[[quoteright:233:[[Discworld/TheLastHero http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/kidbydragons01.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:233:[[http://www.paulkidby.com/ And these are just the ones dredged out of the local swamp.]]]]

->''"Gronkle, Zippleback, the Skrill... Boneknapper... Whispering Death... Burns its victims, buries its victims, chokes its victims, turns its victims inside-out... Extremely dangerous, extremely dangerous... kill on sight, kill on sight, kill on sight..."''
-->--'''Hiccup''' flips through the Dragon Manual, ''Film/HowToTrainYourDragon''

Nearly every culture has myths about something called a 'dragon', despite the fact none of them can agree on exactly ''what'' dragons are. How big are they? What do they look like? How many heads do they have? Do they breathe [[KillItWithFire fire]]? Or [[KillItWithIce ice]]? Do they fly (and if so, with or without wings)? How many legs do they have? Are they dumb as planks, or superintelligent? Are they low scaly pests, or ultra-rare Uber-serpents [[StrongerWithAge ancient and powerful as the Earth itself]]?

The answers to these questions generally fall within two traditions, "Western" and "Eastern". Even then, in addition to cultural differences, dragons fall into a very wide range of types even in one local mythology.

Eastern dragons come from different traditions and as such aren't technically the same dragon as their Western counterparts; Westerners who encountered stories and images of Chinese ''lóng'' and Japanese ''tatsu'' (better known as ''ryuu'') sprung on the similarities to the European dragon and [[CallASmeerpARabbit couldn't think of anything better to call them]].

Even within these traditions, however, there is much variability. This has increased in modern times, as Western and Eastern authors have blurred the traditions by mixing and matching attributes from both (benign Western dragons are quite popular these days, for instance). Some authors invent completely new attributes to [[OurMonstersAreDifferent set their dragons apart]] from the crowd [[MythologyUpgrade or just make them]] [[RuleOfCool cooler.]]

[[center:A quick rundown of the Western and Eastern schools of dragon is as follows:]]
||align=left border=1 width=100%
||'''Western Dragons'''||'''Eastern Dragons'''||
||Are scaly and reptilian (outwardly, anyway), and usually serpentine.||Are MixAndMatchCritters, though the exact components vary (generally, they can best be described as "lion-snakes")||
||Have around the same size range as houses, at least when fully grown.||Can be as small as a locust or large enough to fill the space between heaven and earth.||
||Are usually [[KillAllHumans antagonistic towards humans]]. More intelligent versions are often manipulative, or, at the very least, love to screw with people; less intelligent versions are mindless beasts and act the part.||Are benign, [[BewareTheNiceOnes but capable of destructive force when provoked]].||
||[[BreathWeapon Breathe fire]] -- a staple that's been around since ''Literature/{{Beowulf}}''. Subspecies may appear with different types of elemental breath.||Breathe ''sheng chi'', the essence of life. Some works equate this to rain, with the appearance of a dragon accompanied by rain.||
||Kidnap [[DamselInDistress damsels]] ([[DragonsPreferPrincesses preferably princesses]]) and/or [[DragonHoard hoard treasure]]. Often greedy and/or insatiable, especially in the latter regard.||Instead of hoarding magical treasures, they ''make'' them. The other thing they hoard is wisdom, which they rarely share with mortals.||
||Have a variable number of heads and legs, though one head and six limbs (four legs, and a pair of wings) and a tail is the most common configuration. More divergent types (no legs, multiple heads, etc) seem more likely to be brainless bestial monsters than the "basic" form.||Most often have one head and four legs. The [[StealthPun long]]er a dragon, the more pairs of legs he has.||
||Either [[GiantFlyer fly with bat-like wings]], or they lack wings and don't fly.||Can fly via magic even if they lack wings, which they usually do. When they do have wings, they are often birdlike.||
||Have varying levels of intelligence. Prior to [[TropeMakers Tolkien]], they rarely spoke. After Tolkien, they are often portrayed as at least as clever as humans, and frequently [[MagnificentBastard (much) more]].||Not only are they intelligent, they are usually TheObiWan.||
||Their scales (and armor made thereof) may be impervious to magic. In addition, they often have some form of innate magic if intelligent. Sometimes they may even [[HumanityEnsues disguise themselves as humanoid beings of much smaller size]] and [[HalfHumanHybrid interbreeding with said species, creating half-dragons]]. ||In addition to assuming human form, they also often have the ability to [[VoluntaryShapeshifting transform into other animals]].||
||Live for a very long time, if not actually immortal, but typically may be killed.||May be an out and out PhysicalGod.||
||Are [[FlyingBrick incredibly strong]] and [[HealingFactor hard to kill]] but usually have one or two [[AchillesHeel fatal weak spots]]. This is traditionally under the chin, but post-Tolkien, it's more likely to be on the chest or belly, and [[GoForTheEye the eye]] is popular too.||In relation to the above, pretty much invincible. Not that people actively seek them out to kill them anyway.||
||Sometimes have poisonous blood, breath, saliva, or some such. Often, [[BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu this will kill you after you kill it]]. If their blood isn't poisonous, it grants special powers such as invincibility.||Since they live and breathe essence of life itself, they are the exact opposite of being poisonous.||
||The original name(Drakon) meant Serpent/Snake.||The original name(Long) is used to describe Saltwater Crocodiles(smaller crocs are named something else) explaining their ties to water.||

