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"Stegosaurus was, no doubt, the stupidest member of a very moronic family," he wrote. Of T. rex, Knight remarked, "He was just an enormous eating machine with an insatiable appetite and with practically no brains."
Charles R. Knight on Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex, as reported by Strange Science

Dinosaurs: slow, moronic, only existing to eat...and destined to go extinct as they couldn't cope with their changing world, due to their brains being no bigger than a walnut. Slow, lumbering brutes with poor reflexes and even poorer movement... and heaven help you if you run into a carnivore, because they've only got one thing on their mind: eat.

This view of dinosaurs was prevalent from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, to the point where the word "dinosaur" came to mean "obsolete failure." Stegosaurus and sauropods, such as Brontosaurus, are particularly associated with this stereotype, partly due to a long-standing myth that these dinosaurs were so stupid that they needed a second brain in the rear to function at all. Carnivorous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex are likely to be mindlessly violent, attacking in dangerous situations where no real animal would take the risk or when the dinosaur recently fed and has no need to hunt. Herbivores will sometimes be unrealistically passive, running away at best and making no serious attempt to defend themselves from predators, let alone effectively.

However, in settings where the dinosaurs are sapient, it's likely that the carnivores will be on the receiving end of the trope because Predators Are Mean. Sympathetic herbivores may also fall under Dumb Is Good. The biggest exception to this rule is usually dromaeosaurs, who are almost always portrayed as neither dumb nor good — the Raptor Attack trope originally came about in an attempt to avert this one. Pterosaurs are also less likely to be victims of this trope, and have their own set of stereotypes.

This trope is generally associated with older works and is becoming increasingly rare after the Dinosaur Renaissance revamped the popular image of dinosaurs, spawning the likes of Jurassic Park, but it does still occasionally pop up every now and again. These days, however, it's far more likely to be Played for Laughs as opposed to serious fiction.

Compare Prehistoric Monster, which it often overlaps with, and Frazetta Man, in which prehistoric humans are demonized and their intelligence downplayed. Doofy Dodo applies to stupid and/or comedic dodos (ironically another kind of dinosaur, as far as science is concerned). Dogs Are Dumb and Moose Are Idiots are similar tropes applying to domestic dogs and moose respectively. A subtrope of Artistic License – Paleontology and Historical Downgrade.note 

Sub-Trope of Dumb Muscle.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Seton Academy: Join the Pack!: Inverted. Sapient dinosaurs and pterosaurs are the teachers at Seton Academy and their students are Cenozoic animals including humans.

  • Up until the 1960s, it was the general scientific consensus that dinosaurs were slow, stupid, and evolutionary failures, and scientific artwork of them tended to reflect that. The most famous and influential contributor to paleoart from this period was Charles R. Knight, who provides the page quote.

  • A German joke says that "Die Dinosaurier sind ausgestorben, weil sie sich falsch entwickelt haben — zuviel Panzer, zuwenig Hirn." ("The dinosaurs died out because they evolved into the wrong direction — too much armor, too little brain.")
  • Frequently comes up in "How to Become Extinct'', a comic routine by Will Cuppy. It describes dinosaurs as having become extinct due to the Age of Reptiles having gone on long enough and being a mistake anyway, along with an unflattering description of plesiosaurs as poorly-made and dim-witted.

