10 Differences Between Dinosaurs and Dragons (and 5 Similarities)

Dinosaurs, real dinosaurs, roamed the Earth 66 million years ago and are found in fossils all-over the world in different habitats, they were different sizes, with different diets and appearances. We know they existed. however, there is still plenty of confusion on the difference between a Mythical dragon and a dinosaur and in this article we aim to explain these once and for all.

Dinosaurs were real animals that lived 66 million years ago, evidence of this can be discovered fossilized in the earth. Dragons are works of fiction with fire breathing and flight capability, with magical, often elemental, powers. Despite both having scaly skin and laying eggs, dinosaurs are real, dragons are not.

Although confusion between the two is rare, there are plenty of people who think that dinosaurs and dragons are related. Now biologically this is incorrect, as we mentioned above dragons are fictional and dinosaurs are real,

However if they are suggesting the stories of dragons may come from dinosaurs that needs looking at in more detail, and along with the differences between dragons and dinosaurs we highlight below, we will look at if stories of dragons may have in fact come from dinosaurs.

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10 Differences Between Dinosaurs and Dragons (and 5 Similarities)

Comparisons between Dinosaurs and Dragons.

For those in a rush we have present a side by side comparison of dragons and dinosaurs in the table below. it quickly becomes apparent that although there are a few similarities between the two, there are plenty more differences and we explore those in more detail below the table.

Table 1: The Differences between Dinosaurs and Dragons

Features of Dinosaurs
and Dragons
DinosaursDragonsSimilar or Different
Egg Laying AbilityOne of the characteristics than make a dinosaur a dinosaur is its egg laying ability. Dragons are thought to have lain and hatched from eggs. Similar
Scaly SkinDinosaurs did have scales covering their bodies, and some of course had varying amounts of feathersDragons did have scales, and many these are often portrayed as strong and armor like. Similar ( except the feathers!)
Breathe fireNo dinosaur is known to have breathed fire. Though some may have had bad breath !Dragons are famous for breathing fireDifferent.
Ability to FlyVery, VERY few dinosaurs had flight ability, family members of archaeopteryx are the only ones though to have had powered flight. Dragons, like fir ebreathing, are creatures of the air and could fly well. Different – mostly
Found in FossilsOver 1000 species (and counting) of dinosaur have been found in fossils so far. Not one Species of Dragon has been found fossliised or classified as a dragon. (see below) Different
Real or MythicalThe fossilised remains of dinosaurs, and our ability to age these fossils, and their evolution into birds, show that dinosaurs were very real animals. Dragons exist in the pages of stories and from ancients myths. there is no evidence they are real. Different
Intelligence levelAlthough intelligence varied among dinosaurs, none were thought to be even as intelligent as most modern birds. Dragons were thought to be very intelligence creatures, possibly ore so than humans. Different
EnvironmentDinosaurs lived all over the planet, in wetlands, deserts, forests, and jungles. Dragons have a reputation for mountain dwelling ( volcano legends maybe) different
Relationship with HumansDinosaurs and humans are separated by 65-66 million years and have never met outside of movies. Many stories of dragons have interaction with humans, be in training, eating, or terrorizing them. Different
Magic Thankfully, no evidence exists of dinosaurs possessing magical abilities. Dragons are thought to be magical creatures. Different
Reptilian Dinosaurs are classified as a type of reptile. Dragons although reptile in appearance, also can be depicted with mammal ( lion / tiger especially) traits. Different ( somewhat)
DietDinosaurs species had a varied diet. There are carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores in the 1000 plus species discovered so far. To our knowledge Dragons were purely carnivorous creatures. Different.

The Similarities Between Dinosaurs and Dragons

1. Egg Laying Ability

It is one of the classifying traits of a dinosaur ( and other families of animals) that they laid eggs. There is not much of a question about that. There Is still debate about the parental instincts of some dinosaurs, and it seems to have ranged from lay eggs and forget about them to die protecting them ( like oviraptor fossils suggest)

Similarly dragons are said to have laid eggs, but to have been fiercely protective of them. Parental instinct is also a sign of intelligence, and awareness which we will discuss later.

2. Covered with Scaly Skin

Both Dinosaurs and dragons are covered with scaly skin. Although some dinosaurs are also covered with feathers ( velociraptor / microraptor) Also in some dinosaurs this skin had evolved to be incredibly tough like ankylosaurus to prevent predators teeth from cutting into it.

Dinosaurs from stories like Smaug, from The Hobbit ( possibly the most famous of dragons) were covered in tough armour like scales as well. ( as well as jewels embedded in his belly) but there are other dragons from other myths and stories that had hair, like the luck dragon Falcor from The book and movie the Neverending story or the Maned dragons from Chinese mythology.

3. Size of Dragons and Dinosaurs.

Although Dinosaurs did actually come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they are more famous for being some of the largest ever animals to live on earth, Especially the huge long neck dinosaurs like Argentinosaurus, and the massive carnivores like T Rex.

Dragons similar could range in size, btu are more famous for being large flying carnivores with fire for breath or the long wingless dinosaurs from Asia.

