Species information


Eye colour


Skin colour


Hair colour


Related to
Height of average adult

Larger than a wingless horse

Length of average adult

Larger than a wingless horse


Only Visible to those who have witnessed a death and understood the concept

  • Hogwarts Castle
  • Rubeus Hagrid
Ministry of Magic Classification




"I mean, a dog'll bite if yeh bait it, won' it - but Thestrals have jus' got a bad reputation because o' the death thing - people used ter think they were bad omens, didn' they? Jus' didn' understand, did they?"
—Professor Rubeus Hagrid during a Care of Magical Creatures class [src]

A Thestral is a breed of winged horses with a skeletal appearance, reptilian features, and wide, leathery wings that resemble a bat's.

They are very rare, and are considered dangerous by the Ministry of Magic. Thestrals are commonly (and falsely) known as omens of misfortune by many wizards due to the fact that they are only visible to those who have witnessed death and fully accepted the concept.[1][2]

Thestrals can be domesticated and mounted, so they are often used as an alternative to brooms, Apparition and other methods of transportation. Once trained, they are very diligent and will quickly carry their owners wherever they wish to go.

Due to their classification as XXXX (dangerous), only experienced wizards should try to handle Thestrals. Breeding as well as owning these beasts may be discouraged or even illegal without Ministry consent; in fact, wizards that live in areas not protected against Muggles are forced by law to perform Disillusionment Charms on their Thestrals regularly.[2]


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Physical appearance

Thestrals have quite a disturbing appearance and the wizards who are capable of seeing them often only describe these creatures as being sinister and spooky. This is because they are seen as having big, bony figures and their dragon-like faces which bear white, glazed over eyes that lack both expression and pupils.

Being a type of winged horse, most of their anatomy is identical to a horse, excluding their large wings. Unlike the Abraxan, another breed of winged horses, Thestral's wings do not possess any feathers at all; they have vast, black and leathery wings that are more similar to those of bats.[1][2]

Their fleshless, lustrous bodies are covered with a translucent and glossy coat. This smooth and dark skin is a bit slippery and so thin that it's nearly transparent so a Thestral's bones are clearly defined through the entire extension of their sleek bodies.

These eerie horses have long black manes, as well as a large tail, either with flowing black hair, like horses or ending in a tuft, like zebras.[1][3] Another distinction is their sharp fangs used to seize and slash their prey.

A Thestral.


These creatures are seemingly rather dull, though Professor Rubeus Hagrid states that they are "dead clever", and, in fact, trained Thestrals are smart enough to understand their rider's words when they ask to travel to a specific location.

These magical creatures can usually be found in dark environments, and forests are their natural habitat. They communicate with each other through a shrill kind of shrieking cry that resembles a large bird.

They appear to be loyal creatures, able to discern a friend from an enemy. Thestrals would forcefully attack anyone or anything they see as a threat and, in the unusual case of domesticated Thestrals, any enemy of its owners.[1][4]

In the Battle of Hogwarts, Hogwarts' trained flock of Thestrals cooperated with Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, to attack the Giants fighting for [[Voldemort]. It's unclear whether or not wild herds can similarly cooperate with other species.[4]


Thestrals are carnivorous animals and are attracted to the smell of blood. Professor Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank mentions that they often attack birds. This indicates that, naturally, they hunt not only for food on the ground, but also pursue flying prey.

The Thestrals that live within the Hogwarts grounds, in the Forbidden Forest, are properly fed and well trained. They don't attack other creatures or students unless seriously disturbed.

Thestral foal eating a piece of meat


The Thestral tail hair is a powerful and tricky substance that can be mastered only by a witch or wizard capable of facing death. It should be noted that this substance can be used as a core in a wand's conception and it was used to create the most powerful wand known by wizards, the Elder Wand.[3]

The most well known ability of these beasts is their invisibility to those who haven’t seen death. In other words, they are only visible to people who have seen someone dying and fully accepted, understood and internalized the concept.

Thestrals have an extraordinary sense of smell and will easily recognize the smell of blood and fresh flesh, even from a large distance.

They also have quite a useful sense of direction. The Thestral can understand exactly where their riders need to go. If their riders have a certain destination in mind, they only need to say the destination and the creature will diligently carry them to the intended location - much like owls do with letters.

Their powerful wings are capable of lifting, at least, the burden of two humans plus their own weight.[1]Oh and thestrals are very boney creatures.

A Thestral during flight.