    Comic Books 
  • Mindlessly aggressive and stupid dinosaurs were stock villains in the Golden and Silver Ages of comics — revived or surviving dinosaurs have fought the Human Torch, The Flash, the early Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel and Spider-Man, among others. Both the DC and Marvel universes have surviving dinosaur populations which are neither friendly nor intelligent.
  • 2000 AD:
    • In Flesh, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals imported from the Mesozoic are used as a food source in the future. They are portrayed as instinct-driven and unintelligent, but are still dangerous in the case of predatory species, especially legendary individuals like Big Hungry the giant nothosaur and Old One Eye, a 120 year old female T. rex. The dinosaurs eventually attack and utterly slaughter the invading humans.
    • The main characters of XTNCT are inversions, being genetically modified dinosaurs who were created to fight on behalf of their human owner. The dinosaurs revolt and turn against humanity, planning to wipe it out. Given that in the future Humans Are Bastards who have killed off most non-modified animal life and treat the modified animals like slaves, they're more-or-less the good guys.
  • Atomic Robo: Played with by Dr. Dinosaur. On one hand, he wields advanced technology and is one of the few villains who regularly gives the title character a run for his money. On the other hand, he's also stark raving bonkers.
  • In The Cartoon History of the Universe, the dinosaurs are portrayed as dim-witted bullies toward the mammals, deliberately suppressing and stepping on them.
  • Dinosty: The sapient dinosaurs are selfish, thoughtless, and cruel tyrants who rule over human beings, hunting them for food and for fun.
  • Jeff Hund: Parodied when a gigantic pyramid-shaped craft appears in orbit over the moon. When the titular protagonist boards the craft, he finds that it's crewed by giants wearing armor with car motifs, who reveal themselves to be sentient dinosaurs and very intelligent (if a bit too fond of boozing). They're descended from a group of Earth-born dinosaurs who predicted their species' impending extinction by meteor and built the pyramid as an escape vessel (according to their researchers, a perfectly built pyramid of sufficient mass will reverse gravity and essentially fall into the sky). Now they're returning as they usually do every few million years because Earth is the only place where they can hatch their eggs. When Jeff protests that dinosaurs could never have been that smart due to their walnut-sized brains (as proven by their small craniums), the dinosaurs laugh at him and says that "only a complete idiot would keep something as important as the brain in their heads!" They keep theirs safely tucked away in their chests under the rib cage, thank you very much.
  • In Lenny Henry and the Quest for the Big Woof, God says He created dinosaurs and couldn't remember why, so He dropped an Ice Age on them. He regards the fact none of them thought of inventing skiing as evidence they were all morons.
  • Spider-Man: Stegron the Dinosaur Man, a lesser-known member of Spider-Man's Rogues Gallery and a Mad Scientist who was transformed into an anthropomorphic Stegosaurus and has the ability to control dinosaurs. While he isn't stupid per se, he isn't exactly considered a top-tier threat. Spider-Man considers him to be little more than a low-grade knockoff of the Lizard, in fact. He's generally only seen just often enough for Marvel to keep the copyright on him from expiring.
  • Supergirl: In ''Action Comics #259: "The Cave-Girl of Steel" (1959), Supergirl travels to the prehistoric age and finds dinosaurs, depicted as sluggish and slow-witted creatures which are easily fooled and scared away. A Brontosaur even hurts itself as trying to shake Supergirl off his neck.
  • The Tor comics had similar back-up comics with unflattering descriptions of the dinosaurs.
  • This trope comes up in Young Earth, an educational back-up comic to Turok: Son of Stone. The dinosaurs in the actual comic are of the standard violent-monster variety.
  • The War That Time Forgot: The dinosaurs are generally stupid and extremely violent, attacking the human soldiers stranded on their island indiscriminately. The one aversion is Dino, a giant pterosaur who imprints on the protagonists and sides with them.
  • In "We Were Trapped in the Twilight World", a 1961 Jack Kirby story set in Hollywood Prehistory, dinosaurs are depicted as lacking a sense of memory because of their stupidity, allowing the protagonists to escape a T. rex.
  • Xenozoic Tales: The reborn dinosaurs are more nuanced than most prehistoric monsters — they're part of the setting, the heroes work to protect them from human and nonhuman threats, and at least one (Hermes the Allosaurus) is smart enough to be trained and work with people.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Dinosaur, the herbivores are fully sapient while the carnivores seem more instinct-driven and show no capacity for speech. However, even the herbivores are portrayed with a social Darwinist mentality which only the mammal-raised hero lacks. However, the Carnotaurus and Velociraptor show relatively realistic predatory behavior, only attacking stragglers and hunting solely for food rather than malice. After one of the carnotaurs is killed, the survivor seems to be Driven to Madness. Also like real predators, it backs down when it's confronted by the entire herd and targets a vulnerable, isolated individual - Kron - instead.
  • Ice Age: The various dinosaurs and Mesozoic reptiles generally aren't very bright compared to the mammal protagonists, and most of them can't talk.
    • Cretaceous and Maelstrom in The Meltdown, identified as an ichthyosaur and pliosaur respectively, are more brutish and hungry forces of nature than characters.
    • Rudy the Baryonyx and the mother T. rex in Dawn of the Dinosaurs are portrayed as a fair bit smarter than most — the T. rex eventually befriends the main characters while Rudy is smart enough to hold a mutual grudge with Buck. The Guanlong and pterosaurs, however, can be seen as dumb, mostly from their predatory instincts overriding their awareness of something unpleasant or fault happening. For instance, a pterosaur in the pack that chases Buck, Crash and Eddie on their pterodactyl later defeats himself by flying right up to the mammals in an otherwise dumb decision due to his own instincts. Ironically, the Troodon (commonly viewed as intelligent) are depicted as total screwballs with googly eyes.
    • Dromaeosaurids, particularly the three flying raptors from Collision Course (believed to be Dakotaraptors by fans and The Other Wiki, although real Dakotaraptor couldn't fly) appear to be the only non-avian dinosaurs who are sapient and capable of speech. Even they, with the possible exception of Roger, aren't too bright, genuinely believing that they can avoid an impending mass extinction through flight and deliberately trying to sabotage the main characters' efforts to stop it. They do, however, eventually realize that they won't survive either and pull a Heel–Face Turn.
    • In The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, Orson the Protoceratops is an Evil Genius who openly mocks this trope when Crash and Eddie say that dinosaurs "just grunt and roar like nincompoops". Orson's henchmen are identified as raptors, but are more lizardlike, can't speak like Gavin and his family, and seem rather stupid, only obeying Orson because he mesmerized them with fire.
  • In The Land Before Time, the herbivore protagonists are sapient and can talk, but the villainous "Sharptooth" can't. Even Spike can talk, but (usually) chooses not to, and other Stegosaurus in the setting are intelligent. Sequels portray the situation as less Sharpteeth being stupid and more that they have a separate language from the herbivores, with the sympathetic Sharptooth Chomper as bilingual. As depicted in the film's novelization, the Sharptooth in the original film was intelligent and a particularly sadistic one who killed for fun more than food. The villainous Struthiomimus pair in the second film can and do talk to the protagonists, and other bilingual predatory characters, like Ichy and Dil in the fourth movie, likely can't be bothered to have conversations with their prey. This trope gets referenced in the first movie when Cera insults Littlefoot by saying that "I hear long necks have very small brains."
  • Meet the Robinsons: Tiny the T. rex, although under mind control at the time, is at least smart enough to ask Bowler Hat Guy if he thought his plan through. He's also perfectly willing to be civil once the hat mind-controlling him is removed.
  • In We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, the pre-anthropomorphized dinosaurs, Rex in particular, are portrayed as stupid and mindlessly violent. Even Elsa and Dweeb, a Pteranodon and Parasaurolophus respectively, which wouldn't be much threatening in real life. They are later returned to this state by the film's Big Bad. How intelligent they are when evolved is up to debate, as they all behave like extremely innocent three-year old kids. Granted, Rex and Elsa are a tad more eloquent than Dweeb and Woog.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms: The Rhedosaurus is another mindlessly violent city-destroying monster. However, the Ray Bradbury short story it was adapted from averted the trope — the dinosaur is intelligent enough to socialize and avoid contact with humans.
  • The Crater Lake Monster features an amphibious plesiosaur who crawls onto land to hunt humans, continuing to attack even when seriously hurt and facing severe resistance.
  • Dinosaurus!: While the T. rex is a violent monster who attacks indiscriminately, the Brontosaurus is more good-natured and trainable by the heroes but also dim.
  • The Giant Behemoth: The Behemoth in particular is very sick and wants to reach shallow water, but makes no effort to avoid populated areas or encounters with humans when doing so, even when it is attacked.
  • While the trope is mostly averted in the Jurassic Park film series, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom plays this trope straight by showing multiple carnivores (Baryonyx, Allosaurus, Carnotaurus, and T. rex, specifically) hunting in the middle of a volcanic eruption, when they realistically should be panicking and trying to escape. Though in this case, it would probably be justified by them being desperately hungry.
  • In King Kong (1933), the dinosaurs are stupid and violent, attacking humans for little reason. This includes the herbivores. This was taken to an extreme in Peter Jackson's remake. A huge herd of brontosaurs panic and go on an Animal Stampede due to the approach of a pack of Venatosaurs (dromaeosaur descendants), clumsily running into canyon walls, falling off of cliffs, tripping and tumbling over each other, and in general harming themselves far more than the predators they're running from ever manage to (To be fair, this sometimes happens with modern stampeding animals). Not to be out-dumbed, the predatory dinosaurs all single-mindedly try to eat every other living thing in sight. A young Vastatosaurus rex goes after Ann even though it's already carrying half of the remains of a freshly-killed Foetodon (a large, scavenging land crocodile) in its mouth. This was part of the film's more artistic side: the dinosaurs are stupid because that's what they were perceived as in 1933. (This is also why none of the dinosaurs have feathers and why the Tyrannosaurus-like vastatosaurs have three fingers instead of two.)
  • Land of the Lost: Parodied. When a T. rex attacks the protagonists, but they outwit it by crossing a log bridge, Marshall notes as it walks away that it only has a brain the size of a walnut. The T. rex takes it as a personal insult and attacks the protagonists again. Later it drops a gigantic walnut in front of the cave where the protagonists are hiding, just to prove a point.
  • In The Last Dinosaur, the title character, a T. rex, is of the "mindless eating machine" variety, consistently attacking humans as opposed to its natural prey in the Lost World and occasionally targeting inanimate objects.
  • The Lost World: The dinosaurs follow standard movie dinosaur behavior in constantly attacking humans and other dinosaurs for no reason. Special mention goes to the Brontosaurus, who rampages across London despite being an herbivore. Granted, it was most likely rampaging out of panic from suddenly ending up in an unfamiliar environment, which is helped by the fact it was fairly calm when left alone in its natural habitat. On the other hand, the dinosaurs are quite lively and quick animals. There is also a sympathetic moment for a mother Triceratops looking after its young; this is a very early example that predates fossil evidence of parental care in dinosaurs.
  • Night at the Museum: While Rexie, the animated dinosaur skeleton, is one of the more animalistic exhibits in the movie, its behavior is more like a dog's and it is ultimately both nonthreatening and trainable. A Triceratops skeleton named Trixie is introduced in the third movie. While she's more aggressive than Rexie, Lancelot is ultimately able to train her.
  • One Million Years B.C.: The dinosaurs constantly fight the native cavepeople and one another in situations where normal animals would back off.
  • In Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, the first line of Hunter the Hungry's song "Hunter The Hungry Is Gonna Eat" alludes to this.
    "Movin' through the forrest
    Like a retarded tyrannosaurus."
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993): The evolved, sapient dinosaur-people are generally portrayed as more violent, crude, and stupid than their human counterparts, and their world is a dystopian hellhole.
  • The Valley of Gwangi: Gwangi the ''Allosaurus' is of the marauding-monster variety, leaving an elephant he kills uneaten before targeting humans. To be fair though, he was largely rampaging at that point in a way that a confused animal removed from the environment he is most familiar with would act. And the fact that he left the elephant he killed uneaten could easily be explained by him either just not being hungry and trying to get away from the creature or being confused by the sight of prey movement still unfolding around him immediately after he's killed the elephant similarly to how modern day predatory animals have at times behaved in similar situations.



