Minecraft

There are creatures big and small, friendly and dangerous, and combinations thereof, sprinkled all throughout the Minecraft world. Knowing what you’re up against goes a long way towards staying alive.

We’ve studied the biomes and structures of Minecraft, now it’s time to turn our attention towards the mobs that populate the world. Although Minecraft can seem empty at times, it’s rare to be anywhere on a map where you can’t find creatures of some sort. Even when you’re in the middle of a seemingly barren desert, a few swings of your pickax will usually reveal caverns under the sand filled with creatures.

Minecraft mobs afford you the ability to interact (such as with villagers and taming animals), to eat (such as with the passive food-proving mobs), and the ability to fight (you’ll find more than a few creatures big and small that are rather unfriendly).

In Minecraft lingo, these creatures belong to “mobs” and can be divided broadly into Passive, Neutral, Utility, and Aggressive mobs.

If in the course of play you get the distinct feeling that the balance of friendly-to-hostile creatures is tipped strongly in favor of the hostile creatures, you’re not imagining it. The rate of spawning for aggressive mobs is measured in fractions of a second whereas the spawn cycle for passive mobs (such as animals) is nearly half a minute long.

Every 1/20th of a second the game asks “Should I spawn an aggressive mob near the player?” whereas it only asks “Should I spawn a passive mob near the player?” only once every 20 seconds (and only during daylight on the surface). Those odds mean you’ll run into far more aggressive mobs than passive mobs.

Passive Mobs

Passive mobs are composed of creatures that will never, under any circumstances, attack the player. Some passive mobs can be bred to create more of them, e.g. pigs can be bred to effectively farm them. Aside from the bats, passive mobs always spawn at the highest illuminated elevation available for the chunk they are spawning onto.

This means even a well illuminated cave under a plains biome will never have a cow randomly spawn into it as the cow would always spawn on the surface grassland above.

Pigs

Pigs are typically found roaming in small herds of 3-4 members and spawn in grassy/forested areas. When killed they yield 1-3 raw pork chops (but if killed by fire, they drop cooked pork chops).

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In addition to hunting them for food, players can also breed them (by feeding them carrots) to produce more pigs and can place a saddle on them in order to ride them like a small and slow horse. A small and slow horse you need to lead with a carrot and stick if you want to get anywhere, that is.

Sheep

Sheep spawn in groups of 2-8 animals in grassy/forested area and provide the player with wool (useful for crafting items like a bed). Killing a sheep will yield one block of wool, shearing the sheep will leave the sheep alive and yield 1-3 blocks of wool.

Although wool is handy, it can be frustrating if the biome you’re in is sheep heavy (as they produce nothing the player can eat).

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Sheep can be bred by feeding them wheat. Roughly 80 percent of all naturally spawned sheep in the game are white, but sheep can spawn as black, brown, gray, light gray and, very rarely, pink.

In addition to the basic colors, you can dye sheep other colors like yellow, blue, and green, and the dyed sheep will remain that color (producing as much of the colored wool was you wish to shear from them).

Chickens

Chickens produce more than one kind of drop. When you kill a chicken it will drop 0-2 feathers and one serving of raw chicken (cooked chicken if killed with fire). Left alive, they will drop a chicken egg every 5-10 minutes. Eggs can be harvested and to spawn more chickens or used in recipes.

Spawning chickens is rather fun: you throw the collected eggs like baseballs and each broken egg has a chance to spawn a chick.

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Chickens may be bred using seeds (such as wheat, melon, or pumpkin seeds). Chickens spawn in grassy/forested areas.

Cows

Like the other farm-type animals, cows spawn in grassy/forested areas in groups of 2-8. Like chickens, cows are a fairly versatile creature as they supply both food (1-3 raw beef when killed, steaks if killed by fire), as well as milk if milked using a bucket and 0-2 leather units upon death.

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They can be bred using wheat and will happily follow you if you hold wheat in your hand. Walk slowly enough and you can easily get the entire herd to follow you.

