Do You Know What Combination of Animals Make Up These Mythical Beings?
By: Ian Fortey
In Greek mythology, Pan is a god of the wilds and the flocks. What is he a hybrid of?
Pan is a type of faun, said to have the ears, legs and tail of a goat. He was also often depicted playing a flute. His reputation was as a bit of a lusty, uncivilized fellow.
The Minotaur famously waited at the center of a labyrinth on the island of Crete. What exactly was a minotaur?
The Minotaur was a beast that dwelled in the labyrinth on Crete and was routinely fed human sacrifices by King Minos. That was until Theseus came and slain the beast with the help of Minos' daughter.
Sailors would often tell tales of mermaids. What were you looking at if you saw one?
Myths about mermaids date back thousands of years. There's a commonly held belief these days that many of the things sailors claim to have seen and called mermaids may have actually just been manatees.
In Greek mythology, the mother of all monsters was half woman and half snake. What was her name?
Echidna was often called the mother of monsters due to the fact she literally was the mother of monsters, at least in Greek mythology. Some of her more famous children included Medusa and Cerberus.
Not every creature in Greek mythology was made of just two beasts. What was the Chimera made from?
The Chimera was another of Echidna's children. It was mostly a lion, but it had a snake for a tail. Inexplicably, there was also a goat's head rising out of the center of its back. The word chimera later came to mean basically anything that was made up of other parts.
You probably don't ever want to run into a manticore, but if you did, how would you recognize it?
The manticore comes from Persian folklore and is most often depicted as having the body of a lion and the head of a man with many rows of teeth. Sometimes the tail is that of a scorpion, or sometimes just a tail able to shoot poisonous spines.
If you wanted to get somewhere in Ancient Greek mythology, a good choice for a ride was Pegasus. What was it made from?
The Pegasus has been a pretty famous creature from mythology throughout history as it has the appeal of a horse and the appeal of flying, both of which are kind of awesome. It famously helped Perseus on his adventures and is said to be the child of Poseidon and Medusa. Weird family.
You should probably never challenge a centaur to a foot race. What is a centaur?
Centaurs appear quite a bit in mythology as well as fantasy fiction. You can find centaurs in the "World of Warcraft," "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" and many others. They're always pretty rough around the edges types, and they always have horse hindquarters.
Likely the most recognizable hybrid creature in the world is the Sphinx. What's it made from?
The Great Sphinx of Giza still stands in Egypt as one of the oldest structures in the world. The exact date of construction isn't known, but it is in the neighborhood of 4,500 years ago. That's one old beast.
The Egyptian god of the dead had the head of a jackal. What was its name?
Anubis was also called Anpu and was old even by Egyptian god standards, dating back to 3,100 B.C. or so. Priests would wear Anubis masks during mummification ceremonies, which probably made them even creepier than they already sound.
Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" made the West African deity Anansi much more well known in the West. What two things make up Anansi?
Anansi, also called Ananse and Aunt Nancy can be depicted in several ways but always has some spider present. Sometimes Anansi is fully a spider, sometimes with a human face and sometimes it's a human with eight legs.
A selkie isn't quite a mermaid. What animal could you mistake it for?
A selkie is a creature that looks like a seal in the water, but when it comes on land, it transforms into a human. They come from Scottish folklore and when they come onto land, they literally shed their seal skin to look human, and have to put it back on to return to the sea.
Even though it was described as being small, you definitely didn't want to mess with a cockatrice. What was it?
The cockatrice was a nasty little fellow from folklore said to have the head of a rooster and the body of a reptile or a snake. That's not so terrible, except it also could kill things just by looking at them.
Sometimes people confuse a hippogriff and a griffon, but they're clearly different. What two beasts make up a hippogriff?
Not quite Pegasus, a hippogriff was supposed to have the front an eagle and the hindquarters of a horse. It was a symbol of the Greek god Apollo because everyone needs a pet.
German folklore offers up an unusual beast that looks like a rabbit with antlers and bird wings. What was it called?
By far one of the stranger beasts from folklore, the Wolpertinger is actually famous for tricking tourists. If you look for one, you can likely find a taxidermied specimen made up to look like it was a real animal at some point.
The word "harpy" has come to be synonymous with a nag or someone unpleasant. What was a harpy?
Harpies are half women, half birds from Greek and Roman mythology that were never depicted as particularly pleasant beings. They were known to carry people off never to be seen again, so they were best to be avoided.
What was the name of the Egyptian goddess with the head of a cat?
Bastet had the body of a woman and the head of a domesticated cat. She was the daughter of the gods Ra and Isis. At some point, she also became the wife of the god Anubis. Among the many things, she was known for was being the goddess of perfume.
The catoblepas was said to live in Ethiopia. What was mixed together to create it?
The evolution of the catoblepas is a strange one as it did change over time, but many descriptions of it suggest it had the massive body of a bull or buffalo topped by the head of a pig. It could also kill with a look, so watch out for that.
The writer Jorge Luis Borges introduced people to a creature that was a hybrid of a stag and a bird. What was it?
Borges described the Peryton as a creature from Atlantis with the front half of a stag and the plumage of a bird. Borges said he was working with undiscovered, ancient manuscripts to describe the creature but he probably just made the whole thing up.
Heqet was an Egyptian goddess of fertility. She had a human body, but what was her head?