Western dragons' physical variability has created a number of named sub-species. The most popular variation recently has been the '''wyvern''', a dragon with a somewhat birdlike configuration: the forelimbs are bat-like wings and the rear limbs are their two legs. In some settings, ''all'' dragons are wyverns. In other settings, wyverns are not considered "true" dragons at all, but a related, usually less powerful and intelligent species. Wyverns, when they are treated separately from dragons, often lack a breath weapon, but they often have [[BewareMyStingerTail a poisonous stinger in their tails]] and viper-like fangs. The term "wyvern" is less likely to be used if the creature in question walks quadrupedally (using the wings as forelimbs, like a bat or a pterodactyl), such as Smaug from ''Film/TheHobbit'', Vermithrax Pejorative from ''Film/{{Dragonslayer}}'' and the dragons from ''Film/ReignOfFire''.

Rivaling the wyvern is the '''Hydra''' from GreekMythology, which is often depicted as a flightless dragon-like water or swamp beast with one or more heads; [[HydraProblem for each head you cut off, two rapidly grow to replace it.]] If they have a BreathWeapon, it's often a different one for each head. The original sprayed poison and had poison for blood.

Very old (Greek and Roman, and some medieval) dragons are presented as more serpentine than the more recent ones -- if winged, the wings are usually their only limbs; and some were totally limbless, just ''very enormous'' serpents. This type of dragon may be referred to as a '''wyrm''' (pronounced just like "worm").

Other [[MixAndMatchCritters reptilian or avian mixed]] mythological creatures, particularly the '''Basilisk''', '''Cockatrice''' and '''Quetzalcoatl''', may be considered types of dragons or similar creatures in some works.

A more recent trend has been to try and make dragons that could actually exist in the real world. Naturally, these tend to either use ScienceFiction concepts or be very different from traditional dragons. Also common in later works is a tendency for dragons to [[BondCreatures form a life-long]] bond with any human or humanoid who is [[ABoyAndHisX present when they hatch]] (probably inspired by the 'imprinting' which occurs with most birds in RealLife, which is why birds raised in captivity with the intent to be released must be cared for by puppets). This gives writers a way to give dragons unique psychology without having to come up with unique motivations for them. It also explains why humanoid {{Dragon Rider}}s can boss them around. Yet another trend appearing here and there is for dragons to be depicted as looking similar to ''dinosaurs'', usually the bigger theropods (like ''{{Tyrannosaurus rex}}''), but occasionally sauropods (such as ''Brachiosaurus'') as well. [[DinosaursAreDragons The two are often outright confused with each other]]. Another common trend in modern fantasy is the [[ShoulderSizedDragon miniature pet dragon]], suitable for [[ParrotPetPosition perching on one's shoulder]].

Compare GiantFlyer, and other DragonTropes. Supertrope of DraconicHumanoid, or humanoid dragons and dragonkin.

Not to be confused with TheDragon, a position only sometimes held by a real dragon (while dragons themselves can just as easily be {{Big Bad}}s).

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[[TheStinger The man-eating ones have said they mostly prefer their humans with barbecue sauce.]]
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