4. Dragons and Dinosaurs Are Not Alive Today

Another similarities between dinosaurs and dragons today is that both are not currently alive on the planet. While dragons have never been alive, unless you count lizards we have given the name dragon too like the Komodo Dragon or Bearded Dragon, which we don’t!.

Dinosaurs did once live on the planet, and up until 66 million years ago they made up the dominant species on the planet! Until an asteroid changed all that of the coast of Mexico.

5. Both Dragons and Dinosaurs Had tails

Dinosaurs, to our current knowledge all had tails, they may have been long or short, and certainly had different uses. Whether for balance in running like a gallimimus or as a weapon for defence like stegosaurus, they were always present, unless chomped off by another dinosaurs.

Dragons are also depicted with tails, often long with either a spike or shard tip to also use as a weapon. Much like the Hungarian Horntail from the Harry Potter movies and books.

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10 Differences Between Dinosaurs and Dragons (and 5 Similarities)

The Differences between Dragons and Dinosaurs

If you just read the section above it would appear that dragons and dinosaurs actually had plenty in common. However the list below challenges that, and doe each similarities there are 2 of more differences between dragons and dinosaurs. We will look at the reasons why they are often compared or confused with each other in the section following these differences.

1. Dinosaurs did not breathe Fire!

Dinosaurs, looking at all the evidence and research that has been undertaken on them over the last 200 years, had zero fire breathing abilities. In fact there is not an animal on earth that has ever, to our knowledge, every had this ability. The only animal that can create fire are humans and we certainly don’t shoot it out of our mouths!

The closest animal to being able to make fire from their bodies, and not from their mouths – its from a fair way south of there…, is the bombardier beetle. It can mix together two chemicals (  hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide for the scientists reading) in its butt and shoot it out as like a super powered boiling fart!

This gas can reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 Celsius while this is the same as boiling water it is nowhere near as even the coolest fire temperature which is between 300-600 Celsius

Most dragons can breathe fire it is perhaps their most defining characteristic, along with flight. Stories, especially with the Dragon as the villain will describe it using fire to burn towns and villages down to the ground, and although it probably doesn’t matter to the villagers and townsfolk it produces this fire from its mouth, not from its butt!

Differences Between Dinosaurs and Dragons
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2. Dragons Had The Ability to Fly

Dragons are famous, mainly, for two things Breathing fire and Flying. We mentioned their ability to breathe fire above. They had great flying ability and are often shown and described in myths and stories as graceful and skilled flying animals that can bring death and destruction from above.

They may have wings like in European stories of Dragons, or use Magic (see below) to fly as exampled in Chinese and Asian version of dragons, but one thing remains the same, dragons are very good at flying.

Dinosaurs, conversely, never quite managed proper powered flight in their lengthy time on the planet. There were actually flying dinosaurs but it was much, MUCH more common to see a dinosaur using 2 or four legs to move around rather than 2 wings.

Exception to this were Archaeopteryx and similar dinosaurs from 150 million years ago which had some ability in powered flight, but it was in no way as skilled as dragons are described as flying, and these dinosaurs flying ability could be compared to a modern day pheasant or grouse.

3. We Have Evidence of the Existence of Dinosaurs

Fossils have been recorded and described from over 200 years ago ( the first classified dinosaur is the megalosaurus described in 1824) and since then over 1000 different species of dinosaurs have been found, researched and classified. This number grows at an average of one a week.

There have been zero fossils or hard evidence of dragons ever found or documented. However as a species that once thought the world was flat, it is not that far fetched to think that 500 -5000 years ago fossils were in fact being found and perhaps with the lack of scientific method were instead thought to be mythical animals, Dragons perhaps? ( we look at this near the end of the article. )

4. Extinct or Mythical

Dinosaurs are extinct, they no longer live on earth. There are huge amounts of proof that dinosaurs existed between 250 – 66 million years ago. Whereas dragons are mythical creatures with no physical proof of their existence.

They are written into stories and and passed down as legends in many different cultures but no record other than these fictional stories, or unprovable myths exists.

5. Dragons were Smarter than Dinosaurs

Dragons, depending on the story, TV Show or movie you are reading or watching, are described as having the intelligence of anything from a smart dog, to beyond human intelligence. In the Hobbit for example, Smaug is shown to be telepathic ( can talk using his brain) and to be a very smart animal. In Game of thrones, and Harry Potter they are shown to be less intelligent but still able to be trained or to follow orders.

It is unlikely any species of dinosaur could be trained to any level, the nearest possibility is the Troodon species which are thought to be the smartest of dinosaurs. Most others would be unlikely to be willing to be ridden, or to attack on command, and we would not be first in the queue to try to teach them.

it may be possible some herbivores would be more compliant (we are heavily guessing here) but saddling up a T Rex and going for a ride would only be possible in games like ARK Survival evolved and not in the cretaceous period.

megalania biggest lizard did cavemen live with
10 Differences Between Dinosaurs and Dragons (and 5 Similarities)
Editorial credit: Erik Laan / Shutterstock.com

6. Dragons lived with Humans ( in the legends)

Dinosaurs went extinct 66 million years ( or 63 million years before our ancestors) people modern humans. We have had no contact with them, although we do have contact with animals that were alive at the same time ( alligators, crocodiles, lizards, turtles,) and now only interaction from the dinosaur lineage is with birds, which we eat rather than they eat us.