The frog-headed goddess Heqet was the wife of the god Khnum, who was the source of the Nile river. When the Nile flooded, you can imagine how much the local frogs would have enjoyed that and reproduced quite prolifically, which is why Heqet is associated with fertility.
The Celtic deity Cernunnos looked like a man with the distinct attributes of what animal?
Cernunnos appears frequently in Celtic folklore as a man with massive stag horns, often surrounded by the animals as well. In many instances he's not actually named, only referred to as a "horned god."
The Egyptian deity of creation and the sun Khepri had something of an unusual head. What was it?
The dung beetle was a pretty important symbol in Ancient Egypt. The beetles lay their eggs in balls of dung and the young stay inside until they are full grown. Because you never see a baby dung beetle, they seemed special to the ancient Egyptians as they just appeared fully formed.
A griffin has long been a symbol of nobility and strength. What parts going into making one?
With an eagle head and wings and the body of a lion, a griffin has been a symbol of power for a very long time. They were also believed to be the guardians of valuables as well because a guard griffin is more effective than a guard dog.
This Egyptian god was just a jigsaw of creatures with a hippo head, lion arms, and legs, back and tail of a crocodile and a pregnant stomach. What was her name?
Tawaret was the go-to goddess for pregnant women. She guarded expectant mothers during pregnancy and childbirth and would be worshipped by those who needed her help or protection.
You probably wouldn't want to get your hand too close to the Egyptian god Sobek. What animal part did he have?
Sobek was a Nile god with the head of a crocodile that likely would have made him a little intimidating. It's said that in temples built for him, there were pools with live crocodiles in them. Sounds like church could have been scary back then.
The Egyptian monster Ammit was definitely not something you wanted to run afoul of. What beasts was it made from?
Ammit, or Ammut, was a demoness whose name loosely translates to something like "eater of souls" or "devourer of the dead." If someone was deemed unworthy, Ammit would eat their heart and they'd be cursed to wander soulless for eternity.
What name did the Ancient Greeks come up with for the excellent cross between a horse and a chicken?
Hippalectryon is actually a pretty old creature with references going back at least 3,000 years. It had the front end of a horse and the hind end of a rooster, albeit one in proportion to its front. So basically it had a giant chicken butt.
What unusual creature do you get if you have the torso of a man but the body of a donkey?
A centaur is a human torso on a horse body, and an onocentaur is basically the same thing but a donkey body. This sounds like something we just made up, but it was written about by the mathematician Pythagoras.
In Chinese mythology, you can find a beast often described as being a mix of dragon, lion, stag, and ox. What was it called?
The Qilin is a kind of Chinese dragon, but it's also called a Chinese unicorn sometimes as well. The body is usually a deer or a horse, the head may be a lion or a dragon, there are antlers like from an elk, and it sometimes has scales like a fish or feathers. It's quite the mixed bag.
This French monster is said to have a lion's head, an ox's body, six bear legs, a scorpion tail, and a turtle shell. What's it called?
The Tarasque hails from Provence in France and was written about in a medieval tale called "Golden Legend." In that story, it lives beside a river and, predictably does bad things to people who get too close.
The name Ichthyocentaur is a bit of a mouthful. What creatures is it made from?
The remarkably complex Ichthyocentaur has traditional centaur features - it's part man and part horse. It also has a fist tail and lobster claws for horns. The constellation Pisces is actually supposed to be two Ichthyocentaurs.
The Calgreyhound sounds kind of simple, but it was not. What creatures were included in its makeup?
The Calgreyhound was a mishmash of a wildcat's head, a deer body, eagle feet and an ox or lion hindquarters with ox hooves. It showed up in medieval heraldry, and some noble folk would use it on their coat of arms.
If you like birds, you should know about the Fenghuang. What is it?
Fenghuang is an immortal bird and seeing it is supposed to be a good omen when a new Emperor ascends to the throne. Feng is actually male and Huang is female, so the two together is a kind of harmonious ying-yang.
If you saw a rabbit with antlers, what would you call it?
The jackalope is infamous in North American folklore as yet another animal that has been created in taxidermy shops in an effort to make it look real. You can buy mounted jackalope heads online and there are a number of websites that will tell you about how they're alleged to be real creatures.
This Egyptian sun god had the head of a falcon. Who was it?
Ra was one of the chief gods of the Egyptian pantheon and at different times through Egyptian history was actually merged with other gods such as Amun and Horus.
For about as long as humans have been telling stories, they've been telling them about amazing creatures doing incredible things. The real world is fascinating, but the world of mythology is always so much more unbelievable. Sure, a hawk and a lion on their own can be impressive beasts, but if you put them both together and form a griffon, now that's really something.
The idea of a hybrid has always been captivating to people. Heck, we even have hybrid cars right now, and there are few animals more exciting than a liger. Is it the bizarre math of one plus one equals one again that makes a hybrid so interesting? Or the fact it lets you combine things in a superhero sort of way to create a brand new beast you'll never see in real life? Hard to say. But considering that folklore and myth from all corners of the globe include these kinds of creatures, it's safe to say humans as a whole are really into the idea.
Which brings us to you. Do you know your mythological hybrids? Are you a master zoologist of legend? Could you adequately care for a baby hippogriff? Take the quiz and prove yourself!
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