s tail is also an important part of a threat display.  

A dragon peers through the mist
Note the partially raised tail which, along with wings, head position, and snarl, signal a threat display. Note also the prominent wing claws.

For land-based threat displays a common posture is to crouch your head down low, unfold your wings, and loop your tail over your head, pointing the tip of your tail at your threatenee.  

Perfecting a threat display featuring these steps will enable you to put some of your deadliest and most imposing features on display, striking fear into the heart of your prey and enemies. And sometimes frenemies.  

It’s also great isometric exercise in between cardio days.

Stay tuned for a post on dragon yoga poses!

6.  Eastern dragons in particular have a reputation for doing good and spreading joy.  Shouldn’t all dragons follow their lead? 

As I’ve previously noted, human culture depicts Eastern dragons rather favorably, acknowledging many of their various helpful powers.

A wise and serene red Eastern dragon floats in the clouds
Rejoice! The wise and beneficent Eastern dragon is here to reward the worthy.

Examples of such powers include the ability to bring rain, grant wishes, increase fertility, and otherwise bestow beneficial magic.

Good job, Eastern dragons!

Now listen up, Western dragons–and I am one–because the world is looking at us.  It’s time to overcome our sometimes harsh (and sometimes deservedly harsh) reputations.  Let’s show the world that we, too, are capable and worthy of love.

5.  Do dragons eat fish?  Yes, and also plenty of other things.

Have you ever heard this one?

Q:  What does a dragon eat?

A:  Whatever it wants!

Traditional dragon joke

Hahahah!  It’s funny because it’s true!   And of course, nobody wants to be the thing that the dragon wants to eat.  

Coming soon: Read more about how not to be a thing dragons want to eat!

Dragons are meat-eaters as a rule, although vegetarianism and part-time vegetarianism-by-association are starting to catch on in some corners.  

And dragons will eat just about anything if you season it well and offer it nicely. 

So, yes: Among the great many things dragons eat, dragons do eat fish.  How frequently and with how much enthusiasm depends on individual taste and the availability of food supplies. 

For example, here is one particular dragon you may happen to know, excitedly eating a fish:

Toothless Eating Fish

I have it on good authority that some dragons and dragon-adjacents especially enjoy pickled herring in cream sauce.  And you may have heard that spicy food does not sit well with dragons. That’s definitely true in my case. 

PSA:  My food commentary is about the large, winged apex predators!  If you have a small, non magic lizard, please do not rely on me for dietary or other advice about those creatures!

4.   Some dragons live in the sand.

Not everyone thinks about this.  Not even every dragon thinks about this.  But I think about this every once in a while and now maybe you will, too:  some dragons are sand dragons.

Sand dragons, also known as wyrms or serpentine dragons, have special features adaptive to a burrowing, subterranean lifestyle.  

A burnt orange sand dragon weaves through the desert sand
So cuddly!

For instance, during an evolutionary process spanning multiple millenia, sand dragons eventually shed their wings in favor of very short legs, an extremely efficient scale pattern, robust facial armor, and powerful musculature throughout their bodies to enable them to slither with enormous speed over land or even underground.   

So, next time you visit the desert, be on the lookout for unexpected holes in the ground lined with solid glass, fused from the sand by the heat of a fast-moving sand dragon.

3.   Yes, dragons have egg teeth, just like everyone else. 

A reader sent me a question (you can also send me a question) the other day asking:  Do dragons hatch using an egg tooth?  

Yes, we do. 

Dragons hatch from eggs.  The incubation period varies by kind of dragon, but to speak broadly, generally requires a minimum of several months and very high temperatures.  

A little red dragon emerges from the egg!
Hey everyone! I’m here!

While in the egg, the baby dragon, known as a dragonet, forms an egg tooth on the tip of its upper mandible, attached to the premaxillary bone.  

When the dragonet is ready to hatch, it opens its mouth, extends its egg tooth, utters a sacred dragon spell, and punches open the shell.  

You may be familiar with this phenomenon, as it is common among birds.  (Though I am not sure if birds utter any spells, sacred or otherwise. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me if they did, at least based on some birds I’ve shared the skies with.) 

But as delightful as it is to watch a bird hatch, it’s even more impressive to watch a dragon hatch:  you might get treated to a miniature celebratory burst of fire!

2.   Do dragons have x-ray vision?  Well, dragons have extremely good eyesight. 

Some sources say dragons have x-ray vision.  (Aside: My dad is skeptical, which is funny when you consider that I am a dragon.  You’d think he would know one way or the other.  To be fair, he has pretty bad eyesight himself, and needs strong eyeglasses.  Which, as I plan to cover in a future post, make flying more difficult.)

Does your family know you are a dragon?  Stay tuned for tips on coming out of the lair.

Outliers like my family aside, most dragons have extremely good eyesight and other senses.  When flying through the air, dragons seek prey from great heights.  They also maneuver through narrow lair entrances with surprising agility.  

A black dragon swoops across the scky
A black dragon swoops gracefully through the skies

And dragons flying way up in the sky need to know from far away whether a creature far down on the ground below is friend or foe.  

To accomplish these feats, dragons have developed exceptional eyesight.  And that’s probably where the belief about dragons having x-ray vision got started.

I am reminded of what the great human scientist Isaac Newton Isaac Newton famously said: 

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of dragons.”

The human Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

1. Are dragons magical?  Yes.  (And Puff isn’t the only one)

Dragons are magical.  The dragon most famous for being magical is, of course, Puff of Honah Lee.  Let’s take a moment to honor Puff, a tragic figure.  He loved his human friend so much that his sorrow at the separation overcame him.  Poor, poor Puff.

But although Puff’s sorrow muted his powers, Puff was, and ever shall remain, a magic dragon. 

And there are more like him. 

A dragon and a human friend
Best buddies

Start with Eastern dragons.  As mentioned above, they are noted for their ability to bring rain, grant wishes, increase fertility, and otherwise use their beneficial powers to bestow magical gifts on lucky townsfolk.  They generally do not have wings, and they fly using magic.

Western dragons have magic, too.  Some of their flight is magic-assisted, and they are able to cast a variety of cantrips as well as more sophisticated spells when needed.  

Dragons of Western ancestry also use magic to enhance their strength, agility, healing factor, and more.

Impressive, right!?

An eastern dragon hovers in the air
The dragon is here to help

And there you have it: ten awesome facts about totally awesome “classical” dragons.   Now why not check out some exclusive insights into modern dragons?

In closing, a thought experiment:  If you got to choose, would you rather be a “classical” dragon or a modern dragon, and why?

Thanks everyone and please keep the comments and questions coming.  

I shall remain, your humble winged, taloned, tufted, sometimes magical servant,


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