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Tolkien designed his own taxonomic system for dragons, based on two factors:[source?]
Means of locomotion
- Some dragons (Scatha) had no legs, or front legs alone, and crawled like snakes.
- Others (Glaurung) walked on four legs, like a Komodo dragon or some other lizard.
- A third type (Ancalagon, Smaug) could both walk on four legs and fly using wings. Winged-dragons only first appeared during the War of Wrath, the battle that ended the First Age, so all dragons introduced before the end of the First Age couldn't fly (such as Glaurung), although breeds of wingless dragons did survive into later ages.
- The Urulóki (singular Urulokë, Fire-drakes) could breathe fire. It is not entirely clear whether the term "Uruloki" referred only to the first dragons such as Glaurung that could breathe fire but were wingless, or to any dragon that could breathe fire, and thus include Smaug.
- The Cold-drakes could not.
The dragons also shared a love of treasure (especially gold), subtle intelligence, immense cunning, great physical strength, and a hypnotic power called "dragon-spell". The best way to talk to a dragon under the circumstances of this spell (when it was questioning you) was to not directly give it the information it wanted, as this would compromise you and your friends, but not to flat out deny it an answer, because this would anger it to violence. Therefore, the best way to talk to the dragon is to be vague and speak in riddles- apparently dragons find it hard to resist wasting time with riddles.
Dragon-fire (of the Urulóki) was hot enough to melt Rings of Power: Four of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves were consumed by Dragon-fire, although it was not powerful enough to destroy the One Ring itself.
- Glaurung — Father of Dragons, slain by Túrin Turambar. First of the Uruloki, the Fire-drakes of Angband. He had four legs and could breathe fire, but didn't have wings.
- Ancalagon the Black — first and mightiest of the Winged-dragons, slain by Eärendil in the War of Wrath.
- Scatha — Slain by Fram of the Éothéod. Apparently a cold-drake. Described as a "long-worm", although this imparticular term seems to be more of an expression rather than a separate taxonomic group.
- Smaug — the last great dragon of Middle-earth, slain by Bard of Esgaroth. A winged Urulokë.
Other dragons were present at the Fall of Gondolin. In the late Third Age the dragons bred in the Northern Waste and Withered Heath north of the Ered Mithrin. Dáin I of Durin's folk was killed by a cold-drake. Dragons swallowed four of the Seven Dwarf-rings.