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"SPACE FOR RENT"

"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
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Dinosaurs: slow, moronic, only existing to eat and get wiped out by a giant meteor, 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 1850s to the 1970s, to the point where the word "dinosaur" came to mean "obsolete failure". Stegosaurus and sauropods in general 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.

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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.

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Compare Prehistoric Monster, which it often overlaps with, and Frazetta Man, in which prehistoric humans are demonized and their intelligence downplayed. Dumb Dodo Bird is a similar trope applied to 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 


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Both averted and inverted in Murenase! Shiiton Gakuen, where sapient dinosaurs and pterosaurs are the teachers at Seton Academy and their students are Cenozoic animals including humans.

     Art 
  • Up until the 1960's, 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.

     Comedy 
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • Devil Dinosaur is an aversion, but because his intelligence was boosted to human levels by a mutation. He can't talk, but he can understand human speech. He's generally good-natured and is an effective partner to the human Moon-Boy.
  • In "We Were Trapped in the Twilight World", a 1961 Jack Kirby story set in 1 Million B.C., dinosaurs are depicted as lacking a sense of memory because of their stupidity, allowing the protagonists to escape a T. rex.
  • 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 Tor comics had similar back-up comics with unflattering descriptions of the dinosaurs.
  • In The Cartoon History of the Universe, the dinosaurs are portrayed as dim-witted bullies toward the mammals, deliberately suppressing and stepping on them.
  • 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.
  • Averted in Dinosaurs vs. Aliens. The main premise is that dinosaurs (and pterosaurs) were actually intelligent and sapient, using tools and wearing tribal headgear.
  • 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.
  • The title character of Bloodfang, a T. rex, is vicious but smart enough to actively plan against his enemies and trick them, both other dinosaurs and humans.
  • The dinosaurs of The War that Time Forgot 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.
  • Henry Phage of Neil Gaiman's Teknophage is a highly unpleasant aversion, an evil dinosaur tyrant who is cannibalistic (he killed and ate his siblings), ruthless, highly intelligent, and has extremely powerful telepathic abilities. He cheerfully uses them to engage in Mind Rape and torture of everyone around him.
  • Averted and parodied: in the Swedish comic Jeff Hund (a pastiche of the old British comic Jeff Hawke), 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.
  • Old Lace of Runaways is another aversion - she is a genetically engineered Deinonychus with a powerful psychic bond to team member Gertrude Yorkes, and is smart enough to follow Gertrude's instructions or plan in a situation without prompting.
  • 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 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.
  • Scientific inaccuracies aside, the dinosaurs in Age of Reptiles are an aversion, showing relatively realistic behavior.
  • The reborn dinosaurs of Xenozoic Tales 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.
  • The sapient dinosaurs of Dinosty are selfish, thoughtless, and cruel tyrants who rule over human beings, hunting them for food and for fun.
  • Averted in Paleo - the dinosaurs are functional in their environment and behave realistically.
  • The main cast of Dinosaurs For Hire are aversions, although they aren't real dinosaurs, just aliens who just so happen to resemble anthropomorphic Earth dinosaurs.
  • The title character of Super Dinosaur, a genetically enhanced T. rex, is an aversion, along with some of his villains, like Tricerachops and Tyrannosaurus X. Ultra Raptor plays it straighter, although his Mad Scientist creator, who also created SD, held his intelligence back on purpose to make him Dumb Muscle.
  • Played with by Dr. Dinosaur from Atomic Robo. 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.

