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The dragons are the size of a double-decker bus with a long wingspan of over 100 meters, despite their muscular build they lack both endurance and stamina so more often than not they would simply ambush their prey. Thanks to the overgrowth of moss and the high humidity all year round, their scales can easily blend in with their surroundings, but something about their behaviour is bothering me lately.

Why do the dragons need to roar loudly before giving chase to hunt down their prey? Wouldn't this give away their presence? And yet, the Wildlife Foundation is saying they are far from being endangered.

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  • $\begingroup$ Broasdly, they don't.W $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ [sarcasm] They're descended from pro tennis players . (for those who don't follow the sport, many pros give off huge, pointless grunts on every swing) $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2022 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ Obligatory YouTube video presenting the most satisfactory reason why any dragon would roar before chasing down its prey. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 2, 2022 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ ... "I would like to ..... RAAAGEEEE" ... $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2022 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ They need to clear their throats for the F I R E. $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Mar 2, 2022 at 15:25

18 Answers 18

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In real life, an animal that is hunting will generally do so quietly. Roaring and displays are territorial behaviors, generally used when the animal doesn't want a fight and just wants the enemy to leave. Sometimes if the enemy turns to run they will give chase opportunistically (this is why the typical advice when facing a diplaying animal is to back away slowly), but this is not normal hunting behavior.

One possibility is that dragons specifically roar before confronting humans. Dragons are relatively intelligent, and have learned that some humans sometimes conceal sharp and dangerous weapons, while others are soft, defenseless bite-sized morsels, but they can't easily tell the difference. So they roar. If the human faces them down, they recognize that they are dealing with a fighter who won't go down easily, and will proceed with caution. If the human turns and runs...well, time to chow down.

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    $\begingroup$ This makes a lot of sense. But this means the relationship with humans is a mix of hunter/prey and territorial behaviours. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2022 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ To make it some sort of territorial behavior: "dragons roar to keep other dragons from catching their intended prey". At those sizes and speeds, some communication is necessary to prevent fatal crashes between different dragons going for the same prey, especially if dragons aren't solitary. $\endgroup$
    – hoffmale
    Feb 28, 2022 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ @VincentFourmond More a form of prey identification. Most animals either think of all humans as dangerous and avoid them, or are man-eaters who have learned to see humans as prey. Dragons understand the concept of weapons and roar to determine whether the particular human they are facing down is armed or not. This allows them to use humans as a food source safely. (This strategy may backfire once humans invent guns, though.) $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ Alternately, Dragons don't normally hunt humans. The roar is purely territorial to frighten off hostile non-prey. After all, humans are pretty small fry for a creature larger than the largest predators to ever walk the earth. They'd be far happier swooping down and carrying off cattle than trying to eat a human. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Feb 28, 2022 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham Hyena's will absolutely kill a lion if they can catch one alone. A pair (or more) of lions will tend to be avoided. Lions don't often actively seek to kill hyenas, but they will drive them away from kills (with roars?). So a beta predator comparison of a human vs dragon is quite good. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 16:11
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Martial Arts Shout in Taekwondo

In Taekwondo, people shout before strike. They do so to

  • Concentrate and increase power
  • Reduce own fear and hesitation
  • release anxiety that naturally occurs during an attack
  • roar synchronized with an effective strike will make the strike seem even more powerful and painful.
  • induce fear in the opponent

The dragon roars for similar reasons.

Intense flame

Dragon are fire breathing. To throw a powerful flame, they need to give a powerful blow which creates a loud sound.

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    $\begingroup$ Shock and awe, +1. "Backed into a corner, I had a rat stand its ground (literally on its hind legs) to me and my two accomplished murder floofs. It screamed its head off and we all looked at each other and backed away. I built a ramp out of blankets for it to leave; thankfully it did." How would tiny dragons strike TERROR? $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 27, 2022 at 21:08
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    $\begingroup$ in martial arts, the situation is not hunter/prey but two species having a duel. In a similar situation, also animals roar. However that would not explain why would one roar when hunting. $\endgroup$
    – eis
    Mar 1, 2022 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ In martial arts, you should exhale as you strike, not before. Exhaling through the vocal chords generates the "shout". $\endgroup$
    – fdomn-m
    Mar 1, 2022 at 13:41
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To kindle the flame in the dragon's oral cavity that will ignite the flammable mixture of gas they spout when breathing fire.