Mooshrooms

Mooshrooms are like mutant cows, they use the same body model as the cow but only spawn in herds of 2-8 mooshrooms, in the rare Mushroom biome. Just like the cows, they produce leather and beef if killed (steak if killed with fire), and they can be milked with a bucket.

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In addition to the standard cow-like item drops however, the mooshrooms can also be sheared (they’ll drop five red mushrooms) can they can be “milked” using a bowl and they’ll produce mushroom stew. Thanks to the wide variety of drops available from the mooshroom, it’s the most versatile creature in the game. Mooshrooms can be bred with wheat.

Horses

Horses (and less frequently donkeys), spawn in the plains/savannah biomes. If killed they drop 0-2 leather units and in rare cases, if they have any additional equipment, a saddle, horse armor, or chest. Given that the majority of horses only yield a small amount of leather, it’s more practical to tame and saddle them to use them as transportation.

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To tame a wild horse, simply click on it to ride it. The horse will throw you off. Repeat the process until the horse remains calm. Alternatively, you can instantly tame a horse with a saddle. Regardless of how you tame the horse, a saddle is required to direct the horse’s movement once tamed.

Horses can be bred using golden apples or carrots; a horse bred with a donkey yields a mule which, like the donkey, can be outfitted with a chest to help transport materials. Given the relative expense of creating golden apples and carrots (they’re essentially the base fruit/vegetable coated in gold) you have to be really set on breeding horses to undertake it, but hey, nobody said running a horse ranch would be cheap.

Ocelots

Ocelots are wild cats found in the Jungle biome. When wild, all ocelots look the same—tan color with brown spots.

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Players may tame wild ocelots however, using raw fish. After feeding the wild ocelot raw fish it will turn into a domestic cat and assume one of the three color patterns reserved for cats. Ocelots/cats are immune to fall damage and are excellent at warding away Creepers (an aggressive mob creature we’ll meet in a moment).

Unless commanded to sit (by right-clicking on them) cats will wander around and follow the player. Minecraft cats, much like real world cats, enjoy hopping up on beds, chests, and other elevated surfaces.

Bats

Bats spawn naturally in caves and other large enclosed dark spaces. Despite your first reaction to smack them away, unlike in most videos games the bats are completely harmless. Not only that but they’re relatively useless as they have no drops, cannot be tamed, and provide no experience when killed.

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They are useful however, as they tend to be rather noisy and are a good indicator of a nearby cavern. When digging mineshafts it pays to listen for the squeak of bats as it typically indicates a nearby cave system. Bats are the only flying passive mob.

Squids

Squids are found in any biome that has water. Despite the name, the squid body model is actually closer in shape to that of an octopus.

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Squids are completely passive and, when killed, will drop 1-3 ink sacs. These sacs may be collected to use as dyes and in the creation of more advanced craftable items like the book and quill.

Villagers

Villagers are the only human (or perhaps we should say human-like) characters in the game and spawn in villages. Each villager has a profession (indicated by their robe/apron color); brown-robed villagers are farmers, white-robed are librarians, purple-robed are priests, black-aproned villagers are blacksmiths, and white-robed are butchers.

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You can right-click on villagers to trade with them; their profession has a strong influence on what they will trade with you. Villagers always trade items for emeralds or emeralds for items, e.g. they want twenty raw chickens for five emeralds.

Although oftentimes the trade strongly favors the villager, we’d still recommend checking trades when you’re near a village as it’s possible to collect higher level/hard-to-obtain items fairly easily using the trade system. We frequently run into farmers who will happily trade emeralds in exchange for stacks of wheat (we presume they’re independently wealthy and simply want more farmhands as we always trade them wheat right out of their own fields).

Although villagers reproduce if the population of the village drops (you’ll occasionally see little miniature child-size villagers running around) they have no gender-distinguishing features and, save for their clothing color, all look identical.

