The human imagination is endless, taking an animal and reshaping it from fear or fascination. We want to believe these mythical creatures exist because they scare us, fascinate us, or cause us to wonder what else is out there. Sometimes they’re made up out of thin air, but more often than not, they’re inspired by real animals. Curious about what these real mythical animals are? Here are the 25 Bizarre Mythical Creatures Inspired By Real Animals.
From ancient stories to Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid, mermaids are some of the most popular mythological creatures in human history. The myth spread as sailors came home to their families and told them stories. Even Christopher Columbus wrote about them but said they were ugly and had manly features. In all reality, the real mermaids are manatees. Manly features, indeed.
Dragons have become increasingly popular in modern fantasy books like The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, but dragon mythology has been around for thousands of years over a variety of cultures. Of course, the likeliest influence for dragons are alligators, crocodiles, and the Komodo Dragon.
Fans of Harry Potter will instantly recognize the griffin as the symbol for Gryffindor House, but this mythological creature has been around for thousands of years, originating with the Scythians in Asia. Now, after archaeological digs, we’ve discovered dinosaur bones in the Gobi desert near Scythia that matches their description. It’s likely ancient miners saw these bones and made up stories about them.
A mythological creature the ancient Greeks loved to tell stories about around the campfire was the cyclops. Noted particularly in Homer’s The Odyssey, the cyclops was a giant with one eye in the middle of its head. Today, we know that these were likely Deinotherium giganteum, a prehistoric elephant on the island of Crete. Their fossilized skulls look like they only had one eye.
Chupacabras are certainly not nearly as ancient as mermaids or dragons, coming on the scene in the mid-1990’s when the first sighting appeared in Puerto Rico. Since then, there have been sightings all over Mexico, the U.S. Southwest, and even China. However, scientists discovered these creatures to be coyotes with mange, a parasite that sheds their hair and makes their skin shriveled.
Photos: 25. Mehgan Heaney-Grier, MehganTheMermaid, CC BY 3.0, 24. Grantscharoff, VarnaDragons, CC BY-SA 3.0, 21. Wilson Hui via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 20. Oast House Archive via geograph.org.uk, CC BY-SA 2.0, 16. Ad Meskens, Loch Ness Monster, CC BY-SA 3.0, 13. Carnby, Thunderbird (artistic rendition), CC BY-SA 4.0, 8. Lian Chang via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 3. Sam Howzit via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 1. The original uploader was Pieter0024 at English Wikipedia, Allghoikhorkhoi, CC BY-SA 1.0