  • Edgar Rice Burroughs: The various dinosaurs in The Land That Time Forgot, Pellucidar, and Tarzan novels by are feral and unintelligent. The telepathic and highly intelligent Mahars, descended from pterosaurs, are an aversion, although they suffer from a strong case of Blue-and-Orange Morality — they legitimately see nothing wrong with hypnotizing and enslaving other species, which they don't see as sentient. This is because they are completely deaf and can only communicate through their own telepathy.
  • Dick King-Smith:
    • In Dinosaur Trouble the plant-eating dinosaurs, with the exception of the Apatosaurus protagonist, are portrayed as dim but well-meaning and hide rather than defend themselves directly. The Apatosaurus follow the outdated swamp-dwelling and weed-eating model. The family of pterosaurs who live with them come off as considerably more intelligent, though both dinosaurs and pterosaurs suffer from Fantastic Racism. Meanwhile, the T. rex villain, Hack the Ripper, is a bad-tempered glutton who only thinks about food and is easily tricked.
    • Invoked in Dinosaur School. When he's teased for his small brain, Basil Brontosaurus is reassured by his parents that he's especially intelligent because he has two brains instead of one. He becomes arrogant — which backfires when he tries to bully a young T. rex. It's suggested that the parent rex who appears is trying to teach Basil a lesson rather than seriously trying to attack him. This is a relatively late appearance of the "sauropods had two brains" myth, which was disproven in the Dinosaur Renaissance.

