Okay, I am designing a dragon. The average adult male specimen is about 20 feet long, with an extra 5-8 ft of the tail; females are slightly smaller. Their wingspan is approx. 20 ft.

The above image is approximately what they look like...

A few things about dragons:

  • Since they are so big, they cannot achieve flight without throwing themselves off of a cliff first. Once in the air, they flap their wings to generate lift and they can fly. Therefore, they live in the mountains.

  • They are very large and need several animals a day (e.g. sheep, cows) for proper nourishment.

  • Originally they ate the mountain goats that naturally lived in the mountains, but many years of cumulative hunting drove the goats to near extinction. As a result, the goats are no longer a viable food source. The goats now have fear of dragons and run as far as possible from them.

  • Since there are no animals left in their mountainous environment, the dragons are forced to leave their cliffs and go hunt in grasslands for animals.

My problem:

To pick up the sheep in their claws and bring them back to their lairs, the dragons must fly very close to the land. However, if they get too near to the ground, there is a chance of them falling to the ground. Since they are specialized for flight, they are very slow on the ground. It would take them several weeks of trekking to walk back up to the cliffs (that is, assuming they have the intelligence to do that). It would be a very tedious hike since they must constantly look for food because the mountain goats are nearly gone.

So, after a few months of the dragons feeding on the grassland, the sheep have learned to hide in depressions in the ground or shallow banks so the dragons would not attempt to attack them for fear of dropping. More and more of the animals are wising up and the dragons are left hungry.

Assuming that

  • bringing animals back to the cliff and domesticating them is impossible (either because it is impractical or because the dragons lack the proper intelligence, I haven't decided yet)

  • Hunting somewhere else is impossible for irrelevant reasons

  • these dragons can breathe fire

How can the dragons hunt in such a way so that they can maximize animals eaten with minimum chance of falling?

  • $\begingroup$ seems like your dragon has long neck, are their jaw strong enough to lift the sheep? i think it at least give enough gap against the land to make sure the dragon dont trip when fly low. outside of that use the fire to direct the sheep to the dragon nest or fly around like dog herding sheep to make sure they goes to the dragon nest direction to gobble them. $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding Stacks! Could your dragons use pack tactics or do you plan for them to be loners? Also, why are the animals so smart? In our world animals repeat mistakes which expose them to predators repeatedly, herbivores do not usually avoid predators. They focus on getting maximum out of their pasture, before they will have to run away from one. Why are your animals learning so quickly instead of developing the tendencies through evolution? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @NuloenTheSeeker good question... I’ll have to think about that $\endgroup$
    – fartgeek
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ You may have ot change it to mostly cannot achieve flight without using a cliff, if they really can't take off without a cliff, they will 1. not be very common, 2. quickly be hunted to extinction by ground predators. There are birds that throw themselves off cliffs to fly but they can still take off from the ground it is just much harder. Consider they need to find water, which rarely occurs on the tops of cliffs. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @John why exactly would that be so? These dragons are twenty-foot mammoths! They could easily dispatch any ground predator that comes their way with both their massive size and their fire-breath. $\endgroup$
    – fartgeek
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 13:34

4 Answers 4


Ever seen a baleen whale hunt? Once they find their prey, they circle it from below and blow bubbles. The bubbles form a wall which keeps the fish trapped, so the whale can snatch them.

Your dragon can do the same thing. Enclose the sheep in circles of fire. Any sheep that hides in a hole should also be torched, to discourage that.

  • $\begingroup$ The sheep will still be at ground level, even encircled in fire, though $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 15:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica The problem isn't ground level, its the depressions that the dragon can't reach into without landing. Trapping them away from depressions or torching depressions serves the purpose quite well. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 19:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Fire costs a lot of energy to spray around. The OP doesn't specify the type of flame, but anything oil-based requires the body to produce lots of fatty oils. I'm not sure about other kinds of flame, but it's still going to take a lot out of the body to breathe enough fire to trap an animal in a ring (more if the animal is moving, forcing a wider ring). Add in the fact that dragons fly, which also costs huge amounts of energy. Conclusion: fire probably costs more energy than the prey will provide, unless you have a pack of dragons boxing in an entire herd (which risks over-hunting the animals). $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 9:59

Scaring them out of the depressions

This will mostly help for the depressions part. Lots of sheep and such actually live in woodlands, which is much more difficult.

Have the dragon pick up a boulder. Doesn't need to be huge either, as a decent sized stone can already hurt the prey.

Now fly over and drop. The stone will hit a creature or closeby enough to scare them out of a depression. Even humans can do stupid things when fear grips a group. With even one creature running out of the depression in fear lots will follow in a stampede.

Alternatively have the dragon swoop down as if the depression is not a problem. The creatures will flee in fear, as they're not in control enough to understand they're safe. Then it's just picking who you want to eat.

Finally you can use fire. Flame a ridge of the depression and let the creatures run away from it. But this isn't too advantageous, as it'll also potentially burn the countryside. A fire once in a while is good for a land. Constant fires are a blight.

  • $\begingroup$ "Since they are so big, they cannot achieve flight without throwing themselves off of a cliff first. Once in the air, they flap their wings to generate lift and they can fly. Therefore, they live in the mountains." That would imply that they can't carry a big boulder. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks it implies that they can't take off with one. not to mention, "Doesn't need to be huge either." If I had to reckon, carrying a decently sized rock and flinging it for a creature that size would be rather terrifying which is the intent. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 19:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks in addition to the answer of IT Alex, they can fly with livestock. Otherwise how do they hunt? A rock the size of a fist will probably be enough and the dragon can just grab a few. Just fly by and grab some, or grab a few before flight. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 19:59

Like fish eagles hunt.

fish eagles


The dragon will come in fast and low to minimize the time the grazers have to notice it. Justas fish eagles grab a fish from the water in mid flight, the dragon will seize a running animal without stopping, then ascend. The animal will be eaten in the air, whole or nearly so. The dragon can then hopefully make another pass and take another and another until full.

Side note - it is possible for humans to wipe out prey animals in an area because our populations are artificially sustained through omnivory and agriculture. If a predator population consumes all its prey in an area, the predator population in the area will crash either from starvation or emigration, and the prey population will then start to recover.


Scare the sheep out of the depressions using fire. Also, do you even need to fly? The giant pterosaurs of the Cretaceous period spent more time walking then flying, so you could make your dragons attack on the ground.


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