Dragons are clearly not the stuff of legend. The dragon has been around in some form since antiquity, as Richard Freeman’s excellent book Dragons: More than a Myth shows. Nevertheless, the dragon phenomenon has manifested itself in a number of distinct forms, be they flesh and blood or supernatural in composition. The following study is essentially an extension of Richard Freeman’s brilliant research, and attempts to classify the dragon into several distinct but similar categories. I have also included a brief discussion of the particular categories along with some familiar, or in some cases less familiar, cryptids to illustrate the dragon type in question. The DRACO name is a play on the latin reference to dragons.
These include dragon-like or dragonesque reptilian-looking creatures that superficially resemble dragons but might not be dragons on closer inspection. In Medieval times it could be possible that seemingly known creatures such as the sturgeon, Wells catfish, oarfish or large eels were given monstrous reputations by superstitious people.
These dragons include the larger than life relatives (at 25-30ft) of the infamous Komodo dragon, and includes such characters such as the megalania or megalania-like giant reptiles reported from the Australasian region, including Papua New Guinea (Lake Murray) and Australia (giant lizards seen in and around the Grampian Mountains and Wattagan Mountains of New South Wales, respectively). In addition, the Kumi lizard of New Zealand was feared by the Maori and early settlers for its stealthy arboreal-based attacks on humans and livestock that strayed close to its domain.
Moreover, the Mokele Mbembe of the Lake Tele region of the Congo and surrounding tributaries of the Cameroons may be a large herbivorous dragon rather than a sauropod dinosaur. A point that can be used to lend credence to this idea is the Sirrush of the Ishtar Gates of Babylon. This creature is depicted alongside familiar animals that inhabited the Babylonian region alongside humans. Is it possible that a Mokele Mbembe could have been exported there as a gift to the queen? The Sirrush, if it really existed, does have a more than familiar appearance to a large monitor lizard rather than a sauropod dinosaur.
In Europe too there have been reports of large monitor-lizard-type creatures for centuries. The Lindworms (of which the Tazletwurm is a smaller variety) have been reported, though no recent sightings have emerged from this region; if it did exist it is probably extinct now. There was a spate of sightings in Italy during the early twentieth century of the Goro lizard. Similar in size to the afore-mentioned Australasian dragons, these reptilian oddities were even said to sport fur or hair, an implausible visage for a reptile.
This category includes flying serpentine reptiles, which to a casual observer, may seem like dragons. These have also been seen over the centuries and describe more or less the same kind of animal. Sightings of flying dragons have been reported from Tanzania, Namibia, East Africa, Madagascar, the Arabian Sea and South America, among other locations.
These dragons may possibly explain the lake monster and sea serpent phenomena. In Dragons: More than a Myth Richard Freeman suggested that certain lake monsters and/or sea serpents may constitute a relic population of elongated marine reptile from the late Cretaceous period – 65 million years ago. He suggested either Thallatusuchian crocodiles or mosasaurs (the apex predators of the Cretaceous). I also believe that at least one marine saurian may have survived the extinction 65 million years ago.
Here are a few lesser-known lake monster sightings that lend support to this view. Moreover, there are many reports on file that without doubt describe saurian sea creatures exhibiting features impossible for mammals or fish to emulate.
For instance, in 1934 at Campbell Lake, South Dakota, a farmer saw a giant four-legged dragon-like creature; there were many reports from around the area of animals and livestock disappearing round the lake. The farmer found huge tracks in the mud leading to the lake. Other similar sightings have been reported over the years by credible eyewitnesses.
At Menbu Lake in China during the 1980s there were many reports by terrified locals (as well as visitors to the region soon after) of a large, black dragon-like creature with an elongated neck and a dog's head. Animals had been vanishing near the lake, and many people claimed that they saw the creature snatch them and take them back to the lake. One man who was boating on the lake claimed that one day he was nearly pulled underwater by something large.
This category includes a diverse range of similar dragon-like beings reported from around the world and associated with many religions and cults. This category clearly contains many zoomorphic entities such as the Naga, which seem to bridge the gap with other seemingly paranormal topics. Examples of occult dragons include but are not limited to:
- The Piasa Bird of the Amerindians of the Missouri River, Alton, Illinois,
- Quetzalcoatl, the feathered-serpent deity of the Aztecs,
- The Ninki Nanka of the Gambia,
- The Chinese Elemental Dragons associated with the elements: Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and Metal,
- The Persian Dragons of the Islamic Unseen World of Qaf,
- The Naga: snake-like humanoids that were said to have brought Science and Mathematics to humanity; they are said to be benevolent and kind-hearted towards humans,
- The Rainbow Serpent of Native Australian mythology.