Say an alien civilization came to Earth during the age of dinosaurs and picked up a few raptors to use militarily. With genetic modifications, the raptors have human-level intelligence while maintaining the same body shape. The aliens train the raptors in martial arts and sword fighting for close combat.

The question is how would the body shape of raptor influence its fighting style? What further genetic modifications might be required to facilitate close combat apart from pouncing and slashing?

Assume that the aliens proved the raptors with a thumb claw to hold the swords.

Edit: I had the Utahraptor in mind when writing this question since they would be large enough to hold a sword.

I'm trying to focus on how the dinosaur would able to effectively use swords or sword like weapons in combat. Might open a new question for unarmed combat at a later date.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is incredibly broad and very opinion based. Perhaps consider picking s specific weapon (or lack of) and some particular things you’re interested in about the effects. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jul 26, 2018 at 17:08
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ just want to point out that Velociraptors would be the size of a turkey. no i cant get small sword wielding Raptors out of my head (walking though a jungle and your leg get stabbed with a sword, last thing you see before you die is a turkey size thing coming for you... clever girl) $\endgroup$ Jul 26, 2018 at 17:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are we talking about Velociraptor specifically or some other dromaeosaur, perhaps Deinonychus or Utahraptor, the former if you want a dromaeosaur of a mass equivalent to a human, or the latter if you want a Spielberg 'raptor? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jul 26, 2018 at 17:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs, No, this is not particularly broad or opinion based at all. As a biologist and a martial artist, the answer is quite easy to derive logically. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jul 26, 2018 at 18:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild: ‘how would the body shape of a raptor influence its fighting style?’ I don’t know, what fighting style are we aiming for? Grapple and hold? Strikes to weak points? Slashing, bludgeoning or piercing swordplay? In my opinion (See?) giving a sword to a creature with its head in front of its reach is a stupid idea, but should a fencer specialising in foil answer they could give an equally valid answer along completely different lines. $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jul 26, 2018 at 19:58

5 Answers 5


A common mistake made by Hollywood is depicting bipedal dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus or Utahraptor (in its guise as Spielberg's 'raptor from the Jurassic Park film series) as having a neutral posture where the head and tail are extended parallel to the ground.

Scientific studies have shown that such a body posture would be disadvantageous for bipedal predatory species - with two legs, the effort required to turn the whole body is greater than if the head is held above the shoulders as visible in modern birds, and the tail is held vertically. In fact, holding the long, heavy tail vertically provides a store of potential energy that, by using appropriate tail movements, can assist in turning the body.

Now if we install an enlarged brain, the basic body form dictates how it would function in combat. The dromaeosaurid body plan is designed from the ground-up for close combat, far more so than the human body. The head is armed with sharp teeth, and its probable normal position above the shoulders allows it to be thrust forward rapidly, delivering a bite at a considerable range, The hands are armed with large, sharp claws, and the feet are armed with truly prodigiously dimensioned sharp claws that are designed for kicking attacks.

A dromaeosaur with a body mass equivalent to a human - such as Deinonychus - would be a dangerous opponent in an unarmed fight, even against a highly trained human martial artist. The raptor's claws and teeth and probable tough skin and feathers would be especially telling against a thin-skinned and weaponless human. A human would have some advantage in having longer arms and a more upright body plan, allowing strikes further from the central body mass than the 'raptor's body plan allows, however, the 'raptor's claws would allow defensive blocks that could cause injury in their own right, and the store of momentum afforded by the long tail, plus the advantage of the long neck means that a human punching a 'raptor in the head would be a difficult task at best, and attempting a body punch would be complicated by the raptor's ability to pivot its body aside and simultaneously take a bite at the human's outstretched arm, a combination that would actually conserve total rotational momentum, avoid the blow and simultaneously put the human at the risk of receiving a damaging bite. The raptor's ability to kick - with its longest limbs - would put a human at risk of death with a single strike, while an unarmed human would be hard-pressed to put the 'raptor to any similar risk.

Even if a human was able to land a blow on a 'raptor, its feathers and the thick skin required to support them would serve to act as effective armour, safely absorbing impact energy, and its long neck and light head would allow a 'raptor to "roll" with a punch to the head, further reducing the blow's effectiveness.

Now, if we consider armed combat with hand-to-hand weapons, the dynamic shifts considerably. Humans, for all that they have thin skin, have long, powerful arms that are capable of a wider range of movement than a 'raptor's. A human could be armed with any of a variety of slashing or stabbing swords and would be capable of employing them in a wide arc around their body. A 'raptor, on the other hand, is designed for a straight-line-ahead single-victim attack scenario. It is likely that its shoulders would not be as flexible as a human's, making slashing swords more difficult for them to use, though they would be capable of employing a thrusting sword, were they capable of grasping it. However, their arms are shorter for a given body mass than a human's, and the position of their head, neck and shoulders would place the neck and head closer to harm than is desirable.

In order to have any success as a sword-wielding species, 'raptors would have to adopt a vertical-torso posture similar to that of a human, with the tail extending behind the body, where it would have utility both in turning and in lunging, providing a counterweight that would assist in pitching the torso forward. The head would be held vertically and would provide a similar counterweight to a lunge, remaining vertical as the torso pitches forwards. The combination of these factors may compensate for the fact that humans simply have long, powerful arms.

