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In Greek mythology, the Centaurs (Greek: Κένταυροι) are a race of creatures composed of part human and part horse. In early Attic vase-paintings, they are depicted as the torso of a human joined at the (human's) waist to the horse's withers, where the horse's neck would be.

This half-human and half-animal composition has led many writers to treat them as liminal beings, caught between the two natures, embodied in contrasted myths, and as the embodiment of untamed nature, as in their battle with the Lapiths, or conversely as teachers, like Chiron.

The centaurs descended from Centaurus, who mated with the Magnesian mares. Centaurus was the son of either Ixion and Nephele (the cloud made in the image of Hera) or of Apollo and Stilbe, daughter of the river god Peneus. In the latter version of the story his twin brother was Lapithus, ancestor of the Lapiths, thus making the two warring peoples cousins.

Centaurs supposedly inhabited the mountains of Erymanthus in Thessaly, or Clyon's countryside.


Modern day

The John C. Hodges library at The University of Tennessee hosts a permanent exhibit of a "Centaur from Volos", in its library. The exhibit, made by combining a study human skeleton with the skeleton of a Shetland pony is entitled "Do you believe in Centaurs?" and was meant to mislead students in order to make them more critically aware, according to the exhibitors.

A centaur is one of the symbols associated with both the Iota Phi Theta and the Delta Lambda Phi fraternities. Whereas centaurs in Greek mythology were generally symbolic of chaos and unbridled passions, Delta Lambda Phi's centaur is modeled after Chiron and represents honor, moderation and tempered masculinity.


Centaurs have appeared in many places in modern fiction, and may be regarded as a fantasy trope. In modern literature there are very different views of centaurs that vary with the author.

Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series features Foaly, one of the heroes, and the most intelligent centaur on and under the Earth.

In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series centaurs are aggressive creatures that live in the Forbidden Forest. The centaurs tend to be violent if people intrude on their territory. They study the stars and planets, and can also sometimes see the future - although they may speak in very indirect and ambiguous terms about it.

In C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, centaurs are noble, loyal, and brave. They help Aslan's army fight against the White Witch, in "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," but they gain a more prominent role in the second book, "Prince Caspian" where a centaur named Glenstorm (who also studies the stars and reads the future) is an important character.

In Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & The Olympians series centaurs are friendly and help Camp Half Blood against the attacks of Kronos and Luke.

The American poet May Swenson wrote a poem called "The Centaur," which appeared in her book A Cage of Spines in 1958, and which portrays a girl riding a make-believe horse (actually a willow branch) who comes to feel that she is the horse.

In the series Kamen Rider Faiz, Kiba's Orphenoch alter ego can assume a centuar-like form.

In the seriers Mahou Sentai Magiranger, Wolzard can combine with Barikion to become Wol-Kentaurus.


Centaurs, among many other fantastic creatures, played a key role in one of the animated shorts from The Walt Disney Company's Fantasia (The Pastoral Symphony). Among them were the typical white, bay, and chestnut centaurs, along with various unnatural colors, and also a pair of "Nubian" centaurs which were dark-skinned and Zebra.

Centaurs have appeared in the Harry Potter film series and in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


Tomb Raider and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary both feature centaurs and centaur mutants as foe. The Mortal Kombat character Motaro is the leader of his centaur race.

World of Warcraft Centaurs are depicted as the savage children of Cenarius

Centaur Man is a Robot Master in Mega Man 6. He appears as a light-green robotic Centaur with the ability to freeze his enemies and teleport around the room.

Centaurs frequently appear in the video game series Heroes of Might and Magic as soldiers of the forests.

Centaurs are enemies in Titan Quest.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Centaur" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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