We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

All the Game of Thrones dragons explained

We've provided a detailed history of the Game of Thrones dragons from their origins to Daenerys Targaryen's troublesome trio Viserion, Rhaegal, and Drogon.

Game of Thrones dragons explained. Viserion, Drogon, and Rhaegal

What are the dragons in Game of Thrones? In the latter seasons of the HBO mega-hit Game of Thrones, Daenerys threatened to break the wheel once and for all and upend society in Westeros.

How? Well, in Game of Thrones, whoever controls dragons basically controls the world (that’s how the Targaryen family tree took root in Westeros), and Daenerys Targaryen had not one but three dragons at her disposal, arguably making her one of the most powerful Game of Thrones characters in the original series.

But what are the dragons really? Where do they come from? How did Dany manage to wake them, and what happened to the other dragons in Westeros? Well, we don’t mean to brag, but we know a thing or two about dragons (for example, avoid Balerion the Black Dread if you can). So with no further adieu, here’s our comprehensive history of the Game of Thrones dragons. Warning spoilers ahead for one of the best TV series ever.

What are dragons in Game of Thrones?

In Game of Thrones, dragons are winged fire-breathing reptiles. Renowned for their powerful jaws, near-impenetrable scales, and razor-sharp claws, dragons are rightly considered living engines of war across the world, and almost all people fear the sound of a dragon’s roar.

Dragons come in a variety of colors, from searing scarlets to the darkest blacks, and while the majority of the dragons we meet in Game of Thrones and its prequel series, House of the Dragon, are huge, there is significant size variation in these beasts.

YouTube Thumbnail

Some, like Vhagar, Balerion, and Drogon, grew to colossal proportions, while others were as small as a house cat. A number of factors influence how big a dragon can grow, but it’s believed that with enough space and food, a dragon will never stop growing.

Dragons are believed to be inextricably linked with magic, with maesters reporting that magic left the world when the last Targaryen dragon died and that it only returned to the world when Daenerys Targaryen managed to hatch her clutch of eggs.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Drogon and Viserys

Where did the dragons in Game of Thrones come from?

Dragons hail from Valyria, where the legend went that the dragons were flame-made flesh and that they crawled from a ring of volcanoes surrounding the ancient Valyrian Freehold. Other civilizations have their own beliefs, though. The Warlocks of Quarth claim the dragons came when a moon flew too close to the sun and cracked open, releasing thousands of fire-breathing creatures upon the world.

The people of Asshai, meanwhile, maintain that the Valyrians weren’t the first to tame the creatures. They believe that an unnamed race taught the secrets of dragon taming to the Valyrians before they mysteriously disappeared from the world. Others believe that the dragons were created by Valyrian magicians experimenting with blood magic on wyverns and firewyrms.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Drogon flexes his wings

Whatever their origin, all we can really say is that the dragons seem to be native to Valyria, as proven by the fact they nearly went extinct following the Doom, which destroyed the peninsula. The only dragons who survived were taken from the Freehold before its destruction by the Targaryen family, who raised a brood of five dragons on the island of Dragonstone.

It’s from this line that all the dragons in Westeros, and presumably Dany’s trio, are descended.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Daenerys rides Drogon

How do you ride a dragon in Game of Thrones?

Dragons are exceptionally intelligent creatures, with some speculating they are as smart (if not smarter) as most humans. While this high level of intelligence means they can’t be tamed, they can form bonds with certain people. Indeed, some dragons will allow themselves to be flown (although only by those with Targaryen blood) by a rider.

If that happens, the rider and the dragon will be bound for life, and the beast will not allow another to mount it as long as his original rider lives.

Riding a dragon and controlling it are two different things. There are plenty of examples of Tragaryens who’ve lost control of their dragon during a flight over the years, most notably Aemond Targaryen, whose failure to control Vhagar led to the death of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen’s son Lucerys and started the Dance of Dragons.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Vhagar in House of the Dragon

What happened to the dragons in Westeros?

War, uprisings, and neglect wiped out the dragons who came to Westeros.

From the reign of Aegon The Conqueror through to King Viserys I Targaryen, the House of the Dragon’s grip on the Iron Throne and the Seven Kingdoms was assured by the fact that the Targaryens had dragons and were capable of hatching new eggs.

In fact, by the time Viserys died, there were more than 20 dragons known to be living in Westeros. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t last. During his peaceful reign, Viserys had sewn the seeds of a brutal civil war that ripped apart the Targaryen dynasty and the realm. In a war that came to be known as the Dance of the Dragons, almost every Targaryen dragon was killed either in battle or during a peasant uprising known as the Storming of the Dragon Pit.

Indeed, by the time the war came to an end, only four dragons remained, and only one was in the Targaryen’s control. While there were still plenty of dragon eggs in the rookery, none of these eggs hatched despite the best efforts of King Aegon III Targaryen, the Dragonbane, who even brought wizards from across the sea to resurrect the beasts.

Eventually, the last dragon, a warped green she-dragon, died young, and it seemed as though the world had seen the last of these terrifying creatures, which had been wiped out by Targaryen in-fighting. Or had they? Some, like Archmaester Marwyn, claim that there was another reason for the dragon’s extinction.

Game of Thrones dragons explained:: Caraxes in House of the Dragon

Did the Maesters wipe out the dragons in Game of Thrones?