     Fan Works 
  • Averted in It's not the Raptor DNA, where the dinosaurs are key characters as much as the humans are. The extraordinary intelligence of Elise the Indominus rex turns out to come from the human DNA added to the genetic mix used to create her. Elise herself is a complete aversion, since she is able to learn how to read and write, understand orders, communicate with humans using sign language, and work as a team with human ACU members. Blue and the Raptor Squad, Rexy, and Sobek are no mental slouches, either.
  • In the Negaverse Chronicles, Dr. Fossil and Stegmutt are both aversions. Fossil is a friendly Mad Scientist in the Negaverse as opposed to his villainous self in Darkwing Duck, even as a pterosaur. However, the Negaverse's Stegmutt is a much nastier and much smarter Starscream even in Stegosaurus form. On being transformed into raptors by Stegmutt, Bushroot and Quackerjack lose their intelligence and free will until the transformation is reversed, playing the trope straight.
  • Heavily averted in Prehistoric Park: Returned from Extinction. The various prehistoric animals are not portrayed as unrealistically stupid, which helps drive home the point that they weren't inherently different from modern animals.
  • Averted in The Bridge. Godzilla and the other dinosaurian kaiju are portrayed as intelligent like their canon versions. Some of them are even presented as Genius Bruisers, most notably Xenilla.
    • Its loose spin-off, Equestria Girls: Dinosapien averts this with a vengeance. While it is established it's due to evolving another sixty five million years of present time time to gain sapience, Eno note  is as clever and inquisitive as he is friendly; showing understanding of concepts like trickery against enemies and ownership by returning Maia's locket. Unfortunately, the two enemy dinosaurs note  are just as smart and know how to set traps; they are also aware that the humans are a threat to their hunt for Eno and try to stop them from interfering, including destroying a cast of Eno's footprint.

     Film - Animated 
  • 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 pretty much behave like three-year old kids and are quite naive.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Arlo of The Good Dinosaur is an aversion, along with most of the other dinosaurs, who are fully sapient - including the T. rexes, who are stern but friendly ranchers. Ironically, the Ax-Crazy raptor rustlers come off as the least intelligent dinosaurs in the movie, while Thunderclap and the pterosaurs are cruel and superstitious but not stupid.
  • The various dinosaurs and Mesozoic reptiles in the Ice Age series generally aren't very bright compared to the mammal protagonists, and most of them can't talk. Cretaceous and Maelstrom in The Meltdown are more brutish and hungry forces of nature than characters, while 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. 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.
  • Tiny the T. rex in Meet the Robinsons, 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.
  • Averted in You Are Umasou, where both the carnivorous dinosaurs and herbivorous ones are portrayed as sentient and able to speak, the main character being a T. rex raised by a Maiasaura. That doesn't stop the carnivores from attacking and eating other dinosaurs, though. In fact, the movie tries to teach that a carnivore must eat meat to survive.
  • While toys as opposed to real dinosaurs, Rex and Trixie of Toy Story are aversions. Rex is neurotic and insecure but by no means stupid, while both are very tech-savvy. Even the Battlesaurs aren't stupid so much as misled and naive, and misguided in the case of the Cleric. While they have a problem recognizing that they're toys, more human-based toys have been shown having the same issue (such as Buzz in the first film).
  • While Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone takes a lot of liberties with the source material, it averts this trope, as well as some subversion of the usual role of meat-eaters and herbivores in dinosaur movies. Stinktooth the T. rex (a Giganotosaurus in the books), while a snarling antagonist at first, reveals himself to be well-spoken and intelligent when the heroes befriend him as well as leading a Big Damn Heroes moment later in the movie, and the Dilophosaurus they encounter is annoying but well-meaning. The (human) villain's comic relief henchmen, on the other hand, are both plant-eaters - a Parasaurolophus and Euoplocephalus.

