From J.R.R. Tolkien's treasure-hoarding Smaug to the bright red beasts of the Chinese New Year's celebration, this magnificent, fire-breathing creature is ingrained in our culture. But where did the dragon originate? And how is it that people from Africa to China to America picture it the same? An Instinct for Dragons is anthropologist David E Jones's account of his search for the mysterious birth of this ubiquitous monster. In a vast synthesis of art, mythology, history, and anthropology, Jones finds that the dragon is in fact a universal image. Not only does every culture in the world have a name for it -- smok in Polish, tatsu in Japanese, unktena in Cherokee -- but dragons everywhere share many of the same characteristics: multiple heads, talon-like claws, blazing breath. Jones spans dragon lore from the Loch Ness monster to the Internet, as well as dragon inscriptions on cave walls, cliffs, and pots. His conclusion is stunning: not only is our fear and fascination with dragons a direct result of the predators who threatened our evolution - eagles, leopards, and pythons - but humankind is essentially hardwired to believe in this creature. Captivating and eloquent, An Instinct for Dragons decodes the ancient puzzle of the oldest and fiercest monster.