How Many Dragons Could A Medieval Country Support?

June 23, 2014 in Editorial

game-of-thrones-2-dragon[1]Dragons are cool, but you’d probably prefer their diet was something other than 3 year olds. While sheep make for a good substitute, the question is how many would you need? Well, the easiest way to calculate food requirements is to scale up a komodo dragon to fiery dragon size. A komodo dragon (10 foot long) requires about 816 kg of food per year, which is around 18 sheep.

How many komodos in a Drogon? In the novels Drogon is 20 feet from ‘wingtip to wingtip’, but the beasts look bigger than that in the series.

How Many Dragons Size 1How Many Dragons Size 2 Mass of food required by a komodo:

816 kg/year

Size of dragon relative to komodo:


Mass of food required by dragon:

2,840 kg

Number of sheep for 2,840 kg meat:


Drogon looks about five times the length of a man from nose to tail, so we can scale up a komodo to this size. For flying dragons, we also need to add on wings. If Danerys’ dragons have the same ratio of wing: body as a bat, then we need to add 16% more mass. This brings our total dragon feeding requirements to about 2,840 kg, or 61 sheep per year.

But keep in mind that komodo dragons don’t breathe fire, which obviously uses up a lot of energy. If we model dragon breath energy efficiency on a WW2 flamethrower, and then consider the energy density of mutton, we can calculate that a dragon breathing fire burns through a sheep-worth of energy every 5.8 seconds. (Which means that if Drogon spends 6 seconds cooking a sheep, he’s rather missed the point). If we estimate that an average dragon breathes fire for 2 seconds per day, this brings our ‘sheep per dragon’ number up to 188.

Which really, isn’t actually that much.

Between 1294 and 1297 medieval England was having…scuffles… with Wales, France and Scotland. To fund these wars, Edward I raised approximately £50,000 a year in taxes.

Sheep cost around 1s 5d (1 shilling and five pence), so if Edward had spent say a tenth of his taxes on sheep for his dragons then he could have supported 375 of our fiery friends.

So when someone asks ‘but could a country really support dragons’? The answer is something along the lines of ‘yes, run’.

p.s. This also, incidentally, explains why the village of Berk from How To Train Your Dragon is on the coast and not a mainland setting; there’s no way a village could feed all those flying lizards on only sheep, so the ocean must be their main source of food.

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