     Film - Live Action 
  • In King Kong, 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 raptors, 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, even while still carrying the remains of their last kill in their mouths.
  • The dinosaurs in One Million Years B.C. are similar, constantly fighting the native cavepeople and one another in situations where normal animals would back off.
  • Averted in Jurassic Park - the dinosaurs aren't unrealistically stupid, the T. rexes show parental care and plan in battle, the herbivores fight back when threatened and even Stegosaurus immediately come to their offspring's aid when they hear its cries of alarm, and others, like the Velociraptors, are dangerously intelligent. In Jurassic World, the intelligence of the Indominus rex is part of what makes her so dangerous, and the humans often underestimate the predatory dinosaurs with fatal results. Rexy in particular is smart enough to team up with Blue the Velociraptor, a dinosaur of a different species, against the I. rex, and drives the latter to the mosasaur tank on purpose. On her end, especially in the sequel, Blue displays an ability to work with and even intervene to protect certain humans, showing signs of empathy towards Owen. The Indoraptor in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a hybrid of the above-mentioned I. rex and Velociraptors, follows suit, and is as intelligent and deliberate as it is dangerous and sadistic. It even displays a (twisted) sense of humor.
  • The intelligent dinosaur-people of the Super Mario Bros. movie are generally portrayed as more violent, crude, and stupid than their human counterparts, and their world is a dystopian hellhole.
  • 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 Rhedosaurus of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms 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.
  • While the T. rex in Dinosaurus is a violent monster who attacks indiscriminately, the Brontosaurus is more good-natured and trainable by the heroes but also dim.
  • Parodied in Land of the Lost: 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.
  • The dinosaurs in The Lost World, which 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. On the other hand, there is 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.
  • Gwangi the Allosaurus of The Valley of Gwangi is of the marauding-monster variety, leaving an elephant he kills uneaten before targeting humans.
  • The dinosaurs in the 1955 Czech film Journey to the Beginning of Time come off this way.
  • Godzilla is an aversion. He is usually portrayed as intelligent, actively strategizes when fighting other monsters, and cares for his young. Even in the original Gojira, his rampage was both calculated and intentional. The same goes for other Mesozoic kaiju such as Anguirus and Rodan.
  • The dinosaur in The Beast of Hollow Mountain is a similar case to Gwangi above, and preys on human cowboys and cattle.
  • A non-dinosaur example in The Crater Lake Monster, featuring an amphibious plesiosaur who crawls onto land to hunt humans, continuing to attack even when seriously hurt and facing severe resistance.
  • The marine dinosaurs of Reptilicus and The Giant Behemoth are brutally violent with no provocation. 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 Rexie, the animated dinosaur skeleton in Night at the Museum, 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 move. While she's more aggressive than Rexie, Lancelot is ultimately able to train her.
  • Averted with the Kaiju of Pacific Rim, whose designs were implied to have been influenced by the dinosaurs who were around when their alien creators first visited Earth. The humans find out the hard way that the kaiju are not stupid, using intelligent tactics in battle like playing dead, specifically aiming for individual jaegers' weak spots, and deliberately attacking their human pilots.
  • The Dinobots in Transformers: Age of Extinction don't show the capacity for speech in English or Cybertronian, generally seem pretty bestial, and are more violence-prone than the other Autobots.
  • Averted in Walking with Dinosaurs, which portrays the dinosaurs' behaviors realistically. The more conventional Walking with Dinosaurs 3D is an exception, though, since only the herbivores and the Alexornis narrator are able to communicate their thoughts to the audience and are fully anthropomorphized. The gorgosaurs, while Designated Villains, are hungry brutes while the Troodon come off as sneaking, greedy cowards.