Individual works:

  • In Astrosaurs, the dinosaurs are intelligent enough to build spaceships and leave Earth before the meteorite hits. However, the carnivores are usually portrayed as violence-prone, evil, and stupid while the herbivores are intelligent and generally friendly. Ironically, the hero of the series is a Stegosaurus, a common victim of this stereotype.
  • In the Alternate History story Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo, the dinosaurs are dim and vicious but are also able to be domesticated and used as weapons.
  • Both the original novel and film adaptation of Carnosaur portray carnivorous dinosaurs as overly vicious and bold, going out of their way to kill humans and attack public spaces with no provocation. While they were created by a Mad Scientist to do just this, there's no evidence that he tampered with the DNA to make them more violent. To be fair, the novel does better on this front than the films do, and is an effort to mesh a monstrous portrayal of dinosaurs with Renaissance-era information — the dinosaurs are agile, warm-blooded, and smart enough to be threatening. The film version, on the other hand, portrays the dinosaurs as straight-up mindless monsters.
  • In Louise Lawrence's post-apocalyptic young adult novel Children of the Dust, the inhabitants of a government bunker are compared to dinosaurs because they are making no attempt to adapt to the changed conditions following the nuclear attack, instead focusing all their efforts on restoring Britain to how it used to be. A generation later, the bunker is running out of resources, forcing the people who live there to seek help from the now largely mutated outsiders.
  • In Danger in Dinosaur Valley, a Diplodocus is smart enough to learn baseball from watching human time travelers. He then uses this knowledge to help his family fight off a villainous T. rex. On the other hand, the T. rex itself is an eating machine who shows no intelligence or stealth in hunting.
  • Isaac Asimov: "Day Of The Hunters" and "Big Game" — an intelligent race of dinosaurs who developed guns killed off the rest and eventually each other for sport. The dinosaurs' self-destructive ways are explicitly compared to humans'.
  • Dazzle the Dinosaur is of the herbivores as sapient, carnivores as non-sapient variety. The herbivores speak and are helpful, but the Deinonychus, T. rex, and "Dragonsaurus" never demonstrate signs of intelligence or the ability to be reasoned with.
  • In The Death Collector, the Big Bad creates and trains a zombie cyborg dinosaur to act as his Dragon. He specifically chose dinosaurs to experiment with because of their lack of intelligence and brute strength compared to humans — while the one human subjected to the same procedure eventually regains his sense of self and rebels, the dinosaur shows no capacity for this and must be destroyed.
  • In "The Dechronization of Sam McGruder", the title character, a time traveler, observes that dinosaurs do not have memories and carnivores can be avoided simply by hiding. This is a relatively late example in serious fiction, written in 1970 and published in 1996.
  • Detective Dinosaur of the series of the same name is a Clueless Detective, and Da Chief, a T. rex, isn't much better. His pterosaur partner, however, is a Hypercompetent Sidekick.
  • Inverted in "Dinosaur on a Bicycle", where the protagonist is a sapient dinosaur who initially thinks mammals are the stupid ones, since in his universe they never achieved full self-awareness.
  • Dinosaur Planet: The quasi-alien dinosaurs fit the stupid, swamp-dwelling model of dinosaurs.
  • In "A Gun for Dinosaur" by L. Sprague de Camp, the dinosaurs' stupidity makes hunting them difficult due to the small size of their skulls. Because they have no memory, it's easy to escape their attention by hiding — they'll simply forget about you. In "The Cayeuse", another de Camp story, a Parasaurolophus mistakes a car's exhaust for a mating scent...and tries to mate with the car. (In real life, it's believed that Parasaurolophus used mating calls as opposed to scents.)
  • An Invoked Trope in Homchen by Kurd Laßwitz, where the birdlike antagonists encourage the dinosaurs to evolve spinal brains instead of their heads, to keep them as obedient Dumb Muscle. When one dinosaur and one mammal show signs of becoming too smart, they plan to put the dinosaur at the head of an army that will wipe out the mammals and then see to it that he comes to a martyr's death.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth provides a very early pre-dinosaur example with an oversized and overly violent Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus fighting each other to the death. Though it's now believed that these species would not have been particularly aggressive towards each other or interested in fighting, in Jules Verne's time their depictions would have been considered accurate.
  • Like the film above, Jurassic Park averts the trope with comparatively realistic dinosaur behavior and, in particular, the dangerously intelligent Velociraptors.
  • In Kong: King of Skull Island, most of the dinosaurs are like this with the exception of the Slashers, Velociraptor descendants. Slasher packs are led by Deathrunners, an even bigger and smarter variant, and their enormous ruler/god Gaw. Gaw and the Deathrunners are deadly rivals of the native humans of Skull Island and the Kongs, which they successfully almost drove to extinction.
  • The Lost World (1912): The assorted prehistoric animals come off this way, including the pterodactyls, Iguanodon, and Megalosaurus — they are portrayed as backwards, grotesque, and inferior creatures who need to be subjugated for progress. The pterodactyl is utterly incapable of surviving in the modern world when it escapes capture, and a Megalosaurus attacks the protagonists even after it has recently fed on an Iguanodon. The Iguanodon themselves are harmless and helpless creatures who put up no defense against the megalosaurs or human interlopers, and the pterodactyls receive an unflattering portrayal as drab, ugly, and disgusting monsters. Since the book was one of the first appearances of dinosaurs as characters in popular fiction, it was the Trope Codifier for many pre-Renaissance portrayals. For example, because the dinosaurs are so stupid and slow, they die slowly and can take a lot of damage in the meantime.
  • The "saurs" in "The Measure of All Things", "Bronte's Egg", and "In Tibor's Cardboard Castle" are bio-engineered dinosaurs created and sold as living toys for children. They fell out of fashion as their human owners grew up, most released into the wild died, and the surviving ones live in a home for genetically engineered pets. As it turns out, the saurs are both highly intelligent (one even writing a novel) and painfully aware that they were abandoned. Their problems with surviving in the wild come less from stupidity and more from problems that would naturally happen to tame animals raised by people and not used to danger, like death from exposure or being killed by wild animals.
  • The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution was made during a transitionary period between the view that dinosaurs were moronic, evolutionary failures, and the dinosaur renaissance, and it shows. Nothing remotely as intelligent as modern day apes, corvids, elephants, or parrots appears, and the closing afterword poo-poos the idea that dinosaurs could ever evolve beyond being savage, instinct-driven beasts. The large predators in particular are depicted as being slow, unintelligent scavengers, such as the tyrannosaur-descended "gourmand". The gourmand has no arms at all and is too slow and heavy to pursue prey, instead scooping carcasses off the ground and relying on armor to defend itself from predatory dinosaurs.
