The hydra defense

A while ago, Sarah Sawyer had a feature on her blog about the Balaur, a mythical creature like a dragon, sometimes described as a hydra.

Anyway, it got me thinking about hydras, and what they might have been. If you work from the assumption that all dragon myths came from human encounters with dinosaurs, you can come up with some pretty wild stuff.

For instance, if you came up against a bunch of apatosaurs, and all you saw was their long, snaky necks, you would think it was one beast with a bunch of heads.

But what if apatosaurs actually defended themselves this way? One dino gives a yell and all of them bunch up and start biting and striking at the enemy, all the heads and necks moving at once. The predator couldn’t watch all the heads at once, and the apatosaurs could take chunks out of him until they drove him off.

In hydra myths, they talk about how if you kill one head, two more spring up in its place and the beast is maddened. Now think how that might apply to a herd of apatosaurs defending themselves. Herd animals don’t like to see a member of their herd die.

Of course, you chop enough heads, and you’ll kill the entire herd. It’s no wonder the poor things are extinct–if you were a hero, you would slaughter entire family groups of the things.

I’m becoming a real tree-hugger when it comes to dinosaurs.


3 thoughts on “The hydra defense

  1. Thanks for the mention, Kessie! I like your expanded hydra theory–it seems plausible to me. Pack animals operate in fascinating ways.

    Though I sympathize with the dinosaurs destroyed, I can also understand the human reaction of fear upon unexpectedly encountering such beasts, especially when all the tales suggested they were deadly creatures.


  2. Wow. Interesting idea for the source of the myth. For a human, that would indeed be a fearful sight… But do you think that the apatosaurs would defend themselves this way against other predators? After all humans are not, by dino standards, large.


  3. That is such an intriguing idea. It makes sense if you don’t have the teeth and claws so use your numbers to overwhelm. Your sketch really gives that idea some kinetic dynamics.

    I can see these myths arising from human encounters with these creatures. You can find artwork with dino-like creatures all over the world, many of which even have recognizable species with horns, crests, and long necks. It’s so amazing!


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