     Literature 
  • 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.
  • The Captain Raptor series is a similar example to Astrosaurs, except the carnivores and herbivores are equally intelligent and live in peace - the hero is a sapient dromaeosaur, and his crew consists of an Oviraptor, a Carnotaurus, and an Ornithomimus.
  • 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.
  • The T. rex in the Ray Bradbury story A Sound of Thunder 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.
  • Averted in a non-Bradbury spin-off novel to the above Sound of Thunder, where a race of sapient allosaurs appears. They aren't very nice.
  • The various dinosaurs in The Land That Time Forgot, Pellucidar, and the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs 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.
  • The assorted prehistoric animals in The Lost World (1912) by Arthur Conan Doyle 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.
  • Dazzle the Dinosaur is of the herbivores as sapient, carnivores as non-sapient variety. The herbivores speak and are helpful, but the T. rex and "Dragonsaurus" never demonstrate signs of intelligence or the ability to be reasoned with.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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. Keep in mind though, that in Jules Verne's time, their depictions would have been considered accurate.
  • Averted in Dinotopia, where all of the dinosaurs, both herbivores and carnivores, are sapient and live in peace with humans - even the large predatory species are Noble Savage types who explicitly aren't evil and can be reasoned with. Smaller theropods like Troodon and Velociraptor can live and work alongside people with no problems.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Steve Baxter's Evolution, a sapient race of dinosaurs appears, averting the trope.
  • Averted in Dinoverse, where the main characters become dinosaurs of various species themselves through a memory transfer device. The non-transformed dinosaurs they encounter are intelligent and often helpful.
  • Isaac Asimov's "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'.
  • George the Stegosaurus in The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek is an early aversion - he can talk and is fairly intelligent, but he's painfully shy and usually avoids humans.
  • In Tyrannosaurus Drip, the Parasaurolophus, including the title character, are intelligent but the T. rexes are stupid bullies.
  • An Enforced 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.
  • This trope is discussed extensively along with Prehistoric Monster in Starring T. Rex!, an analysis of dinosaurs in film and popular culture.
  • Averted in Barry Longyear's The Homecoming - the dinosaurs were actually spacefaring and highly intelligent, and they want the Earth back.
  • Averted with the Quintaglios, a species of evolved and fully sapient tyrannosaurs from Robert J. Sawyer's Quintaglio Ascension sequence. They are the descendants of specimens taken from Earth by aliens 65 million years ago and imported to a habitable moon.
  • The Yilanè of the West of Eden series are another aversion, being an intelligent amphibious race descended from mosasaurs. Their values are distinctly different from human ones, leading to much Fantastic Racism on both sides.
  • 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.
  • The quasi-alien dinosaurs of Dinosaur Planet fit the stupid, swamp-dwelling model of dinosaurs.
  • Terrybubble in Speedy in Oz is a talking dinosaur skeleton of a fictional species, killed by a Megalosaurus but brought to life again by the magic of Oz. He's actually quite bright, with a love of ancient Greek poetry, making him an early aversion.
  • The Ssi-ruuk and P'w'eck of the Star Wars Expanded Universe are aversions, both theropod dinosaur-based races who are sapient and warm-blooded. The former have almost completely enslaved the latter, forcibly using P'w'eck essences in their "entechment" technology along with the standard Fantastic Racism. While the Ssi-ruuk portray the P'w'eck as unintelligent in their mythology and treat them as the lowest rung in their caste system, it's blatantly self-serving propaganda - later in the EU a P'w'eck resistance movement emerges under the leadership of the P'w'eck freedom fighter Lwothin. Lwothin himself was intended to be a Ssi-ruuk puppet but chose to use the chance to revolt for real, saving the heroes in the process.
    • Tiss'har - Jurassic Park-style raptors - also avert it, by being known as some of the best gunfighters and assassins in the galaxies.
  • The titular dinosaur from Danny and the Dinosaur is an early aversion. He is intelligent enough to talk and understand how the modern world works.
  • The dinosaurs in Anonymous Rex are fully sapient, able to blend into and function as part of human society as part of The Masquerade.
  • Tim, the title character of Tim, Defender of the Earth, 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.
  • The Hanen of the short story "Think Like A Dinosaur" are an aversion - they're highly intelligent, but also cold-blooded and emotionless, which is contrasted with the humans they work alongside.
  • The unnamed dinosaur in The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury is intelligent enough to socialize, remembers the same location to visit every year, and avoids encounters with humans. While it mistakes a modern fog horn for the cry of its own species, it's also implied to be desperately lonely and may simply wish this to be the case - the human characters even point out that this attitude is Not So Different from people.
  • In The Trouble With Tyrannosaurus Rex, the herbivores are friendly and sapient while the T. rex is a stupid, brutish bully.
  • Averted in If the Dinosaurs Came Back, where the dinosaurs are portrayed as fully capable of working within human society.
  • Uncle Beazley, the Triceratops in The Enormous Egg, is an early aversion, showing relatively believable behavior aside from the more obvious Science Marches On and the fantastic circumstances of his birth - his egg was laid by a hen. Although he is tamed fairly quickly for a large and dangerous herbivore, he was also raised by humans and was around them since birth.
  • Averted in The Dinosaur Lords - the dinosaurs can be dangerous but are trainable as mounts, pets, or what-have-you, and their behavior is relatively realistic even given the fantasy setting.
  • The dinosaurs in Dinosaur Wars are fully sapient, complete with space travel and advanced weaponry. They set up a secret moon base to escape extinction, and return 65 million years later to take the earth back from humans.
  • Like the film above, Jurassic Park averts the trope with comparatively realistic dinosaur behavior and, in particular, the dangerously intelligent Velociraptors.
  • 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.
  • Zig-zagged in Tyrannosaur Canyon. 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 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 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 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.

     Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • In a miniseries adaptation of The Lost World, the trope is deconstructed - while the team goes in with this attitude and the allosaurs are still dangerous, the protagonists interact peacefully with other dinosaurs, the prehistoric creatures are well-adapted to their environment and fairly intelligent, and the protagonists ultimately decide to spare the plateau where the animals live.
  • In Land of the Lost (1974), most of the dinosaurs that the Marshalls meet aren't particularly smart, and even fewer are particularly friendly.
  • The Voth from Star Trek: Voyager are an aversion. They are dinosaur descendants (specifically hadrosaurs) whose ancestors fled to space to escape the asteroid impact, but have actively repressed their origin as an Earth-based species.
  • The evolved dinosaurs of Dinosapien are an aversion - Eno in particular, an evolved raptor, is capable of speech and social interaction with humans. While he is biologically a teenager, he speaks like a child (which may have less to do with his natural intelligence and more to do with his being new to human language). The more aggressive Diggers are capable of tool use.
  • Discussed in the Doctor Who story 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.

     Music 
  • The rampaging dinosaurs in Dinosaur Planet 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Played straight in this 1934 cartoon from This Curious World, which claims that the dinosaurs' lack of brains hastened their extinction.
  • Alley Oop, set in 1 Million B.C., 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.
  • Bob the Dinosaur from Dilbert - he's one of the strip's few consistently nice and well-meaning characters, but also one of the dumbest.
  • Horacio, a character in Monicas Gang, is an aversion - he's an intelligent, philosophical T. rex who is friends with the rest of the cast (and also a vegetarian).
  • Gronk of BC 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 title character of Todd the Dinosaur is an aversion - he's big and occasionally naive, but he's only seven years old, and is otherwise functional in his human family.

     Poetry 
  • 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.)
  • In the German poem Der Ichthyosaurus, the dinosaurs became extinct because they grew decadent, got drunk, and had affairs.
  • 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.

     Puppet Shows 

     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.
  • In 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 dumbest sapient race are called "the Saurus", and are the Dumb Muscle of the empire. By the time you get to the truly dinosaur-inspired species, they're all beasts of burden and/or Living Weapons.
  • In early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, all dinosaurs (and many other prehistoric creatures) were rated non-intelligent. For comparison, it means their intelligence was equal to that of an insect or a living statue.
  • The Kroot of Warhammer 40K 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... who needs several handlers just to point it at the right target.

     Toys 
  • While the mutated dinosaurs in Lego Dino Attack are violent, at least some of them are smart enough to adapt to tactics used against them, making them an aversion. This is even more the case in the Dino Attack RPG, where the real dinosaurs are benevolent and sapient, including the T. rex.
  • In Lego Dino, on the other hand, 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.
  • 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.

     Video Games 
  • Averted with the various dinosaur-based Pokémon, who are at least intelligent enough to follow orders, cooperate with humans, and show loyalty toward their trainers. Archeops in particular, a maniraptoran-based Pokémon, is described as being intelligent, although almost no dinosaur Pokémon is described as being stupid (with the exception of the Cranidos line, who are based on pachycephalosaurs).
  • Similarly to the Pokémon example above, the various 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.
  • Yoshi of the Mario games is another aversion - he and his species are completely sapient on the level of the other characters, he is a friend to Mario as opposed to a pet, and Yoshi is a capable hero in his own right.
  • The herbivorous dinosaurs in Zoo Tycoon don't bother to defend themselves from predators, even ones much smaller than they are. Averted in the sequel with the Utahraptors and Stokesosaurus, who are smart enough to need enrichment and like to paint.
  • The dinosaurs in Lost Eden are aversions - they're intelligent and coexist with humans as equals along the lines of Dinotopia. On the other hand, the T. rexes are portrayed as bloodthirsty warmongers out to threaten the dinosaurs and humans' way of life.
  • Most of the enemies and bosses in Prehistoric Isle are rampaging dinosaurs.
  • Riptor in Killer Instinct 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.
  • Most of the enemy dinosaurs in Nanosaur follow this trope - the player character, a sapient Velociraptor in the first game and a pterosaur in the second, is the exception.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Very much averted in Lego Jurassic World, even by movie Velociraptor standards.

     Webcomics 
  • Subverted with the dinosaurs in Dinosaur Comics, who are very philosophical. (Although T. rex is sometimes portrayed as The McCoy.)
  • The fully-sapient dinosaurs in TetZoo Time! are another aversion.

