The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim dragon hunting guide

Dragon Types

As you level up the dragons you encounter will become more and more powerful. For the most part these changes are purely cosmetic, but there are a few differences between the various breeds the Dovahkiin must slaughter through the course of his adventure. There are a number of named dragons you will encounter, but these are just stronger versions of a particular dragon breed.


This is your basic type of dragon. They don’t have much in the way of special abilities although they can still tear into an unprepared character. Their attacks consist of either ice or fire breath, and depending on the dragon, a bite attack or a thrash move that hurts those on its sides. It doesn’t turn particularly fast though so it’s possible to strafe circles around the beast while beating on it.

Blood Dragon

The Blood Dragon is a big step up over the regular dragon thanks to one major addition: a devastating tail smash. Those who try to flank this beast will find themselves flattened by its heavy, spade-tipped tail. If you have flanking on your mind the only safe spot is between his tail and his wing, closer to the wing than the tail. Standing here will force him to turn at least a bit before he can tail or wing smack you.

Frost Dragon

In a sense, the Frost Dragon is basically an amped up basic dragon, although it is incredibly dangerous to underestimate this beast. While other dragons may use cold breath attacks, the Frost Dragon will use an incredibly powerful blast that can easily drain your entire stamina meter in a single attack. This will leave you unable to use power attacks or run from the blasted thing. We’ve seen plenty of situations where one of these beasts did a fly-by to drain our stamina and then landed some distance away and began spitting huge balls of ice at us to pile on the damage.

Elder Dragon

This is the real deal here. Elder Dragons are some of the strongest enemies the Dragonborn can encounter in Skyrim. They have powerful bite and tail attacks and their breath attack is intensely debilitating. It also leaves you on fire for a very long time which causes you to take extra damage from further attacks. All of their attacks inflict a large amount of damage so it’s imperative that you have equipment to protect you from them.

Ancient Dragon

Ancient Dragons are basically just Elder Dragons with a slightly different color palette and do the slightest bit more damage. By the point they start spawning in, when you’re in the 40 – 45 range, this difference should be barely noticeable.

Skeletal Dragon

For all intents and purposes the Skeletal Dragon is basically a really strong Blood Dragon although it can use both fire and ice breath at the same time. It’s fairly resistant to damage, plus it has all of the strengths and weaknesses of an undead. The one dragon of this ilk that you will encounter is found in Labyrinthian, while the others seem to be glitches that cause a dead dragon to keep attacking you. Since the dragon is ground bound it’s possible to run away from the beast, take a few pot shots and then run away again. Just keep watch of your stamina if you’re not going to simply go toe to toe with the beast.


  • Xerxes667 - December 4, 2011 7:57 p.m.

    ok... maybe it's just because of my level; 32: i did a lot of smithing which leveled me up quite quickly, but during the Kathspire Encounter, it was not a Frost Dragon that spawned but an Ancient Dragon, the first i ever faced, not only does he kill me but he slaughters my entire party (i have Lydia tagging along too) and the entire Forsworn camp at Kathspire.... i've tried to get past about 20 times and i keep dying. I'm a Nord focusing on Melee and Destruction Magic and i don't have Dragonrend yes (obviously) so he's just flying and strafing everyone.... how screwed am i? any suggestions?
  • ThundaGawd - December 4, 2011 4:22 p.m.

    I play a stealth character, and I play on master, so just about any open encounter with any type of enemy is extremely difficult, but for the most part, when it comes to fighting any type of dragon, I just use literally any cover I can find (I've hidden behind a tree a few times) and hop out to shoot with my bow whenever the dragon stops to hover and breathe fire/frost. Another thing you guys should've mentioned is the use of Shadowmere, the horse form the dark brotherhood questline. I'm honestly not sure whether or not it's a glitch, but Shadowmere has an insanely high health regeneration rate, making it literally impossible for it to be killed by an enemy because it's health regenerates faster than it takes damage, making it the perfect tank during dragon fights.
  • Person5 - December 4, 2011 11:37 p.m.

    Its not a glitch, he's supposed to have a high regen and max health, but he CAN die, two bears killed him in my game which is weird cus he charges at dragons without a scratch on him, so while hes a useful horse, do be careful, and if he does die I heard he comes back to life in 3 days in the area he died at (unconfirmed for me though since I just reloaded my save)
  • bradmillow0 - December 3, 2011 7:16 a.m.

    When I first fought Alduin I didn't die at all, I thought he was fairly easy and I didn't even have any followers with me at the time, with the exception of Paarthurnax
  • jag0023 - December 2, 2011 11:12 p.m.

    i don't know why maybe its my game but i have only encountered one dragon the first main story dragon
  • D0CCON - December 2, 2011 3:03 p.m.

    I made two characters and they both deal with dragons very easily. My battlemage hits it with super fireballs of death until it lands and I use a bound/daedric sword to finish it. I'm guessing you can figure out what my archer does to it.
  • Maineiac - December 2, 2011 2:51 p.m.

    Sorry to disagree but you are wrong about sneak attacks not working on dragons. While it is a hard situation to reproduce I was able to sneak up on a dragon and one hit kill it with a dagger thanks to the sneak tree dagger perk and dark brotherhood gloves.
  • Boomer1992 - December 2, 2011 1:09 p.m.

    On master difficulty, I usually find a thick tree or rock and play ring around the rosie with it until finally my bow has brought it to the ground.
  • HeavyTank - December 2, 2011 12:53 p.m.

    Very nice guide, although the game's weird lack of scaling means that now my character can actually one-hit dragons even on Hard, so sadly now nobody poses a challenge to him anymore.. Also, the Blades tell you to kill Paarth?How?Why?
  • Manguy17 - December 2, 2011 12:34 p.m.

    As an archer ive found killing dragonsto be very easy most of the time due to the (glitch?) dragons prioritising everything else in the area as a target before me, including bunnies. And if theres cover i can normally just pop out and shoot an arrow and hide. This said (this is probally also a glitch) it seems that dragons arent scaling very accurately. the last few have just be plain old dragons and im lvl 42.
  • Manguy17 - December 2, 2011 12:50 p.m.

    also, ive had one game breaking backwards dragon, stuck flying into a wall. if i shoot it twice it would die, glicth around trying to find a place to crash, and thus would drop the framerates to unlayable, if it saw me it either flew backwards 100 metres and then froze, or flew sideways into a cliff and gets stuck dragon hunting is interesting.
  • ShowMeYourKitties - December 2, 2011 11:55 a.m.

    It's good to hear that the thief build gets easier, cuz right now it sucks for fighting dragons. I always have to lure the dragon towards a group of npc's to fight for me.
  • Y2Ken - December 2, 2011 10:57 a.m.

    This is quite a useful guide. I'm comfortable now fighting dragons, although I do have to be a little careful - that bite finisher is a pain if you let them get too close. The first two random dragons I "fought" were both killed by giants, which definitely makes life a little easier. I've been doing a lot of hunting Words of Power (asking Arngeir for locations and then visiting them) so a number of those point you directly to dragon roosts.

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