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Dragon Offsprings

 In the large flightless dragons of Europe and America, the female lays a small clutch of three or four eggs, which are about the size of grapefruits, pure white, and shiny as pearls. As the young dragon embryo grows within, the egg gradually turns to a beautiful golden hue, looking like true gold. 

 No doubt this is the basis for the nearly universal belief that dragons hoard and stand guard over great treasures of gold and pearls. Certainly a clutch of eggs would appear to be a vast treasure to the average observer, and the anger of a nesting female dragon at being disturbed is easily imagined. The incubation period of the eggs is about three months. When the young are about to hatch, the female wraps her body even more closely around the eggs to keep them warm and safe. Probably the reason that dragons prefer to lay their eggs in the craters of dormant volcanoes is that the craters are often still slightly warm and so provide a perfect incubator for the eggs. Otherwise, the dragoness must warm them with her own body and that of decaying leafy materials she piles up around the eggs when she leaves the clutch to feed.

 The hatchlings quickly peck their way out of their shells and can crawl about immediately. They are simply miniature versions of the adults, and even at hatching the males can be easily recognized by their tiny wing like forelegs. Their mother, who goes out each night to gather the food, feeds them insects and berries. Within a few weeks the hatchlings begin to follow her outside, usually riding on her back, and sometimes sliding down her tail in a playful way. Some hatchlings can already breathe out small smoke trails.

 By the time they are a few months old they are several feet long and begin to move around independently. It should be noted that the male plays very little part in the care and raising of the brood and after mating often moves on to look for other mates. His absence probably helps to keep the location of the breeding weyr unknown, and so contributes indirectly to the breeding success. In any case, the female is quite able to protect the dragonlings herself.

 Baby earth dragons might easily be mistaken for large lizards, like the eyed lizard, which is very common in some parts of Europe

Newly hatched dragons measure some sixty centimeters in length, and their wings, encased in sacs, look at first glance like typical lizard markings. The baby dragon's tail is not ring shaped, and if caught, he is not able to shed it like other reptiles. Thanks to his relatively large size and his tremendous agility, he is able to elude predators such as foxes, badgers and birds of prey, which would otherwise devour him.

At about eight or nine months, he is the size of a large dog, and is now able to tackle animals as large and fierce as a wolf. He hunts and eats foxes and mountain goats, as well as stray sheep and calves, but always with moderation to avoid discovery by humans. This behavior is instinctive in the young dragon, whose intelligence has not yet developed. His nocturnal habits, his caution and his extreme timidity make it very difficult to observe the young dragon during this period. When he enters adolescence, at around the age of two, the father ceases his vigilance and gradually the young dragon is left to his own devices.

 The adolescent dragon has already attained a considerable size, which makes camouflage difficult. At about this time, his wings may begin to unfold, and his intelligence becomes more acute as the proverbial cunning of the species starts to manifest itself. As his innate knowledge of Latin develops, he learns.

 When the baby dragon is strong enough to hold on to her father's shoulders, he whisks her through the air to the dragon court, where she will live with the rest of the young females until the Dragon Father considers her mature enough to mate.   As a result of being protected and raised by the group, the physical development of the young female is slower than that of the male eaen though she reaches maturity more rapidly. It is not unusual for the young female dragon to start talking before the wing sacs have disappeared.   Female dragons command great respect and are treated like queens.  Often prouder and fiercer than males, they are very jealous of their privileges.   By the time the female dragon is ready or her first mating flight, she is generally a beautiful adult beast who has acquired the wisdom of the most learned wise  woman, and received intensive instruction in all the fields of dragon  knowledge.

Small lizards and salamanders have been mistaken for baby dragons. Specimens of small, stuffed reptiles were exhibited as dragons in European museums until the 1930s. These are fakes. Some are lizards with bats' wings glued on. Other fakes are made of ocean skates and rays cut and shaped to look like dragons. The most common display is a dried four-inch lizard from Malaysia, whose ribs stick out like wings. Private collectors who show them off as real baby dragons now own many of these fakes.