This naturally depends on the draconic anatomy in your world, but since no specifics are given, I suppose all options are on the table.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they need a deep gulp of oxygen to get the fire going. $\endgroup$
    – RedSonja
    Feb 28, 2022 at 9:35
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    $\begingroup$ You could also say the roar is needed to properly mix the flammable compounds they produce with air $\endgroup$ Mar 1, 2022 at 12:34
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Their roar is a complex sound extending into ultra- and infra-sonic range, to work on as wide a variety of species as possible, and will freeze their prey where they stand, making it easy for the dragon to gobble them up.

You could draw a parallel with the hunting sounds produced by some dolphins which can stun their prey with an ultra-sonic blast, immobilizing them for easy pickings. A similar strategy is followed by the snapping shrimp which has a specialized claw which produces a jet of water moving so fast that a gas bubble is formed in the low-pressure area in its wake, and the eventual implosion of this bubble results in a loud noise that can stun or even kill their prey.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also the kashalot. $\endgroup$ Feb 27, 2022 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ @akostadinov I believe that isn't true or, at the very least, has not been demonstrated conclusively. See asa.scitation.org/doi/10.1121/1.2211508. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Feb 27, 2022 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ "Instead of exhaling destructive energy, you can expend a use of your Breath Weapon trait to roar, forcing each creature of your choice within 30 feet of you to make a Wisdom saving throw (DC 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier). A target automatically succeeds on the save if it can’t hear or see you. On a failed save, a target becomes frightened for 1 minute. If the frightened target takes any damage, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success." – DND 5th Edition Dragon Fear $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 27, 2022 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Evolving alongside their prey, they developed this stun roar. Humans later migrated into dragon territory from a different evolutionary environment, and don't suffer the same freezing effects but just hear the load terrifying noise (and wonder why the dragons give themselves away...) $\endgroup$
    – minseong
    Feb 27, 2022 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ Broadly, they don't. What made you think they might? Why not ignore that Question and simply describe your dragons? $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 23:28
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They are actually belching.

Clearing the decks for action, as it were. Dragons are gassy and some of this gastric gas is reclaimed for use in fire making so they keep a fair bit on hand at any time. But if they are going to eat, they need room and so they clear out whatever gastric gasses they have. What is considered a roar is actually a very moist and foul smelling belch.

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Breathing out before breathing in

Dragons need a lot of energy, when they jump, or to slam prey with their heavy claws. To prepare for the final attack, they refresh the air in their lungs. While getting rid of the old air, they breath out, you hear the roaring. Of course, the dragon gives its presence away.. but when a prey hears the dragon, it is too late. The battle is already lost.

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The reason male Lions roar is to drive panicked prey toward lurking females, who can then easily ambush kill some of them without having to chase them down. Lions are actually slower than a lot of their prey species, so a full on chase wouldn't work well (forcing them to evolve into cheetahs).

So roaring is a tactic of terrorization. I can think of 2 reasons why panicking prey might be helpful to a dragon:

  1. Dragons are lazy. They have confederate (probably smaller and quicker) dragons lying in wait to scoop up panicked prey.
  2. Betcha can't eat just one. Dragons are actually bigger and faster than any of their prey species. However they need a lot of them (like whales with Krill or fish). Getting masses of prey to panic stampede somewhere allows them to scoop up or barbecue large amounts of prey at once, rather than waste their entire day doing the equivalent of a human chasing down and eating individual ants.
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If their appearance wasn't enough, roaring instills fear in their preys, making them flee.

The flee also triggers the attack instinct in the dragon, which otherwise would be confused by a non fleeing target.

It's also explained on the park walking guide, page 35:

How to behave when meeting a dragon:

  • do not flee, even if the dragon roars, as doing so would trigger the chase instinct in the dragon
  • slowly move aside and seek shelter or an hiding place, always facing the dragon
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Echolocation

Dragon roars are particularly lower frequency than most echolocation methods, but there might be advantages to why they would still use that, especially at night, to identify prey to hunt.

  1. Lower frequencies have longer wavelengths, so may pass through smaller objects.
  2. Louder roars allow them to echolocate farther distances per roar.

For 1.), this has the advantage of using a dragon's strength and size to track larger prey. Aside from mountains and particularly strong trees, a dragon can reasonably presume anything small enough will either flee in their sight, or just get wrecked by them going through it. They don't need to track insects like mosquitoes or moth; they want to focus on and find buffalo, or moose, or horses - things that the hunting of make it worth it for them to actually hunt.

For 2.), that likely is more useful for them to be able to roar once and get a decent landscape view of their surroundings. Even if they need to roar a bit more often, especially at night, to get a consistent feel of the area, they really want a larger scale of their surroundings because when they fly, they're not doing quicker and more corrections in their flying - they just choose a direction and aim.