  • Raptor Red averts the trope, portraying the dinosaurs' intelligence as realistically as could be allowed given information available at the time, and all of them are perfectly functional in their habitat. The book was written by one of the paleontologists behind the Dinosaur Renaissance.
  • A Sound of Thunder: The T. rex is portrayed as a more-or-less mindless monster who attacks the time travelers even when badly wounded. It's described as monstrous and devoid of all emotion, but also as a majestic awe-provoking wonder.
  • Starring T. Rex!: This trope is discussed extensively along with Prehistoric Monster in an analysis of dinosaurs in film and popular culture.
  • Tim, Defender of the Earth: Tim, the title character, is a genetically altered Tyrannosaurus of human intelligence. His childlike mentality is not because he's stupid but because he's only thirteen, grew up in an underground lab, and is fairly new to the whole "Defender of the Earth" thing.
  • In The Trouble With Tyrannosaurus Rex, the herbivores are friendly and sapient while the T. rex is a stupid, brutish bully.
  • Tyrannosaur Canyon: Zig-zagged. Flashbacks to the titular T. rex describe her as highly intelligent, and yet, a being of pure instinct; she's incapable of a memory longer than a day — even mating and raising her kids are autonomous, quickly forgotten in search of a meal.
  • In Tyrannosaurus Drip, the Parasaurolophus, including the title character, are intelligent but the T. rexes are stupid bullies.
  • In We're Back! (the original children's book which inspired the above film), the trope is played straight by the dinosaurs before they're evolved, but they are somewhat more mature than their movie counterparts afterward once they adapt to a modern setting. Rex in particular even learns how to read and write in the sequels.
  • The dinosaurs in Poul Anderson's "Wildcat" are so stupid that they are incredibly difficult to kill, staying active enough to fight even after grave injuries. The carnivores also do not recognize carrion as food, something demonstrably false in the fossil record.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in Between the Lions, in which Heath the Thesaurus is one of the smartest characters on the show.
  • In Dinosaurs, the dinosaurs are portrayed as stupid but mostly likable and well-meaning. On the other hand, they are responsible for their own extinction. Ironically, one of the characters in the show who averts this trope is a Brontosaurus, a common victim of this stereotype.
  • Doctor Who: Discussed in "Earthshock" in a scene featuring all the then current TARDIS crew except Adric, whose absence would have fateful consequences later in the story:
    Nyssa: (to Tegan) Are they [dinosaurs] your ancestors?
    Tegan: I hope not.
    Doctor: You should be proud if they were.
    Tegan: Thank you very much. Most of them had a brain the size of pea.
  • In Land of the Lost (1974), most of the dinosaurs that the Marshalls meet aren't particularly smart, and fewer are particularly friendly.
  • The Lost World (2001): Discussed and deconstructed. In an early scene, Prof. Summerlee gives a lecture explaining that dinosaurs went extinct because they were too slow and clumsy to compete with mammals, which was the scientific consensus when the series is set - the meteorite impact theory had not yet been developed. However, when the bold explorers finally make it to the Plateau, they peacefully interact with a few of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, finding them well-adapted to their environment and fairly intelligent, and, in an Adaptational Alternate Ending, the explorers ultimately decide to protect the Plateau by keeping its location a secret from the rest of the world. There's a rather pointed defiance of this trope in the handling of a Pteranodon chick, whose egg the party bring back to London with them as proof of what they've found, but the hatchling escapes; in the book, the narrator assures us that, being such a clumsy, badly-evolved flier, the creature won't make it as far as Dover, but the miniseries shows us that it does indeed manage to fly all the way back to the Plateau (sure enough, it's now believed that most pterosaurs were good flyers and Pteranodon in particular was capable of long-distance travel over sea, like the modern albatross).
  • My World… and Welcome to It: In "The Human Being and the Dinosaur," John tells Lydia a fable about the two title characters. In it, he characterizes the dinosaur as being stupid and doomed to extinction, while the human is smart and destined to rule the world for eternity.
  • In Preacher (2016), God destroyed the dinosaurs because he saw one of them eating their own feces.
  • Zigzagged on Prehistoric Planet. A lot of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles featured are depicted as not very bright, but still fully capable of getting by in their own environment.
    • In the first episode, a colony of Tethydraco seem oddly apathetic to a Phosphatodraco wandering around the beach eating their young, but a pod of Tuarangasaurus, seeing another of their kind being menaced by the mosasaurid Kaikaifilou while trying to give birth, come to her aid, driving the larger predator away, with David Attenborough's narration explaining that the entire pod - who are probably all related - benefit from working together for mutual protection, and have the social intelligence to see that.
    • Migratory dinosaurs and pterosaurs are routinely shown as quite adept at navigation; "Deserts" has a herd of hadrosaurs navigating by the stars, while in "Badlands", a Tarchia has developed a "mental map" of a network of canyons. "Badlands" also has a herd of Isisaurus traveling through the volcanic hellscape of the Deccan Traps to lay their eggs, in what seems like a suicidal move, but is shown to actual be an extremely viable strategy - a blanket of Deadly Gas on the ground will keep out predators, but the giant Isisaurs are tall enough to avoid breathing it, the volcanic heat provides perfect incubation for the eggs, and by the time the eggs hatch, the change in seasons has thinned out the gas and most of the hatchlings are able to make it through.
    • In "Ice Worlds" , a troodontid dinosaur - generally considered to be among the smartest of the dinosaurs - is shown making simple use of tools to deliberately spread a forest fire, just as some kinds of hawks do today, in order to flush out prey. "Forests" has a similiar scene of an Atrociraptor using a smoking branch to kill parasites in his feathers.
    • In "Badlands", a group of male Corythoraptors, incubating their eggs, take it in turns to go out and forage for food, ensuring that the nests are never left unattended. This isn't enough to stop a sneaky Kuru kulla from swiping a few eggs (to share with her own chicks), but the colony survives.
    • "Swamps" shows that even the mighty Tyrannosaurus need to use their brains. A pair of rexes are shown stalking a herd of Edmontosaurus, and decide to wait for nightfall to make the most of their excellent low-light vision. They coordinate their movements, with one rex deliberately tipping off the prey to its location in order to drive them toward the other rex's ambush.
  • While the featured dinosaurs subvert it, Walking with Dinosaurs gives this treatment to the non-saurian rauisuchid Postosuchus and dicynodont Placerias in the first episode ("New Blood"), as both are depicted as lumbering and ungainly relics from a bygone age that can barely move at a snail's pace and are destined to be supplanted by the "superior" dinosaurs like Coelophysis and Plateosaurus, much in the same way mammals were once viewed in contrast to dinosaurs. Postosuchus in particular was a fast ambush predator and a strict biped that was a very real threat to contemporary dinosaurs.