Youngsters of the larger species leave the mother's weyr near the end of the first year of life, or just before the start of the next breeding season, and venture out on their own. They are then about six feet long, and relatively safe from most predators, except perhaps lions and panthers. They avoid these animals and, of course, stay away from elephants at all costs. Females are always flightless, but can reach the lower branches of tall trees, and the males, even of the flightless species, are able at this point in their lives to fly up into the higher branches. So the fledgling dragons go off on their own and remain quite solitary until they become sexually mature about ninety-nine years later. As the males grow larger, they too become flightless and usually quite sedentary.

In general, adult dragons are not very playful, although youngsters, or dragonlings, like to play king-of-the-hill and similar games that improve physical coordination and skills. A young dragon will sometimes "play dead" and let some other creature walk up and begin investigating. Then, without warning, the dragon will stand up, spread its wings, and hiss loudly, frightening the poor creature witless. Young dragons also mimic other creatures, assuming the posture of a perched eagle or vulture, or camouflaging themselves, changing color to resemble a large stump and blend into the background. These are usually protective devices, used when humans approach and the animal is unable to escape.

Female dragons are very scarce so they are treated with special care and attention.  The male who incubates a female egg does not abandon the developing egg as is customary, but keeps a close watch on it, turning it over regularly.  When it is time for the egg to hatch, the anxious father takes it to a safe place, far from human settlements, and builds a nest well concealed from prying eyes staying close by the egg until it hatches.

As soon as the baby female dragon emerges from the shell, he brings her food so that she can eat without venturing out of the nest. When the baby dragon is strong enough to hold on to her father's shoulders, he whisks her through the air to the dragon court, where she will live with the rest of the young females until the Dragon Father considers her mature enough to mate.   As a result of being protected and raised by the group, the physical development of the young female is slower than that of the male, although she reaches maturity more rapidly. It is not unusual for the young female dragon to start talking before the wing sacs have disappeared.   Female dragons command great respect and are treated like queens.  Often prouder and fiercer than males, they are very jealous of their privileges.   By the time the female dragon is ready or her first mating flight, she is generally a beautiful adult beast who has acquired the wisdom of the most learned wise  woman, and received intensive instruction in all the fields of dragon  knowledge.

Small lizards and salamanders have been mistaken for baby dragons. Specimens of small, stuffed reptiles were exhibited as dragons in European museums until the 1930s. These are fakes. Some are lizards with bats' wings glued on. Other fakes are made of ocean skates and rays cut and shaped to look like dragons. The most common display is a dried four-inch lizard from Malaysia, whose ribs stick out like wings. Private collectors who show them off as real baby dragons now own many of these fakes.

Youngsters of the larger species leave the mother's weyr near the end of the first year of life, or just before the start of the next breeding season, and venture out on their own. They are then about six feet long, and relatively safe from most predators, except perhaps lions and panthers. They avoid these animals and, of course, stay away from elephants at all costs. Females are always flightless, but can reach the lower branches of tall trees, and the males, even of the flightless species, are able at this point in their lives to fly up into the higher branches. So the fledgling dragons go off on their own and remain quite solitary until they become sexually mature about ninety-nine years later. As the males grow larger, they too become flightless and usually quite sedentary.

In general, adult dragons are not very playful, although youngsters, or dragonlings, like to play king-of-the-hill and similar games that improve physical coordination and skills. A young dragon will sometimes "play dead" and let some other creature walk up and begin investigating. Then, without warning, the dragon will stand up, spread its wings, and hiss loudly, frightening the poor creature witless. Young dragons also mimic other creatures, assuming the posture of a perched eagle or vulture, or camouflaging themselves, changing color to resemble a large stump and blend into the background. These are usually protective devices, used when humans approach and the animal is unable to escape.   


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