Dragons, from the stories, are heavily involved with humans. Whether its rescuing princesses from them, stealing jewels and gold they had already stolen, fighting them off from eating livestock or people, or training them ( how to train a dragon) and game of thrones. The similarity in these examples is that all these are works of fiction, and not fact.

7. Dragons Lived in Mountains

Dinosaurs were widespread in the 170 plus million years they were on the planet. There have been fossils found in what were then deserts, forests, wetlands, jungles, tundra and plains. they were everywhere.

Dragons, again from the myths and legends, are much more likely to be found on, or in a Mountain or cave guarding something and waiting for adventurers to come in. there are, more in Asian dragon stories, sea dragons, sky, river and others, but the European dragons almost always stuck to caves and mountains.

Differences Between Dinosaurs and Dragons

8. Dinosaurs Were Reptiles.

Dinosaurs are classified as reptiles ( we have a whole page on why this is here on the site) Although they may have had some differences to reptiles as we know them today ( blood temperature for one) they are still under than umbrella.

Dragons are, well, dragons. Being a mythical animal they are not classified under any biological animal family. They have been described as having reptile like tails and scales but also have been portrayed as lioned headed, and even eagle headed and in the case of Falcor the luck dragon we mentioned above they looked more like a stretched out dog! The advantage with fictional animals is you can make them look however you want.

9. Dragons Ate Meat

Dinosaurs came in many shapes and sizes and just like animal life today had varied diets. They could be plant Eaters ( herbivores), Meat Eaters ( carnivores) or eat both ( omnivores).

Dragons however for the vast majority of stories ate meat. often livestock or people. As dinosaurs were not alive when people where that was never an option for them!

10. Dragons Were Magical Creatures.

Dragons, being fiction, are very often given magical abilities, these can range from telepathy to flight to actual spells like a witch. Chinese dragons are also often suggested to have elemental powers, liek control of water, fire or wind for example.

Dinosaurs had no magical powers, though to fans of dinosaurs they can appear magical! they were huge reptiles that lived 66 million years ago, which is awesome enough without any strange magic powers.

We have a section of Frequently asked question below if you need to know more.

Did People Think Dinosaur Fossils were Dragons?

It is not to much of a reach to think that thousands, or even just hundreds of years ago that fossils were being discovered by people as we moved around or started to build towns and settlements. Not armed with the knowledge we have today it is entirely possible these fossils became the legend of dragons and were passed down throughout cultures.

While it is a question that is deserving of its own article ( we will get there) Ancient or not so ancient humans when discovering these giant fossils a – dinosaurs or even other extinct animals like Megalania – ( can see more here on this 25 feet long monitor lizard!) would be reasonable is assuming these were giant carnivores that were hiding in the trees, mountains or rivers of where they lived.

Discovery of these fossils might also explain why dragons have characteristics of different animals, If a few of these fossils are found then mixing up bones and putting different fossils together to try to make the dinosaur could have created what was later to become the mythical dragon.

what to take on a fossil hunt

What Dinosaur Looks like a Dragon

Well in our mind the prehistoric creature that looks like a dragon is the dimorphodon, a pterosaur with what looks very much like the head of a T Rex. though thankfully much smaller. it had the wings, the tails and the teeth!

However the Dracorex Hogwartsia, which is now thought to be a juvenile Pachycephalosaurus, is commonly thought to be the dinosaur that most resembled a dragon, in everything except size as this was around 7-9 feet long. We have more details on this dinosaur on the site, but it was named in reference, as you probably worked out, to Harry Potter, which had plenty of dragons flying around !

Dracorex , dinosaur

Are There Dragons Today?

Well, we kind of feel we answered this above – there were not ever any dragons, they are fictional. the closest they may have come to existing is when dinosaur fossils were mistaken for dragons and the stories embellished to given then magic, wings and fire breathing!

However, animals are still named “dragon” due to their appearance, rather than any magical abilities we have to stress.

Current example of animals called “Dragon” include the following.

  • Ruby Seadragon. …
  • Blue Dragon Sea Slug. …
  • Pink Dragon Millipede. …
  • Komodo Dragon. …
  • Black Dragonfish. …
  • Flying Dragons.

You can read more about these “real life” dragons on the National geographic Site here.

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In conclusion, dinosaurs and dragons have some similarities. They also have a whole list of differences. Dragons are mythical creatures written in stories, or passed down in legends. They have no physical proof of existence on earth.

Dinosaurs are extinct, ancient creatures that last roamed the earth 66 million years ago There are centuries of research proving dinosaurs lived, there are archeological sites across the globe where their fossilized remains have been found.

So we found a very long way to say… Dragons are 100% mythical where dinosaurs are not.


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