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Top 8 Special Animals in Greek Mythology

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Neither entirely human, nor your run-of-the-mill pet, snake-in-the-grass, or barnyard animal, these animals, chimeras, and animal-like creatures from Greek mythology played a range of roles in the lives of the ancient Greeks. Some devoured; others helped. Rather than determining a criteria for importance, this list ranks the animals in terms of how humanoid they are.

1. Medusa - Serpentine

Medusa
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Medusa goes on this list of animal and animal-like creatures from mythology because she was transformed by Athena into a woman with snakes for hair. One look at Medusa turned a man to stone. From her severed head sprang the winged horse Pegasus, whose father was Poseidon.

2. Chiron - Equine

Centaur
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Chiron, not to be mistaken for Charon the ferry man, was half man and half horse because he was a centaur. A very humane chimera, Chiron taught most of the Greek heroes. He was the son of Cronus and is credited with inventing medicine.

3. Minotaur - Taurine

Theseus and the Minotaur
CC tiredcynic at Flickr.com
The minotaur was half man and half bull. Unlike the centaur, his bull half is usually shown as his head. His mother was the human Queen of Crete, Pasiphae. His father was a bull Pasiphae fell in love with. The minotaur ate young Athenian men and women.

4. Echidna - Serpentine

Typhon. Detail of the side B from a Chalcidian Black-figured Hydria, c. 550 B.C.
PD Courtesy Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.
Although half a nymph, according to Hesiod Theogony 295-305, the raw flesh-eating serpentine Echidna was the mother of many monsters in Greek mythology and one of the opponents the great hero Hercules had to face. Gaia's last son, the hundred-headed Typhon, was Echidna's mate.

5. Cerberus - Canine

Cerberus
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The famous hell hound Cerberus is one Echidna's children. It is said to be fierce enough that the gods fear it. Cerberus is flesh-eating, but he serves as a watchdog in the land of the already dead. What distinguishes Cerberus from ordinary dogs is that it had three heads, in the most common version of his story. A character in the Harry Potter series resembles him.

6. Pegasus - Equine

Pegasus
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Pegasus was a winged horse. Born from the bleeding body of his mother Medusa when Perseus chopped off her head, Pegasus sprang forth with a warrior named Chrysaor on his back.

7. Lernean Hydra - Serpentine

Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra Mosaic
CC Zaqarbal at Flickr.com
The Lernaean monster had nine heads, and one of these was immortal. If ever a mortal head was cut, from the stump would immediately spring forth two new heads. The hydra lived in the swamps and ravaged the countryside devouring cattle.

8. Trojan Horse - Equine

A "Replica" of the Trojan Horse in Troy, Turkey
CC Alaskan Dude at Flickr.com
The Trojan Horse was a wooden device designed by Odysseus to get the Greek troops inside the Trojan Walls. The Trojans took the horse as a gift not knowing it was filled with warriors.
The Trojan Horse put an end to the great city of Troy.

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