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If there were dragons around in the 18th century, the Napoleonic era, would they terrorize humans as in the days of yore? Or would the invention of cannon, explosives, and other innovations end their reign of terror?

To clarify, the dragons have no particular magical abilities, aside from the following physical abilities:

  • They're roughly the size of a T-Rex
  • Weigh from 0.5 to 1 ton at their heaviest.
  • They can fly, up to a height of 10,000 feet.
  • Dragons can breathe fire out to about twenty yards, at a temperature of 2,000°C.
  • The dragon's hide is equivalent to 2 mm of mild steel in armour.
  • Few dragons remain. There may be 1,000 adult dragons per continent.
  • They are smarter than chimps, but not sentient or capable of communication.

With this in mind, would humans live in fear of dragons in the 18th century? Or would dragons live in fear of humanity?

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    $\begingroup$ The size of a T-Rex yet lighter than a cow..? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Jan 11, 2018 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ 2 mm steel equivalent would make these dragons vulnerable to archers. They are running a risk of being hunted into extinction even before the Napoleonic era. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jan 11, 2018 at 23:21
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    $\begingroup$ So they're not sentient but you want to know if they're capable of ruling? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jan 11, 2018 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ Where do the dragons live? Geography is important. For example, there were plenty of tigers during Napoleon's time, but they lived far away, in India. Englishmen, Frenchmen and Germans were absolutely not terrorized by tigers. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jan 11, 2018 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP "Few dragons remain. There may be 1,000 adult dragons per continent." They probably tend to roost in mountainous regions. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Jan 12, 2018 at 11:11

2 Answers 2

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Europe eradicated their wolves.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_hunting

In 9th century France, Charlemagne founded an elite corps of crown funded officials called "Luparii", whose purpose was to control wolf populations in France during the Middle Ages.[12] Luparii were responsible for the initial reduction of wolf populations in France, which would become decimated in later centuries.... Wolves could be killed for monetary rewards equivalent to a month's pay. From 1818 to 1829, 1400 wolves were killed each year. This high kill rate coincided with the increased distribution of flintlocks... The last confirmed French wolf kill occurred in 1937.

The Americans were even more efficient about wiping out their wolves.

If governments can sponsor the systematic eradication of a large predator like the wolf, they would even more enthusiastically sponsor the eradication of a huge predator like a dragon. The dragons you describe are formidable but they eat: they can be poisoned and they can be trapped.

As with wolves, a very few dragons would survive in very remote areas.


Humans would live in fear of dragons. Humans still live in fear of wolves.

The dragons which survived would live in fear of humans, this fear conferring a powerful selective advantage.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is spot on. Without sentience and the ability to reason a defence, they're just another animal. Humans always figure out how to kill animals. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 12, 2018 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ This is a fair assessment, but I feel it could go into more detail with the answer. Since I specified dragons are more intelligent than chimps, I figure it's reasonable to have the difficulty that dragons are not easily trapped or poisoned. This would probably select for dragons that are poison resistant, or who are wary of suspicious carrion/bait. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Jan 12, 2018 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Johnny that assumes that humans were not capable of fiendishly clever traps and poisoning methods. There were indeed subtle and devious trapping methods available, and a variety of poisons. Wolves didn't need that level of subtlety and complexity. It does mean that the Dragonii need to be a bit better trained, equipped, and paid than their Luparii counterparts. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jan 12, 2018 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 I'd say more than "a bit". Any hunter or farmer can trap and hunt wolves. These dragons are on a bigger scale than Jurassic Park. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Jan 12, 2018 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ The Indians made traps with a bent piece of metal or baleen frozen in fat. The animal (wolf, bear, wolverine) would eat the ball whole. When it thawed the thing would spring straight and pierce the inside. That would work for anything that eats chunks of fat whole and are warm inside. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 12, 2018 at 21:51
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Their reign would end. You mention they have no magical ability and you have specified their what their hide is equivalent to. They would need to have some form of built in magical ability to be able to reinforce their hide and make them tough enough to be able to survive...

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