     Web Original 

     Web Animation 
  • Inverted in Reverse Jurassic Park, where the dinosaurs are intelligent and humans are feared as stupid, ferocious monsters.
  • The short web video Dumb Dinosaur shows a poorly-drawn theropod (probably an Allosaurus or a Megalosaurus), based on a fake tattoo, in various situations where his low intelligence gets him into trouble.

     Western Animation 
  • Yoshi in the Super Mario World animated series is childlike and good-natured, but dim. The other dinosaurs in the setting are stupid and predatory toward the native cavemen. This is a departure from the games, as noted above.
  • In a similar case to We're Back above, the villains of Dinosaucers 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 Dinobots in The Transformers 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.
  • Stegmutt from Darkwing Duck 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 pterosaur who keeps his intelligence), until he does a Heel–Face Turn and becomes Darkwing's gentle, but still dumb ally.
  • While Starscream mistakes Predaking, the setting's dinosaur equivalent, for a stupid animal in Transformers Prime, 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.
  • Dino and the other tame dinosaurs in The Flintstones 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.
  • Averted with the anthropomorphic dinosaurs (and one pterosaur) in Extreme Dinosaurs, who are intelligent and well-spoken. Ironically, The Smart Guy of the team is a Stegosaurus, and the only truly stupid dinosaur character is Haxx, one of the antagonistic Velociraptors.
  • Gertie the Dinosaur is an early aversion, since she's smart enough to understand and obey (and willingly disobey) orders.
  • Averted in The Simpsons episode "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.
  • Averted in Beast Wars, where Megatron and Dinobot are both highly intelligent warriors. Megatron in particular is the series' resident Chessmaster and one of the more intelligent incarnations of the character. Terrorsaur plays this trope straight, due to his constant failures to overthrow Megatron.
  • 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).
  • The various dinosaurs from Dinosaur Train are all intelligent, averting the trope.
  • 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 title character of Denver the Last Dinosaur, resembling a cross between a Corythosaurus and a Plateosaurus, is an aversion, being smart enough to interact with humans and learn about modern culture (being the 80's, this included skateboarding, rock and roll, and sunglasses).
  • Prickle, a Stegosaurus-like dinosaur from Gumby is an aversion. He is able to talk fluently, usually complaining to Gumby.
  • Somewhat averted in Dino-Riders, which featured dinosaurs that could be communicated with through telepathy, of all things.
  • Dr. D in Future-Worm! is an aversion, being a Tyrannosaurus rex who graduated from medical school and became a famous healer in the future. His methods, while effective, are...unorthodox.
  • The main characters of Dino Babies are intelligent and inventive, making them aversions.
  • Played with in Dino Squad. 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. It should be noted, however, only the main characters (in their transformed states) and the Velociraptors are considered "perfect dinosaurs".
  • Averted with the anthropomorphic dinosaurs in Mighty Magiswords. Although King Rexxtopher, a T. rex, is so far the only one who can talk (the other dinos only speak in roars, grunts, or squawks).
  • Averted with the main characters and other sapient dinosaurs in Gigantosaurus. However, the titular character, a Giganotosaurus, doesn't speak and comes across as more animalistic, although unlike similar shows he isn't portrayed as a Super-Persistent Predator and shows signs that he may be sentient.
  • One episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show features the Stimpysaurus, a sauropod described as the largest and stupidest of the dinosaurs. Of course, what do you expect from a creature that is based on and named after Stimpy?

    Real Life 

  • Believe it or not, but this (and other facts now considered inaccurate) was commonly accepted amongst even the most esteemed paleontologists until only around the 70s. Dinosaur museums, factbooks, and scientific journals across the globe would speak of dinosaurs as big, dumb lizards that went extinct because they deserved it for decades. In fact, many examples of Artistic License – Paleontology would have been perfectly accurate for the longest period of time. Goes to show that paleontology is a rapidly evolving science.
  • The "dinosauroid" was developed by Dale Russel as an aversion, a design for what a hypothetical sapient dinosaur (specifically a 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.
  • At the end of the day, non-avian dinosaurs still had proportionally smaller brains than modern birds. If an ostrich is to be considered stupid, so are raptors and troodontids (the non-avian dinosaurs with the proportionally largest brains, which are erroneously assumed to be hyper intelligent). Of course, they still would've been smarter than many of the older depictions in media.
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