At night villagers will go indoors in an attempt to avoid aggressive mobs but their Artificial Intelligence engine (AI) is absolutely awful. Zombies are drawn to villagers and will approach villages in large numbers once the sun goes down but you cannot rely on the villagers to avoid them (and they have no mechanism to attack the zombies).

If you want to keep a village alive so you can trade with the villagers you need to do one of two things. First, you need to avoid the village at night; stay at least 128 blocks away to keep the mobs from spawning in the village. Second, if you wish to live in the village, you need to fortify the village with walls and lots of torches. If you completely light the interior area of the village no hostile mobs will spawn there.

Killing a villager yields no drops and is strongly advised against. Not only is murdering defenseless and villagers bad form, they’re are very slow to repopulate their villages so you’ll deprive yourself of valuable trading partners if you murder everyone in town.

Utility Mobs

Speaking of villages and villagers, let’s take a look at the smallest mob category with a scant two entries: the utility mobs. Utility mobs are named such because they, as the name implies, provide some sort of utilitarian function for the player.

Iron Golems

Irons golems are found naturally, albeit infrequently, in the wild. They spawn naturally in large villages that have at least 10 villagers and 21 “houses”. We put houses in quotations because according to the Minecraft village algorithm a house isn’t a full structure as you and I would imagine it but instead a door attached to a structure. Thus the butcher houses found in some villages (which have two doors) are actually counted as two houses.

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Players can also construct Iron Golems by stacking four iron blocks on the ground and putting a pumpkin on top. In the screenshot above we used the crafting table to conveniently arrange the blocks for reference but the actual golem must be constructed on the ground. Don’t worry, we’ll get into crafting tables, blocks, and construction shortly.

Iron golems protect villages and will attack anyone (player or mob) that attacks a villager.

Snow Golems

Snow golems are not found naturally in the Minecraft world and are the only mob in the Meet the Mobs lesson you’ll only find if you craft one yourself.

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If you find a snow biome you can gather snow, stack it up, throw a pumpkin on top, and make yourself a little snow man. He’ll wander around aimlessly near the location he was created and throw snowballs at hostile mobs (you can also collect snow from the trail he leaves behind).

Again, don’t worry, we’ll get to the topic of crafting items and where to find pumpkins in short order.

Neutral Mobs

While passive mobs will never attack you under any circumstances (you can beat up cows and villagers all day without worrying about a counter-attack), neutral mobs remain indifferent to you until you provoke them. What constitutes provocation depends on the mob type in question.

Wolves

Found in the Forest and Taiga biomes as well as their variants, wolves spawn in packs of 1-8. By default the wolves are completely neutral toward the player and you can walk right up to them. They will only attack if you strike them in some fashion. Be aware that attacking one wolf will cause all the wolves from the pack to attack you.

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If you give wolves a bone it is possible to tame them. They turn into dogs and wear a red collar (much like ocelots turn from wild cats into domestic cats). You can click on the dog with dye (such as a squid ink sac) and the collar will change to match the color of the expended dye unit.

Tamed dogs will follow the player and will attack anything the player attacks or that attacks the player. Large packs of tame dogs can be a hassle to manage but they’ll put up quite a fight defending you.

Right-clicking on a dog will instruct it to sit and stop following the player. Wolves only drop experience when killed.

Spiders/Cave Spiders

Spiders are neutral in bright light and aggressive in low light. If you come across a spider during the daylight hours, you can walk safely past it without fear of attack unless you provoke it by hitting it. At night or in dark caverns however, spiders will attack on sight.

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Regular spiders spawn at night on the surface of The Overworld as well as any time of day in dark caverns. Cave Spiders are a smaller variant of the spider and spawn only via mob spawner (a small fire-filled cage) found in Abandoned Mineshafts. Cave Spiders have a poisonous bite and can quickly overwhelm a surprised player.

Both spiders and cave spiders drop 0-2 string and 0-1 spider eyes when killed.