Archmaester Marwyn believes that the maesters worked against the Targaryens to poison and kill the last of the dragons.

According to Marwyn, the dragons were killed by the maesters as part of a plot to rid the world of magic. This was because the old men of the Citadel despised the occult and arcane, as it violated their understanding of the natural world.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Drogon

How did the dragons return in Game of Thrones?

Daenerys Targaryen brought dragons back to the world when she hatched a trio of petrified eggs. While it’s never specified, it’s believed that Dany unintentionally used sacrificial blood magic to breathe life back into the stone eggs, allowing them to hatch.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Drogon and Viserys

All the dragons in Game of Thrones

In Game of Thrones, we meet three dragons: Viserion, Rhaegal, and Drogon.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Viserion resurrected as a wight


A yellow dragon, Viserion was unfortunately named after Dany’s awful elder brother Viserys. Like his namesake, Viserion was pretty useless for the most part and the first of Dany’s dragons to die when the Night King’s spear skewered it.

To add insult to injury, Viserion was then resurrected as a wight and used by the Night King to destroy The Wall so the army of the dead could finally move south. Viserion died for a second time at Winterfell when Arya Stark ended the threat of the Night King.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Jon rides Rhaegal


Rhaegal was named after the elder brother Dany never knew, Rhaegar, who died during Robert’s Rebellion during the Battle of the Trident. A green dragon, Rhaegal, like his brother Viserion, didn’t get as much screen time as Drogon, but he got his time to shine in Game of Thrones season 8 when he became Jon Snow’s mount.

With Drogon, Rhaegal fought in the Battle of Dawn against the undead Viserion and ultimately survived the long night. Unfortunately, the dragon was later killed when Dany returned to Dragonstone when Euron Greyjopy shot Rhaegal out of the sky with a scorpion bolt.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Daenerys sits with baby Drogon


Also known as Balerion reborn, Drogon was the largest and most ferocious of Dany’s dragons. A red and black drake, Drogon, was named for her husband, Khal Drogo (played by Jason Momoa), and appeared to be Dany’s favorite dragon.

While he could be disobedient in his youth, as he grew, he became the Mother of Dragon’s personal mount. Drogon was the only one of Dany’s dragons to survive her invasion of Westeros, and he was last seen taking his mother’s body to parts unknown.

All the dragons in House of the Dragon

During the events of House of the Dragon, there were around 20 known dragons living in Westeros, 17 of whom were under the Targaryen’s direct control and three of whom were living wild.

House of the Dragon dragons:

  • Syrax
  • Caraxes
  • Vhagar
  • Seasmoke
  • Meleys
  • Vermax
  • Dreamfyre
  • Vermithor
  • Arrax
  • Sunfyre
  • Balerion (Or his skull, at least)

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Syrax


Syrax was the personal mount of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen and a medium-sized yellow dragon. Rhaenyra bonded with Syrax when she was just 7 years old, and in her youth, she enjoyed nothing more than flying with her dragon. As she grew older and more paranoid, though, Rhaenyra kept Syrax chained on Dragonstone, although she would occasionally use the beast to intimidate her enemies.

Game of Thrones dragons: Caraxes and Daemon


A strange gangly red dragon, Caraxes, was bonded to Daemon Targaryen during the Dance of the Dragon, but he’d previously been ridden by  King Jaehaerys I’s eldest son, Aegon. Like his rider, Caraxes was known for his ferocity and took part in several major battles during the Targaryen civil war, eventually meeting its end, fighting Vhagar during the Battle Above the Gods Eye.

Game of Thrones dragons explained: Vhagar


The oldest and mightiest dragon in the Seven Kingdoms during the Dance of Dragons, Vhagar was a living engine of war. This formidable titan originally came to Westeros with Aegon the Conqueror and was previously the mount of Queen Visenya Targaryen and Lady Laena Velaryon. Eventually, though, Aemond Targaryen claimed the she-dragon, and the pair formed an unbreakable bond that was only shattered when they both died battling Caraxes and Daemon.

YouTube Thumbnail

What happened to the dragons in Game of Thrones?

Both Rhaegal and Viserion die in season 8 of Game of Thrones. Rhaegal is killed by a scorpion bolt, while Viserion dies when the Night King’s ice spear stabs him. Viserion then dies again when the Night King is killed, and the spell that resurrected him is broken.

Only Drogon survived the events of Game of Thrones season 8 and the invasion of Westeros. Last we saw him, he was flying east with Dany’s body. It’s possible that Drogon’s taking his mother back to his home, Valyria or, as some have speculated, he could be flying to Asshai, where the Red Priests live. After all, if they could bring back Jon, surely they could bring back Dany?

If you enjoyed our breakdown of the dragons of Westeros, then you’re in the right place.  We have guides on both the House of the Dragon cast and the Game of Thrones cast.  That’s not all, though. We’ve also got a detailed breakdown of everything you need to know about the House of the Dragon season 2 release date, and we took a guess at what Game of Thrones season 9 might have looked like.

If you’re a huge fan of the scalier members of House Targaryen, we’ve got individual articles on the other dragons in the stable, including Meleys, Arrax, Meraxes, and Vermithor.

Finally, we have guides on all of the major players in House of the Dragon, including Alicent Hightower, Otto HightowerDaemon Targaryen, Larys Strong, and Ser Criston Cole.