As for frequencies in their roar that isn't good for echolocation, that can be considered a side effect of being the type of roar that a dragon can naturally make - akin to like how deaf cats can meow relatively similarly to how non-deaf cats meow.

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If you are looking for a fantasy explanation rathe than a real world one I would suggest it's because a dragon might want to make it's prey run away, because hitting a stationary target while swooping down on them is quite difficult, but hitting a moving target that's going in a straight line away from you, and is looking where it's going is easier because the dragon can match speed with them and snatch them up.

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    $\begingroup$ This is more real world than fantasy. Why do cats swish their tails? Waiting for you to pick a direction takes patience. - (pokes with stick) C'mon, do the thing where you run away and I eat you, because it's easier to sever your 3rd vertebrae, from your 4th one, from behind. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 27, 2022 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura: My cat has zero trouble grabbing a mouse from any direction. The only reason she'd wait for movement is because cats have terrible spatial resolution compared to humans, but better light sensitivity which translates to better motion detection. She literally can't see 10mm-ish pebbles of food between her front paws, and has to smell for them. So a mouse that's not moving can (sometimes) hide, while a moving mouse is easy prey from any direction. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Feb 28, 2022 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ It's fantasy because it's not what real world flying predators do. A dragon is so large that if it has to slow down the force would rip its wings off, so it might want its prey to be traveling at speed so it can match speed without having to slow down too much. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 17:19
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The roaring of a dragon is one of the most frightening things you can hear. It makes you pretty sure that someone in your herd is going to die.

Because of this, it is common for herd animals to evacuate their intestines prior to running for their lives (it also helps them run faster).

So for the dragon, the benefit of roaring is ensuring that the meat they will eat has less 💩 in it.

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It might be similar to "beating the bush", a technique used to flush birds out of bushes and similar in hunting (by humans). Particularly if the roar is loud enough to vibrate the hiding places of their prey, but even without that - it might be sufficient to scare the prey and then they will run instead of staying hidden. As long as the dragons are flighted creatures, they are probably able to catch up to the prey - and so hiding is the main problem.

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You know why dogs bark before they attack? It's very scary, dogs use sound as a sonic weapon. It's a sonic psychological weapon than confuses and panics the prey. That chilling, confusing feeling you get when a dog is going ballistic, it prevents you from concentrating, confuses you about whether you must fight or run away, I often go around with ear protection around town, and I've noticed that when I can't hear angry dogs, I don't give a F...k. I have less psychological jilting and worries, in fact the look of a big angry doberman at a fence is not at all that scary, but the sound is reeeelly scary.

Also it's used for communication, to call backup. Dogs recognize each other's voices and they automatically run to join up if there is call.

So, Dragons can work the same way?

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They have good vision for moving objects, but poor for stationary objects. Thus, they need to roar to scare their prey into running away, making it easier to see their prey.

Much like the T Rex in Jurassic Park.

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It's only a theory but....

Its been hypothesized that roar of large predators like lions and tigers briefly (for an instant) paralyzes/freezes their prey in place before they recover and try to flee. This gives the predator a momentary advantage.

With the volume/frequencies Dragons could produce (provided they could approach their prey unawares)?

The roars of predators

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They want to catch their prey while they are running.

Lots of birds dive to catch prey hard landing on a target and then taking off again. For a dragon, who is a like a very big bird they do not want a sudden stop of their very heavy weight or to have to take off again.

Ideally a dragon wants to swoop by a prey grabbing one without ever landing or stopping flying. They could do this fly by on a unsuspecting prey but due to their immense size they aren't the quietest of fliers. Prey will often notice then coming and then dart in a random direction or hide making it difficult.

So they roar, set a bunch of prey running scared and then make several swoops at the startled prey picking off a few. Likely eating the ones they grab in a couple bites before going for another dive. If a target is running in a direction it's easier for the dragon to calculate which way it is going and harder for the prey to suddenly change directions.

This attack pattern also lends to catching several prey at once which large dragons will like rather than the usual hunting methods of predators which go for a single target.

They could of course land and burn/attack prey on the ground but they aren't as fast on the ground as a deer or horse. So they have learned/evolved over time to do this swooping of running prey. Their breath weapon (if they have one) also helps this. If the prey are hunkering down and being difficult a little fire will set them running.

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Theatrical Reasons

A dragon entering the scene usually brings a climax. A dragon roaring on the top of the hill is a good artifact to announce the climax scene and it is a quite epic image.

Many times the roaring precedes the appearing, so the spectators/players have time to wonder what horrible creature is coming.

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Roaring induces stress, stress introduces adrenaline, adrenaline spiced meat is far more delicious then non-andrenalin spiced food.

Essentially they make their food more yummie by roaring.

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