Aside from Zoobilee Zoo and other children’s programming, I can’t think of very many contemporary TV shows that feature animals to such an extent as Game of Thrones. Whether fantasy or real-world, treasured companions or tools of battle, cuddly Sers or toothy beasts, every animal of Game of Thrones has brought an extra level of emotional investment and often incredible spectacle.
See below my personal ranking of the best animals of Game of Thrones, from my least to most favorite. Please note: my criteria for including animals on this list meant that we had to actually see them on screen which unfortunately ruled a few out.
A warning: some of the images below may be considered graphic or disturbing. If you watch Game of Thrones you shouldn’t have a problem, but I figured it’s only fair to properly prepare you.
19. Pie pigeons. The last victims of King Joffrey’s petty and unnecessary cruelty. RIP pigeons.
18. Dany’s silver mare. The first gift that Drogo ever gave Dany, she was a very pretty and good horse until she starved. It might have been a little more sad if Dany had cared enough to give her a name, though.
17. Shaggydog. Look, I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure the entire existence of Shaggydog and Rickon in general is an instance of G.R.R.M. trolling us, and so far no one has been able to convince me otherwise. He had a couple of cool moments protecting Rickon and Bran in season 3, but he’s definitely the least interesting of the direwolves.
16. Ser Gregor’s horse. The time that the Mountain threw a tantrum about losing a tournament and beheaded his own horse is one of my favorite early WTF moments from Game of Thrones, the kind of scene that said “haha yeah you thought we were just having a fun friendly tourney but lol we’re going to show you horrific violence against innocent creatures.”
15. Tywin’s dead stag. Look, I’ll admit I’m kind of an idiot about noticing visual details that aren’t directly referenced by dialogue. But even I noticed that the introduction of the entire character of Tywin Lannister is set against a background of him expertly skinning a huge dead stag. Also, apparently the actor straight up learned how to skin a deer on the same day they filmed it, which you’d never know honestly.
14. Lady. Ugh guys. What happened to Lady at the end of the second episode was so wrong. It’s such a great character moment for Cersei, Robert, and Ned, though. Cersei levels up in cruelty. Robert, instead of refusing to issue an absurd order that has nothing to do with the actual crime, shrugs and shows his weakness as a king. And Ned, even though he too knows that his daughter’s wolf is completely blameless, is too honorable to refuse. I mean, no wonder Sansa was kind of snotty to both him and Arya for a while afterwards. True, she could have told the truth about what happened by the river, but it’s absolutely not her fault that the ADULTS in the room dramatically overreacted and killed this poor innocent doggie.
Okay, I made myself too sad about that one, so please enjoy a happy picture of Sophie Turner, who adopted the real-world dog that played Lady. She’s actually fine, guys.
13. Rhaegal. I’m not saying he’s a bad dragon, but to be totally honest I have no idea if this is even an actual picture of Rhaegal. I couldn’t tell you which one he is nor could I differentiate him from Viserion pre-zombification. I’m sure Rhaegal’s a great guy and when Jon rides him into battle later, he’ll probably jump several ranks on this list. Let’s check back in with him in a couple of years.
12. Nymeria. Like Rhaegal, Nymeria has some potential, but so far she just hasn’t done a whole lot of note. She seems like she’s having a great time in the Riverlands, though, and I’m excited to see her hopefully come back for at least one great scene next season.
11. Various battle horsies. I don’t enjoy watching the more realistic battle scenes, especially when they involve horses getting chopped up and stabbed and speared. That said, they are GREAT for building tension with hoofbeats in the distance. Also, cavalrymen have a nice way of coming in and saving the day when you think all is lost (the Knights of the Vale in the Battle of the Bastards, Stannis’s men against the wildlings north of the Wall).
10. Ramsey’s dogs. Up until the end of season 6, this is probably the most I have ever hated a dog, real or fictional. They are nasty and vicious creatures. And I hate the implication that they are probably mistreated and/or starved to make them behave this way. That said, they eat up Ramsey in the end, which is pretty great. I hope that afterwards, some nice people at Winterfell took them in and treated them right so that they could rehabilitate and be good doggies.
9. Wight polar bear. I have heard that some whiners are mad about the zombie polar bear of season 7, because its inclusion only draws attention to the lack of Ghost. Look. I’m as big a Ghost fan as anybody (see below). But if you did not find this scene to be the most horrifying and nail-biting battle moment of the episode, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a BIG DEAD BEAR. ON FIRE.
8. Ser Pounce. He is a good kitty who, like much of the rest of Westeros, breathed a sigh of relief when Joffrey died and he no longer had to fear him. Poor baby Tommen: he’s supposed to be a lion, but he was really just a soft kitty cat all along. I still maintain that nothing that happened to him was ever his fault. Does anybody know what Ser Pounce has been up to lately though?
7. Grey Wind. We’re entering the top half of direwolves now. No doubt, if I were going into battle, Grey Wind is the one I would choose to have at my side. He eats the Greatjon’s fingers, fights at Robb’s side, and scares Jaime Lannister. I refuse to even post the final picture that shows what happens to him. RIP Grey Wind.
6. Viserion. The middle-ranking dragon has definitely risen in the rankings this season; it’s amazing what getting killed and resurrected as a zombie dragon can do for your personality. I can’t wait to see what happens to Viserion next season, unless it’s horrifying and upsetting, which to be honest it probably is.
5. Summer. This direwolf is a VERY GOOD BOY and I don’t know if I can get through this paragraph. Summer, I’m going to remember you faithfully waiting for Bran while he climbed around the walls of Winterfell, defending Bran and Catelyn against the assassin sent to kill him, and protecting Bran, Meera, Jojen, and Hodor as you traveled north of the Wall. I hope you’re enjoying lots of belly rubs and fresh meat treats in direwolf heaven with your brothers and sister.
4. Ravens. Okay so not only are ravens super useful for warging, I sometimes forget about how they are the sole means of rapid communication between cities for anyone who doesn’t have greensight. Seriously, it’s freaking amazing that these birds can go back and forth with messages so well. I’m also really looking forward to some kind of reveal, at least in the books, that may suggest that many of the ravens and other birds we’ve seen in passing are actually Bran warging or three-eyed-ravening around the country.
3. The Bear (and the Maiden Fair). This is such a great scene in a standout episode of Game of Thrones. I have to imagine that when G.R.R.M. was dreaming up his original vision, the above image popped fully formed into his mind, and a big part of the past twenty years has been his efforts to get it realized in the world. I hope he was as happy with it as I am.
2. Drogon. Obviously the best of the dragons, Drogon has improved from being an annoying teenager who keeps a very messy room, to a very useful guy who you DO NOT want to mess with. I’m so relieved that he wasn’t he one who got taken down by the Night King, and it’s going to break my heart when he has to go up against his bro Viserion, but I believe in you, Drogon. You’re doing amazing sweetie.
1. Ghost. Ghost is objectively the best animal on this whole show, there is no doubt. And it’s possible that this post was partly motivated by an idle hope that the show’s producers like to troll the internet for fan responses, and that if so, I request that you please bring me more Ghost okay?
Now, I will concede, that it cannot be easy to properly animate Ghost, especially in scenes where he directly interacts with humans. The above picture is good evidence of that. But if you can make me deeply respond to a CGI zombie king throwing a CGI spear into the heart of a CGI dragon, I’m not entirely sure what is so difficult about a big dog basically. And I swear to you right now, even if you don’t ever totally figure out how to make Ghost look quite right, I literally won’t care. My heart will overcome any complaints about whether he looks quite right on screen. I just want to see him again.
- Lions – I’ve posted about this before, you know I want it. Since the previous post, I’ve done some research and learned that lions were indeed once plentiful in the Westerlands, until they were hunted near to extinction. But, I mean, there still are lions somewhere probably. And I would like one please.
- Sheila – Tormund’s bear girlfriend. You know, I’m not entirely sure that Tormund has been lying to us about her. Would it really be the most implausible thing on this show?
- Ice spiders as big as hounds – I’m forcefully reminded of the powerful writing advice that you don’t show a loaded gun in scene one without having it go off in the climax. Well, how the HECK do you tell a story in season one about ice kings (verified), zombies (verified), and ice spiders as big as hounds (??????????????) without paying it off? Here’s hoping they’ve just been holding them back for the final battle against the dead.