    Multiple Media 
  • Transformers:
    • Generation 1:
      • The Dinobots are very powerful, but also very stupid and difficult to control. Various adaptations since then have played with just how stupid they are, and in some cases their leader Grimlock is Obfuscating Stupidity or suffers from speech defects that make him sound more stupid than he really is. True to the trope, however, Sludge, the sauropod Dinobot, is the stupidest of the bunch.
      • The Dinobots in any version have nothing on Soundwave's two dinosaur cassettes, Overkill (a Ceratosaurus) and Slugfest (a Stegosaurus). Overkill is, as his name suggests, prone to overdoing everything and getting himself in trouble. Slugfest, meanwhile, is not only dumber than a post, he perceives things that he can't understand (which is practically everything) as insults and immediately attacks them.
      • The Decepticon Titan Trypticon, whose robot mode resembles a tyrannosaurus rex, also had this as his portrayal, acting childish and prone to violent tantrums of destruction. Unlike the Dinobots, this is the only portrayal that depicts him as such, though he's still often used as a brutish force of destruction.
      • The Japanese-original sequel Transformers Victory introduces the Dinoforce, a group of Decepticons with dinosaur Pretender shells that while a competent threat in the first episodes, Badass Decay leads them to this, becoming the series comic relief. Kakuryu moreso than the rest, who in Japanese manga from the 2010s fittingly defects to the Autobots and becomes a rookie Dinobot recruit.
    • Transformers: Animated: The series portrayal of the Dinobots are heavily influenced by the Generation 1 versions, though being more than often persuaded by villains to aid them. Out of the three, only Grimlock can speak, and he remains as much of a brute that barely thinks.
    • Transformers: Prime: While Starscream mistakes Predaking, the setting's dinosaur equivalent, for a stupid animal, Predaking is a subversion — he's smart enough to operate a computer after watching Cybertronians do it, recognizes and avoids Wheeljack's Eat the Bomb tactic in battle, is capable of speech, and later reveals himself to be intelligent and eloquent. His species, the Predacons, are fully sapient.
    • Transformers: Age of Extinction: The Dinobots can't speak in English or Cybertronian, generally seem pretty bestial, and are more violence-prone than the other Autobots. When they return briefly in the Transformers: The Last Knight, they behave more like domesticated animals.
      • The toyline-exclusive character Slog (a renamed Sludge for trademark reasons) is described as the dumbest of them all, as is tradition.
    • Transformers: Cyberverse: Grimlock is portrayed as a sophisticated and eloquent genius... In robot mode. When he changes to his beast mode, his personality shifts more towards the classic version of the character. When the other Dinobots debut, they are portrayed as young admirers of Grimlock and the only solution to any issue they can think of is "hit it hard", minus Swoop, who is instead portrayed as a Gadgeteer Genius constantly tired of their antics.

  • Dinosaur Planet: The rampaging dinosaurs are ultimately a subversion — after their attack, they are smart enough to team up with the humans to defeat the giant robots who are really responsible for the invasion.

    Newspaper Strips 
  • Alley Oop released a few "educational" comics about the dinosaurs in the strip. Several used this trope. Dinny the dinosaur, the primary dinosaur character in the strip, is friendly but none too bright.
  • Gronk of B.C. is a sauropod-like dinosaur who's big but stupid, even though later strips gave him the ability to talk. Until then, he only spoke in roars ("GRONK!").
  • The dinosaurs in Calvin and Hobbes come across as dim and helpless in the case of the herbivores, and violent eating machines in the case of the carnivores (except for the one time they were in fighter jets). Justified in that the strips reflect Calvin's imagination, not real life, and this is how he imagines dinosaurs to be.
  • Dilbert: Bob the Dinosaur is one of the strip's few consistently nice and well-meaning characters, but also one of the dumbest.
  • Dinosaurs in The Far Side don't come across as particularly intelligent for the most part. In one cartoon a T. rex is shown to have poor grammar, and in another a group of dinosaurs are laughing at a mammal as it begins to snow. Yet another has a Stegosaurus explaining that the prospects for long-term species survival are poor because the dinosaurs have a brain the size of a walnut.
  • Played straight in this 1934 cartoon from This Curious World, which claims that the dinosaurs' lack of brains hastened their extinction.