However, if it came to a fight between a similarly armed human and 'raptor, with both provided with a thrusting weapon such as an epee, the advantage would shift away from the raptor somewhat. Feathers and tough skin are of little use against a needle-pointed epee. The 'raptor's lightly constructed head would be far more vulnerable to an epee thrust than a human's heavy, bony skull, and the long neck would be more vulnerable to a fatal strike, as would the 'raptor's chest, which lacks a sternum that protects a human's heart and major blood vessels.

Further, a human has longer, stronger arms, and for all that a human lacks claws, human legs would be nearly as strong as a 'raptor's, making a human better able to deliver a quick epee thrust at a distance.

So, with equivalent weapons that favour the 'raptor's body plan, in a match between a 'raptor and a human, skill would play a greater part in determining the victor.

However, if we assume that both the human and the raptor are able to choose hand-to-hand weapons that best suit both their own physiology and that of their foe, a 'raptor might still choose a weapon similar to an epee, while a human would be better advised to choose a combination such as a slashing sword like a sabre or katana, plus a light shield, or two slashing swords. This combination would be inadvisable for a 'raptor, as its shorter arms and horizontal torso would restrict the utility of a shield, and its weaker, less mobile arms would make a slashing sword less useful than it would be for a human.

In such a matchup, the epee has the advantage that a thrust is extremely quick, but a 'raptor is not capable of as long a thrust as a human, for whom a two-metre lunge might not be impossible, and its head, long neck, and looser ribcage would be more vulnerable to a slashing weapon than a human's equivalent anatomy. The human's shield would counter the speed advantage of the raptor's epee, and if the human had even a moderate amount of training, the conclusion would likely be rather in the human's favour regardless of the 'raptor's training.

In order to overcome the physiological disadvantages of the dromaeosaurid body plan in hand-to-hand armed combat, aside from modifications that allow the creature to wield a sword at all, it would require longer, stronger arms with more flexible shoulder-joints, the ability to carry its torso upright, a heavier tail to counterbalance the additional weight of the arms, a stronger neck and a bigger head with a braincase sized to the larger brain.

Even with all these modifications, much of the advantage that a dromaeosaur has in unarmed combat would be lost in armed combat with a similarly armed human

  • $\begingroup$ Good analysis, in particular the observation that the dromeosaur was to prototype for Spielberg's raptors, not the true velociraptor. $\endgroup$
    – pojo-guy
    Jul 26, 2018 at 22:20

Look at a picture of a raptor:

I can't help but picture it moonwalking in my mind

Its body is very prolonged, almost completely horizontal from head to tail. Its arms cannot reach much further than the tip of its snout. Behind the legs there's basicly just the tail.

Now imagine putting any kind of blade onto or into their hands and how they would move with that.


  • They could charge at and pierce a target by just pointing the blade straight ahead
  • They could move the blade left, right and down (though not much since their bodies do not stand tall)


  • They could not move the blade up much or they would chop off their own heads
  • They probably couldn't twist and turn around very fast because the long tail acts like a counterweight. To make a pirouette they have to fight much more inertia than humans.
  • Since their bodies are so long, it would be easy to injure their flanks or tails, as long as you could avoid their fronts
  • They look like they have skipped "arms day"... Their arms are probably not strong enough to lift and move a blade without some serious training.


Since raptors are predators, they are equipped with natural weapons: teeth and claws. Extending those claws (Wolverine style if you want to be flashy) would enhance their fighting chances much more than a long and heavy sword.

And don't forget the tails! They have a longer range than the arms and could do some serious damage if equipped with sharp spikes or blades on the sides.



mameluk with scimitar http://www.angelfire.com/la2/marstonart/pages/mamlukrefpage.html

Scimitars were used in horse warfare because of their relatively light weight when compared to larger swords and their curved design, good for slashing opponents while riding on a horse. The curved design allowed riders to slash enemies and keep riding without getting stuck as stabbing with straight swords on horseback would.

So too the raptors. Their modus operandi was (I think) to run at the enemy at great speed and then slash with claws. The raptor does not want to get a claw stuck. A slash translates some of the attacker's momentum into damage and then like a mounted swordsman the raptor keeps going. The slashed enemy does not have an opportunity to fight back because the raptor is now at a distance.

The raptors would like scimitars for the same reasons the Mameluks and Mongols did - you slash in passing, don't get your sword stuck and don't stick around. Get a little distance then turn and see how your enemy is bleeding. Raptors would appreciate how sharp swords can be. If the sword is really sharp, you don't have to hit hard. Let the edge do the work.


Glue Swords to their Heads

Let's be honest, raptors aren't exactly the strongest animals in regards to their arms. They would barely be able to hold a sword, let alone have the strength to swing one.

But there's a solution to this. If we attach swords to their heads, they would have a much larger range of motion and strength to utilize those swords.

Of course if you want a different solution:

Robot Arms

Raptor arms just aren't enough for swordplay. That's why we need to replace them, make them stronger, faster, more durable.

By augmenting the raptors with mechanical arms, they will be able to utilize a great number more weapons that the lightweight ones they could previously use.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would have upvoted this if you had included the hybridly vigorous possibility of gluing a robot sword to their heads. Ok, I will upvote it anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 27, 2018 at 2:36

The velociraptors do not need additional modifications. Their short arms and powerful legs cause that they are experts in Muay Thai from the earliest childhood, and to hunt animals bigger than them allows that they develop a formidable Aikido. Finally, providing thumbs that allow they to grasp katanas would transform the velociraptors into a formidable opponents because the only thing more lethal than a velociraptor is a ninja velociraptor


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .