I’m sure she’s got a great personality. That centaur is a really good judge of character.

Centaurs, despite having an incredible amount of competition, are clearly in the running for “stupidest man/creature hybrid” award, if not at the very top of the list. It’s tough to say, and I imagine it’s a very subjective thing. Maybe you really like horses. Maybe the idea of a half man, half horse is appealing to you? I can’t say for sure, all I know is that, to me, it seems absolutely ludicrous. How do these two disparate things come together to make one biological monstrosity? How, exactly, does it work?

I think this is the hardest part for my mind when it comes to mythology. Somewhere in my brain I just want things to work and the physiology of centaurs and other hybrid creatures just doesn’t fit. Does this thing eat grass? Does it eat food at all? It looks like it would have two stomachs. How many lungs does it have? What is its brain like?

Mythology doesn’t have a lot to say on the particulars of centaur organs and the like, belonging, as they do to antiquity, but I can’t help but wonder.

Centaurs and their female counterparts, the Centaurides, are creatures of Greek imagination that have stood the test of time, for one reason or another. Surprisingly, there is some interest in the symbolism and meaning of the centaur race as they are used in the mythology and literature of ancient Greece. Representing a physical duality, both man and horse, the Centaur also represents a spiritual and intellectual dualism: that of being trapped between the civilized and the barbaric. To the ancient Greeks (as well as the myriad civilizations that co opted the imagery in later years) they were seen as being untamed and wild, like the many horses that ran across Europe, yet there persisted an element of civilization, the human part of these man-horses, allowing them to be identified, and even sympathized with, by very human readers and storytellers. Centaurs could fashion weapons, and could make war, they could also speak and tell stories, love and lose. They, like some other hybrid creatures, made for interesting and moving figures in stories and art as well as enemies for heroes.

It’s not altogether surprising that hybrid creatures that lacked the upper body of humans were less inspiring and less identifiable to human readers in ancient Greece as in other lands. The minotaur, a tragic figure when one really considers it, is shown very little sympathy and not exactly painted in a positive light. Even the harpies, which classically are depicted as having only human heads, are not seen as worthy of human interest beyond the terror they induce.

If you plan to have some kind of human-animal hybrid baby, you’d best make sure you get the proper half of the body looking right.

Fortunately the Centaurs are constructed the right way up. Now we can relate to their problems, like accidentally checking out the wrong sort of butts.