  • In the German poem Der Ichthyosaurus, the dinosaurs became extinct because they grew decadent, got drunk, and had affairs.
  • The dinosaurs in the poetry collection Tyrannosaurus was a Beast are either prehistoric monsters on the carnivores' side or this trope on the herbivores' side.
  • This poem by Bert Leston Taylor, which invokes the then-common belief that sauropod dinosaurs had two brains. (In fact, they only needed one — the second "brain" was a starch deposit.)
  • This poem by Marcello Minale:
    The Brontosaurus had a brain that was smaller than a crisp,
    The Dodo has a stammer and the Mammoth had a lisp.
    The auk was just too awkward, now they're none of them alive,
    Each one, (like Man), had shown himself unfitted to survive.
    Their story points a moral now it's we who wear the pants;
    The extinction of these species holds a lesson for us ants.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dinosaurs Attack!, a reptilian alien describes the attacking dinosaurs as dumb, evil brutes who live only by instinct and lack the souls that humans have. The dinosaurs themselves don't exactly go out of their way to prove his description wrong — almost every time they appear, they're seen eating or maiming someone, including the plant-eaters.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In early editions, all dinosaurs (and many other prehistoric creatures) are rated as non-intelligent (i.e. they have an intelligence score of 0) — later editions give them the same intelligence of other animals (2 in 3.5). The entries also usually go out of their way to emphasize their stupidity, ascribing such traits as being mindlessly voracious and aggressive or prone to panicking in manners that harm themselves.
  • Warhammer: The Lizardmen are generally portrayed as more intelligent than humans — at least in the case of the toad-like Slann and the lizard-like Skinks. The Saurus are intelligent enough and can produce gifted generals and tacticians, but they're extremely aggressive, too focused on warfare to be able to do much else, and prone to rampaging and berserk fury in battle. The gigantic, hulking Kroxigors are barely sapient brutes, mostly used as beasts of burden during peace and as Dumb Muscle during war. The actual dinosaurs the Lizardmen also use are classic example of hulking, dim-witted and aggressive brutes mindlessly eating their way through life.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Kroot are an avian species with the ability to reshape their DNA based on what they eat. Eating too much of one species makes the change irreversible, leaving the kroot stuck as a non-sentient beast like Kroothounds or Krootoxen (despite the name, they're more like gorillas). The biggest and stupidest of them all is the Greater Knarloc, a tank-chomping unholy fusion between terror bird and T. rex that needs several handlers just to point it at the right target.
    • The ork squiggoth is essentially an ill-tempered diplodocus crossed with a war mammoth, and stupider and grumpier than the average ork.

  • In Imaginext's dinosaur toy line, the herbivorous dinosaurs, the "ecovores", are portrayed as being able to cooperate and live in peace with humans. The predators, on the other hand, are Stupid Evil villains who destroy the environment For the Evulz.
  • LEGO Dino: All of the prehistoric animals are violent, stupid, and threaten to rampage across the city for no reason — including relatively nonthreatening ones like Coelophysis and Pteranodon as well as herbivores like Triceratops.

    Video Games 
  • Digimon: Dinosaur-based Digimon are generally portrayed as fully sapient, able to speak, follow orders, and work effectively with humans. Takato's Guilmon is very naive and gullible, however, though it's mainly due to him being very young.
  • In Dinosaur Adventure 3 D, none of the dinosaurs are treated as sapient aside from The Hero, a Parasaurolophus, his Pteranodon sidekick, and the baby dinosaurs they hatch (although only the former two speak). The others are presented as more animalistic, including the T. rex villain. Oddly, while other carnivorous dinosaurs are present in the story and are treated as part of the setting's ecosystem, only the T. rex is portrayed as an outright villain.
  • Killer Instinct: Riptor has human intelligence, but according to supplementary material she has severe Split Personality issues between her intelligent human side and instinctual dinosaur side and is more likely to attack than attempt any kind of friendly communication.
  • Nanosaur: Most of the enemy dinosaurs follow this trope — the player character, a sapient Velociraptor in the first game and a pterosaur in the second, is the exception.
  • While this isn't the case with most dinosaur-based Pokémon, the Cranidos line, based on pachycephalosaurs, are described as having small brains.
  • Spyro the Dragon: The dinosaur enemies throughout the series are violent and not particularly bright. Crush and Gulp, Ripto's minions, are both Dumb Muscle and the former doesn't know how to operate a portal, although they are given the ability to talk in later games. Ripto himself is smarter and more competent than most, but is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
  • Star Fox Adventures averts this as far as herbivorous dinosaurs (and pterosaurs) are concerned. The carnivores are presented as more vicious, most notably the Redeye Tribe, which do not talk and are driven by more animalistic instinct.
  • Inverted in Zniw Adventure. Dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles are sentient or civilized, while mammals are feral.
  • Zoo Tycoon: The herbivorous dinosaurs in both games don't bother to defend themselves from predators, even ones much smaller than they are. Averted in the second game with the carnivorous theropods Utahraptors and Stokesosaurus, who are smart enough to need enrichment items and like to paint.

    Web Original 

    Web Animation 
  • Dinosaurs: Terrible Lizards features heavily stylized dinosaurs (along with a pterosaur and an ichthyosaur) that obliviously wander the landscape, blunder straight into trouble, or inadvertently inconvenience everyone else.
  • Dumb Dinosaur shows a poorly-drawn theropod, based on a fake tattoo, in various situations where his low intelligence gets him into trouble.
  • Dumbass Dinosaurs: The entire premise, though the show features more than just dinosaurs (and not all of them are dumbass).
  • Reverse Jurassic Park: Inverted. The dinosaurs are intelligent and humans are feared as stupid, ferocious monsters.

