Dragon Diet

 The diet of dragons seems to be obscure and difficult to ascertain. The books that discuss this topic seem to contradict each other. Dragons, being solitary creatures that seem to stick with other dragons and their few favored humans, probably eat in private.

Thus their eating habits are most difficult to verify. Both reports are presented here so the reader can have access to the research available.

Dragons enjoy milk, maidens, cakes, birds, oxen, deer, and elephants' blood.  Milk is their favorite drink. It makes them sleepy and too drunk to harm anyone.  Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used to leave milk at the entrances to dragon caves. They also left honey cakes to satisfy the beast's sweet tooth.

European housekeepers used to leave milk outside their homes for stray, thirsty dragons.  They didn't want to invite the monsters over for a visit, but they hoped that milk would make the creatures so drowsy that they wouldn't eat people. Unmarried daughters were in the gravest danger, for a sweet, tender maiden is a tasty dish. 

When dragons hunger for a snack, they open their jaws, lift their heads, and inhale deeply. The force of their breath creates a draft. Birds flying overhead are sucked into their mouths and down their throats.  There were reports of a mammoth man-eater in Africa that would eat twice as fast as any other dragon, because it had two heads. Lightning finally killed this double-headed dragon. What a stroke of luck!  Although their teeth are as sharp as steak knives, some full-grown dragons gulp down victims whole, without biting or chewing. After swallowing an ox or a deer they twist themselves around trees, crushing the animals they have eaten.  Old nature books claimed that dragons swallow elephants whole, and then cough up the bones. Experts who insist that dragons only like elephants' blood have questioned this. They wait in trees until elephants pass below, then pounce upon the big gray beasts.

Coiling themselves around the elephants' bodies, and biting the tips of the ears, they suck the elephants dry. The elephants become e mpty bags of skin and bones. The foolhardy dragons keep drinking until they blow up like balloons.

When the elephants fall down dead, the dragons wrapped around them are crushed to death.  Some African dragons in search of food used to cross the Red Sea to Arabia. Four or five twisted themselves together into a floating raft. The dragons' heads were held high above the water, acting as sails, as the beasts rode the waves. Once ashore, they headed for apple orchards and feasted until their bellies ached. Then they grazed for lettuce, their remedy for instant relief from indigestion.

The second report claims that dragons are vegetarians and that in spite of all that has been written about dragons, none have in reality proven to be intentional man-eaters, and indeed few of these remarkable creatures are flesh-eaters at all. The reports of maiden eating come from the stories told by knights who became jealous when his maiden of choice was lured away. The knights would even stake out the maiden to lure out her chosen dragon so he could destroy his superior rival. The lake dragons live mostly on fish, but they have never been known to attack sailors or other persons lost at sea.

The smaller flying dragons are omnivorous and consume fruits and berries of various kinds, including gooseberries, raspberries, and wild plums. They sometimes fly up into tall nut-bearing trees, such as beech and walnut trees, to gather the nut crop. On occasion, they will steal the eggs from birds' nests, and they also enjoy eating mushrooms, which often grow in their weyrs. 

The diets of the large flightless dragons are of special concern to us, and various studies based on the analysis of dragon scat and direct observation now provide us with conclusive evidence of their foraging behavior They feed mostly at night, since, like all dragons, they avoid bright light. They are tall enough to feed on the leaves of trees that are above the reach of deer or other large mammals. They like the buds, leaves, and seeds of many kinds of hardwood trees, but are especially fond of aspens and cottonwoods. All of these are rich in sugars and other nutritious articles, and have few of the oils and bitter tastes of coniferous vegetation.

Thus, flightless dragons are much more common in areas of hardwood vegetation than in coniferous forests, and their foraging activities are often evident there. In fact, like beavers, they often gnaw off small aspens near their bases, leaving only the larger parts of the trunk. They carry the larger branches to their weyrs to be eaten, when 
required, in peace and quiet during the daylight hours. However, their teeth are, of course, much smaller than those of beavers, and an experienced naturalist can easily tell beaver cuttings from those of dragons. The large amount of woody materials in the diets of the flightless dragons has resulted in a specialized metabolism. All dragons of this type have modified their stomachs to allow bacterial fermentation to break down lignin, cellulose, and other woody materials. The chemistry of this metabolism is very similar to that of termites, and sometimes dragons are forced to eat termites to replenish the supply of cellulose-digesting bacteria in their stomachs. Because of the long fermentation period, it is believed that dragons eat only once a week, consuming several hundred pounds of leafy materials at one feeding, then returning to their lairs to sleep and rest for several days as their digestion proceeds. The amount of gases produced during this process is enormous luckily for the dragon; its otherwise keen sense of smell is immune to these fumes, which include hydrogen sulfide as well as methane.

Dragons are by far the most intelligent of all reptiles and have a remarkably large brain. They have an excellent memory and can remember for decades-if not centuries-the locations of especially good stands of favorite foods. It has also been reported that when dragons become domesticated at a young age, they tend to adopt the feeding practices of their owners. They sometimes show a marked preference for pizza, ice cream, and chocolate chip cookies.


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