Known people who can see Thestrals

Viewer Death(s) Witnessed Notes
Rubeus Hagrid Possibly his father, several others Hagrid witnessed several deaths over the course of his life, including his father, and could see Thestrals.[5]
Neville Longbottom His grandfather Neville mentioned being able to see Thestrals in a fifth-year Care of Magical Creatures class.
Luna Lovegood Her mother Luna witnessed her mother die during a magical experiment gone wrong when she was nine years old, circa 1990-1991, and thus could see Thestrals when she first came to Hogwarts.
Theodore Nott Unknown; possibly his mother Theodore was one of only three students who could see Thestrals in the aforementioned Fifth year Care of Magical Creatures lesson, and found them distasteful-looking.
Harry Potter Cedric Diggory Harry never saw his mother die as he was inside the crib, unable to see anything outside it, nor Quirrell, because he passed out before Quirrell's death. Harry did not see Thestrals immediately after Cedric's death in June of 1995; it took a few months before he accepted this tragic event, and then was able to see Thestrals.
Severus Snape Albus Dumbledore, Charity Burbage, others Snape could see Thestrals,[6] presumably as a result of seeing people killed in the First and Second Wizarding Wars, as Dumbledore once asked him "how many men and women" he had "watched die", although Snape had replied that "lately only those whom I could not save".
Albus Dumbledore (possibly) Ariana Dumbledore, possibly others As he rode them when he did not feel like using other forms of transportation, it would be odd if he could not see them.

Harry and Luna in front of a Thestral.

Presumably most of the deceased members in the Second Wizarding War of the Order of the Phoenix such as Alastor Moody, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black could see Thestrals by the end of the First Wizarding War. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Bill Weasley were also likely to have been able to see them, as they rode Thestrals for the Battle of the Seven Potters, and would most likely have picked them only if they saw them. After the Second Wizarding War, it is likely that many students of Hogwarts as well as other participants in the Battle of Hogwarts could see Thestrals after witnessing a great many casualties in battle, including the death of Lord Voldemort himself.[4]

Behind the scenes

  • J.K. Rowling stated that the core of the Elder Wand is a Thestral tail hair.[3]
  • J.K. Rowling also stated that the reason Harry was not able to see Thestrals until the beginning of his fifth year was that when he left Hogwarts in June he had not yet fully come to terms with Cedric's death.[6]
  • Harry also had the chance to witness at least two people die before the death of Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. His mother was murdered by Lord Voldemort when he was one, and Professor Quirrell in his first year. Despite this, Harry is not able to see the Thestrals until the beginning of his fifth year. J. K. Rowling has explained this stating that he was in his crib when his mother was murdered, and passed out before Quirrell died.[7] It's also possible that when his parents died, Harry was too young to truly understand the concept of accepting someone's death. This creates a paradox in the films, since the first film appears to show Harry seeing Quirrell die.
  • It may be possible that Bill, Fleur and Kingsley Shacklebolt all saw someone die as they all rode a Thestral during the Battle of the Seven Potters. The explanation is that Kingsley Shacklebolt most likely saw a death during the First Wizarding War. However, who Fleur and Bill saw die is Unknown. It is possible, that, like Hermione, Fleur could not see Thestrals, since she lived in France where the First Wizarding War wasn't as effective, and she was only 4 years old when Voldemort was defeated the first time.
  • There’s an interesting contradiction in the film. The Thestrals are depicted as having no hair at all, theoretically that would make the existence of an Elder Wand impossible in the film adaptations.
  • Thestrals also don’t seem to have fangs in the film, at least in the young foals. Instead they have a pointed beak which they use to grab food and then they swallow it, almost without chewing, much like birds eat worms.
  • Neville Longbottom does not seem to be able to see Thestrals in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix, Ginny, Luna, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Harry all see Sirius die, while in the book, Ginny, Luna, Ron and Hermione are in a different room when Sirius dies, and though Harry and Neville see him die, they can both already see Thestrals.
  • It should also be noted that in the film, Hermione doesn't see Fred die, and Ron has already seen Peter Pettigrew die. Coincidentally, Peter Pettigrew is never shown dying, just being hit by a spell shot from Dobby's wand.
  • It is unclear if Nymphadora Tonks can see Thestrals, before she died, as she is unconscious when Sirius died and she doesn't see Alastor Moody die, though she might have died later in the Battle of Hogwarts and might have witnessed Remus Lupin die or others. In the film, she is standing in a tower, and it seems that she and Remus die at the same time, as they're seen reaching out for each other's hands at their last living shot, and then their hands are seen close together when their bodies are shown later, though this might just be a coincidence. So she can most likely would have been able to see the Thestrals if she had lived long enough in the books, but probably not in the films.
  • Even though Hermione Granger has ridden on Thestrals twice, she can't see them until late March 1998.
  • Coincedentally, if different parts of the films and the books were considered canon, Hermione wouldn't be able to see Thestrals until she saw Severus Snape die, and she wouldn't have seen anyone else. This happens because she doesn't see Dobby die in the book, and doesn't see Fred Weasley, Bellatrix Lestrange, or Tom Riddle die in the films.


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Chapter 10, 17, 21, 33 and 34 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Magical Beasts in Hiding; Ministry of Magic Classification; an A-Z of Fantastic Beasts: Winged Horses in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.K.Rowling Official Site: Extra Stuff
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Chapter 4, 37 and epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  5. 30 July, 2007 webchat on Accio! Quote
  6. 6.0 6.1 15 August, 2004 Edinburgh Book Festival on Accio! Quote
  8. "Chapter 8 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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