The basilisk is a species of carnivorous reptile, native to the jungles in the southern regions of far eastern Essos. Basilisks are venomous, and Basilisk venom is a notable poison used in assassinations. Even basilisk blood is poisonous.The species probably give the name to the Basilisk Isles, where they can be found in.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, basilisks are large, roughly dog-sized venomous reptiles that live in the jungles of Yi Ti, far to the southeast of the Dothraki Sea, across the Bone Mountains. They may also infest the tropical Basilisk Isles off the northern coast of Sothoryos, and also on tropical islands of the Jade Sea (which Yi Ti is on the northwest coast of), the same islands where poisonous Manticore insects are also found.
While wild basilisks originated in Yi Ti (and possibly other regions around the Jade Sea), they became a very popular animal for use in Fighting pits throughout Essos, made to fight other animals as entertainment. Thus they have been imported into many animal menageries across Essos. When Daenerys passes through Qarth she sees a basilisk tearing apart a dog in a fighting pit; they are probably also found in the popular fighting pits in Slaver's Bay.
Exactly what a basilisk looks like is unclear, or if it is even meant to be analogous to a specific kind of real-life reptile. Because basilisks have been seen set against dogs in fighting pits they would seem to be roughly dog-sized, and therefore smaller than the massive lizard-lions founds in the swamps of the Neck in Westeros. Due to their relative size and possession of venom, they may be somewhat like Komodo dragons (which in real life are larger than all but the most enormous dogs). For all we know however, they could be much more like snakes (as the mythological basilisk was often depicted).
The novels have at different points said that both "Basilisk venom" and "Basilisk blood" are poisonous: they might simply both be toxic.
Basilisk · Bear · Cat · Dog · Direwolf · Dragon · Horse (Dornish sand steed) · Lion · Old men of the river · Lizard-lion · Mammoth · Manticore · Raven · Shadowcat · Snow bear · Elephant · Dwarf elephant · Zorse
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