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs: Baloney the Dinosaur, a parody of Barney, is overly friendly and cheerful to the point of being annoying, especially towards the Warners. He is also so dimwitted that he doesn't realize he's being tormented even after getting anvils dropped on him.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: Steggy, from "Prehysterical Pet", is a rodent-sized alien Stegosaurus who is normally intelligent, but when he starts growing in size due to eating Earth food his brain doesn't grow along with his body and his mind reverts to an animal-like state, which is also what happened with the stegosaurs and sauropods from his homeworld that came to Earth during the late Jurassic period. Both his intelligence and small size are restored when he eats the food he brought with him from his planet.
  • Darkwing Duck:
    • Stegmutt is an anthropomorphic duck turned into a Stegosaurus by a Devolution Device. He's a Dumb Muscle minion of the villain of the week, Dr. Fossil (who himself is an aversion, an Evil Genius duck turned into a Pteranodon who keeps his intelligence), until he does a Heel–Face Turn and becomes Darkwing's gentle, but still dumb ally.
    • Zig-zagged in "Extinct Possibility", where Darkwing's party go back millions of years to discover dinosaurs were fully sapient. Despite having technology, civilization, and architecture, the dinosaurs do many things "backward" compares to modern man (e.g. using stone-wheeled vehicles on inflatable rubber roads), which Darkwing deduces as why they went extinct.
  • Dink, the Little Dinosaur follows the variant with sapient and friendly herbivores and stupid, vicious carnivores (with the exception of a nonthreatening Compsognathus and a vegetarian Deinonychus).
  • Dinosaucers:
    • The villains have access to Devolution Devices that allow them to forcibly regress a target anthro-dinosaur to his or her feral prehistoric form, with the accompanying loss of intelligence. This usually gets turned on them for comedic effect.
    • The devolution ray is shown in one episode to have a similar effect on humans, reverting the target to an animalistic "caveman" type. He gets loose - fortunately in New York City, where he's just seen as a street act.
    • Bonehead and Ankylo are the dimmest members of their respective teams.
  • Dino Squad: Played with. While the main characters are humans who can change into dinosaurs (and one pterosaur) at will, and both their mentor and archenemy are hyperintelligent Velociraptors (who inexplicably gained the ability to change into people), the animals exposed to the villain's chemicals and "reverted" usually become extremely aggressive and mindlessly violent — regardless of the animal's previous disposition. However, only the main characters (in their transformed states) and the Velociraptors are considered "perfect dinosaurs".
  • Eek! The Cat: Doc, Squat, and Kutter from The Terrible Thunderlizards are a trio of incompetent special forces operatives who are tapped to kill a couple of cavemen before they can evolve into modern humans. They aren't very good at it. The other dinosaurs, however, are shown to be fairly intelligent, particularly the T. rex General Galapagos, who is constantly angered and frustrated by the trio's antics and failures.
  • The Flintstones: Dino and the other tame dinosaurs are friendly but not particularly bright. However, in his debut Dino was actually an aversion — he was able to talk and was more of a household servant than a pet. In the series proper, he has the behavior of a dog, combining this trope with Dogs Are Dumb.
  • Krypto the Superdog: Subverted. In one episode, Ignatius, Lex Luthor's pet iguana, goes back in time assuming this trope, planning to make himself the king of the dinosaurs with his superior intelligence. The dinosaurs turn out to be both intelligent and not very impressed by Ignatius, especially when he tries to steal T. rex eggs.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: One episode features the Stimpysaurus, a sauropod described as one of the largest dinosaurs and the stupidest creature that ever lived. When Ren hears this, he makes Stimpy hand over his Medal of Dishonor. The Stimpysaurus itself unknowingly stepped on a Renosaurus, attempted to live in a tree smaller than it (getting struck by lightning as a result), and met its end by sticking its head in a tar pit. What do you expect from a creature that is based on and named after Stimpy?
  • The Simpsons:
    • Averted in "Days of Future Future" where resurrected dinosaurs and pterosaurs kept in zoos are intelligent enough to understand and obey orders, perform tricks in front of patrons, and make use of human-made material (T. rex even sleeps with a teddy bear while wearing a nightcap).
    • Played with in the final segment of "Treehouse of Horror XXIX", where senior citizens transform into dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles due to being infused with their DNA. While they do go on a rampage and kill some people, they retain their personalities and ultimately can be reasoned with.
  • Super Mario World (1991): Yoshi is childlike and good-natured, but dim. The other dinosaurs in the setting are stupid and predatory toward the native cavemen in a departure from the games.
  • The Tick: Dinosaur Neil turns into a 70-foot-tall, human-faced dinosaur after accidentally consuming a re-created dinosaur tissue, but he loses his intelligence and goes on a rampage until the heroes reverse the mutation. Prior to this, Neil lectures to the visitors that large dinosaurs weren't very bright.
  • The Wuzzles: Crocosaurus, the main villain, is a crocodile-dinosaur hybrid who is ignorant, a Lazy Bum, and a fairly Harmless Villain.

    Real Life 
  • The "dinosauroid" was developed by Dale Russel as an aversion, a design for what a hypothetical sapient dinosaur (specifically a Stenonychosaurus/Troodon descendant) would look like. The design is subject to some Science Marches On, as well as criticism for the assumption that a sapient species would inevitably develop a humanoid body plan, leading to more birdlike dinosauroids in later speculation.
  • It's sometimes claimed that raptors and troodonts (the traditional "smartest" dinosaurs) were no smarter than rabbits or possums, which while hyper intelligent in comparison to other dinosaurs, would still make them extraordinarily dim compared to present-day Earth's smartest birds. Though, there isn't a direct correlation between an animal's relative brain to body size and its actual intelligence. Parrots and corvids don't have especially large brains for their body sizes either yet they're quite intelligent, and crocodiles that have similar brains to their body sizes as many dinosaurs have recently been revealed to be **much** smarter than previously thought. In any case, dinosaurs would still have been smarter than many of the older depictions in media and were likely the most intelligent animals that had yet evolved by that point in Earth's history.
  • This trope was also the general scientific consensus on dinosaurs for much of the history of paleontology. Even the best scientific and academic works of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would describe dinosaurs as sluggish, mindlessly voracious and aggressive, and doomed by their own stupiditynote . This view began to shift in the 1960s and 1970s with the discovery of the raptor Deinonychus (a creature whose skeleton clearly indicated to its discoverers that it was not some lumbering brute), giving rise to the current consensuses that dinosaurs were active, swift, and warm-blooded creatures who still thrive in the present as birds.
  • Ironically, since they are dinosaurs themselves, birds were also victims of this trope. The common scientific consensus in older times was that birds were unintelligent due to the way their brains looked, hence the term "birdbrain" coming to mean "stupid person". We now know many birds are fairly clever, as with non-avian dinosaurs, and even highly intelligent in the case of parrots and corvids.
    • It could be assumed that had the rejection of the dinosaur-bird link in the 1920s (which led to this trope becoming more widespread for much of the 20th Century) never happened, there still would have been a widespread belief that dinosaurs were unintelligent or "bird-brained". It would be not as bad though; birds were still viewed as active, agile, and alert compared to other reptiles, so non-avian dinosaurs would have been seen the same waynote .