Dragons have long been thought of as creatures of mythology and legends.  We see them in movies and cartoons.  We read about them in stories and legends.  They even appear in artwork with noble knights fighting them and saving the beautiful damsels. 

With all of the stories, legends and paintings of dragons, is it possible that dragons once lived and walked upon the earth with man? 

First we need to be like the Bereans and see if the Bible has anything to say on dragons.

Thou shalt walk upon the lion and asp: the young lion, and the dragon shalt thou tread under feet. Psalm 91:13

The wild beasts shall honor me, the dragons and the ostriches, because I gave water in the desert, and floods in the wilderness to give drink to my people, even to mine elect. Isaiah 43:20

Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel gall of asps. Deuteronomy 32:33

In that day the Lord with his sore and great and mighty sword shall visit Leviathan, that piercing serpent, even Leviathan, that crooked serpent, and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.  Isaiah 27:1

In all 4 of these Bible verses, the use of the word dragon is coupled with other real animals in a way that illustrates that the authors knew of these creatures to be real and living.  Some Bibles translate the word dragon as serpent.  This may be partially due to the fact that the word dragon is also used to refer to Satan also known as the serpent in the Garden of Eden and it may also be translated as serpent because the translators did not believe dragons were real or that they lived at the same time as humans.

Dragon legends can be found from all over the world and from as far back as written history.  Many of the descriptions of dragons also fit those of various dinosaurs.

In the Sumerian story of Gilgamesh dating back to around 3000 B.C., we read about the time that Gilgamesh went into a remote forest to cut down cedar trees.  He encountered a vicious dragon.  He killed the dragon and cut off its head as a trophy. 

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, a book written around 1000 A.D. describes numerous encounters between people and dragons. 

One of England’s early heroes is a knight known as St. George.  According to legend, he slew a dragon that lived in a cave. 

Another story from the tenth century was written by an Irishman who encountered a dragon.  The description of the dragon is very similar to a Stegosaurus.

An Italian doctor and naturalist, Ulysses Aldrovandrus, wrote a scientific book titled Historia Animalium or the History of Animals.  In this book Aldrovandrus describes many animals that he had observed in the wilds.  In one account, he also wrote about an encounter that a peasant had with a small dragon near Bologna, Italy in 1572.  The peasant killed the dragon.  This dragon’s description matches that of a Tanystropheus dinosaur.

China has many dragon legends and artwork.  There are even accounts of dragons that were raised and trained to pull the carriages of Chinese royalty.

The flag of Wales has a dragon on it that looks a great deal like a dinosaur named Baryonyx.  Take a look at the flag next to a drawing of what Baryonyx looked like.

Baryonyx was re-discovered[*] in 1983 by an amateur fossil hunter by the name of William Walker.  Walker was fossil hunting in a clay pit in Sussex, England where he found a large curved claw that measured 12 inches.  In 1986, a couple of paleontologists from the Natural History Museum in London, identified Walker’s fossil as belonging to a previously unknown species of dinosaur.  They named it Baryonyx walkeriBaryonyx meaning “heavy claw” and walkeri after its discoverer.   

Baryonyx measured about 34 feet long and stood 10 to 13 high.  It is estimated that it weighed about 2 tons (4000 pounds).  From the shape and structure of the front and back legs, scientists believe that Baryonyx could have walked on all 4 feet or somewhat upright on 2 feet.

After the discovery of the claw, a team of paleontologists from the Natural History Museum in London spent 3 weeks carefully excavating the fossil.  Some of the bones were in loose in the clay, but the majority of the skeleton was found in hard blocks of iron-impregnated siltstone.  Before the bones were removed, the entire dig site was mapped out in great detail.  Then the rock slabs and loose bones were wrapped and shipped back to the museum where the scientists used tools such as a shot-blaster, power chisel and diamond-bladed saws, to cut and remove the excess rock from around the bones. As the bones were exposed, they were covered with a protective coating of resin to prevent any damage to them.  To remove the rock that was touching the fossil bones, the scientists worked under a microscope, using fine tools.  This was tedious work, but very important to reveal all of the bones without damaging them.

Before the skeleton was assembled, the scientists began to make casts of the bones they did have and models of those there were missing from the skeleton.  The casts of the bones were made by making a silicone rubber mold of the bone.  Then they would use a resin that was the same color as the bones and fiberglass to make an exact replica of the real fossil bone.  These replicas are so precise that scientists use them to study the structure of the bones without putting the real bones in any danger of getting permanently damaged. 

The Baryonyx skeleton was only about 60% complete so they had to assemble the skeleton using 40% fabricated or molded bones.  Since the huge claw was not found attached to the skeleton, the scientists reconstructing the skeleton were unsure if it went on the front or hind feet.  It is generally thought that it must have been carried on the front foot since it would have been awkward for the dinosaur to have wielded it from a hindlimb.  Additionally, the bones from the frontlimbs were unusually think and powerfully built and would have easily wielded such a large claw. 

Another unique feature of Baryonyx is its skull.  The skull is long and narrow and the jaw has a wavy-shaped curve that resembles that of some modern crocodiles.  It has a large number of small pointed teeth, nearly twice as many as most other dinosaurs considered meat-eaters.  The skull also had a shallow nasal crest on the top.

With its unusual jaw and a neck that was not as flexible as most other theropods, and the huge claw, Baryonyx has proved to be somewhat of a mystery.  They believe that Baryonyx was a fish-eating dinosaur due to the large number of sharp pointed teeth, and that it would use its huge claw to hook and snag fish from a river or shallow waters, much like a grizzly bear does.  When paleontologists found fish scales and fish teeth in the region where Baryonyx’s stomach would be, it further supported the idea of it being a fish-eater. 

If you ever get the chance to visit the Natural History Museum in London, England, make sure you stop and see the fossil skeleton of Baryonyx on display there.  One can easily understand how people could embellish the features of a dinosaur like Baryonyx over the years that result in some of the dragon pictures and sculptures that were made years ago.  As you look at it, remember that you may be looking at the skeleton of one of the dragons from English history and legend such as the one that Sir George the Dragon Slayer slew.  It could also be one of the dragons spoken of in the Bible. 

Based on Scripture, fossil evidence and all of the written records and artwork from the past 5000 years, there is a great deal of evidence that says that dragons were real animals and not a myth.  Furthermore, a number of the descriptions of dragons match those of various dinosaurs.

[*] I say re-discovered because dinosaurs were created on the same day as Adam and Eve, were on the Ark with Noah and his family, came off the Ark, and lived for a number of centuries before dying off.  Therefore dinosaurs are actually being re-discovered since they were previously known to man.

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