Endermen

Endermen are a tall, long-limbed creature that spawns at night/in low-light-levels in both The Overworld and The End. They’re notable for their spooky appearance (they have glowing purple eyes and teleport randomly about the world) as well as their hostility toward being looked upon.

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You can provoke an Enderman through normal means, by attacking it, but you can also provoke them simply by looking at them. If you look at their faces or upper bodies from a distance of 64 blocks or less, they will become immediately agitated and begin teleporting and attacking you.

When exposed to light (such as sunrise) or water (like rain or when chasing a player into an area with water in it), Endermen will teleport quickly to avoid taking damage.

When killed Endermen drop 0-1 Ender Pearls, an exotic in-game material necessary for getting to The End.

Zombie Pigmen

Zombie Pigmen are extremely rare in The Overworld as they spawn only when lightning strikes near a herd of pigs. Just like wolves, they aren’t hostile toward the player until attacked, but if you do attack them they, and their nearby kin, will converge rapidly upon the player.

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Although extremely rare on The Overworld, they spawn frequently in The Nether. When Zombie Pigmen are killed they drop 0-1 pieces of rotten flesh and 0-1 gold nuggets. Rarely will they drop a gold ingot or golden sword.

Aggressive Mobs

Unlike our previous two mob types, aggressive mobs will always attack on sight no matter what the situation and will typically actively seek out nearby players.

Zombies

These green-skinned guys are the most common mob in the entire game. As soon as the sun goes down or you venture into a dark cave, you should anticipate running into them. They growl, moan, and otherwise grumble as they shuffle along looking for players (or villagers) to eat.

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When killed zombies drop 0-2 rotten flesh pieces and more rarely, may drop carrots, iron ingots, potatoes, iron swords and shovels, or random armor. Zombies will burn when exposed to sunlight; if you leave your shelter in the morning and find random pieces of rotten flesh laying around, you’ve found the remains of some poor zombie scorched by the morning sun.

There are several zombie variants. Zombie Villagers look like a green version of the regular villager. Unlike regular zombies, the zombie villagers can be transformed back into regular people by using a weakness potion on them and feeding them golden apples. Given what a hassle it is to “cure” and contain the infected villager during the process, it’s rarely worth the effort.

Baby Zombies are only one block tall, very fast, and do not burn in sunlight. They can climb ladders (whereas regular zombies will use ladders only if they literally bump into them) and are sometimes seen riding chickens (an extremely rare variant known as the Chicken Jockey).

Creepers

Zombies might be the most prolific aggressive mob in Minecraft, but Creepers are the ones that get all the fame. Creepers are an odd armless/handless humanoid shape with four squatty legs. They move almost silently (with an occasional rustling sound) or, as their name implies, creep up on players before self-detonating in a TNT-like explosion that inflicts significant damage to the player and breaks surrounding blocks, making them exceptionally annoying when near bases and other player-created structures.

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When killed, creepers drop 0-2 piles of gunpowder. They drop no piles if they explode before you kill them. Curiously, if you can orchestrate it so that a Skeleton kills a creeper, by getting the skeleton’s attention and then moving so the creeper is between the two of you, it will drop a rare music disc for you.

Creepers spawn in the dark like other hostile mobs but, unlike skeletons and zombies, creepers do not burn in sunlight and will continue to roam around until killed by a player or despawned by the in-game timer.

Skeletons

Another common mob, skeletons spawn in darkness and are always armed with a bow. If you’re looking to tame a pack of wolves, skeletons are the handiest source of bones in the game as they drop 0-2 bones and 0-2 arrows upon death (if you run around outside your shelter right after dawn breaks, you’ll often find piles of bones just laying around, no combat necessary).

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In addition to dropping arrows and bones, there is a slight chance the skeleton will also drop its bow when killed by the player (and an even slighter chance the bow will be enchanted). Rarely, it may even drop armor.

Skeletons make a slight rattling sound as they walk around and will seek out players within 16 blocks and fire their bow upon players within eight blocks. Skeletons are skilled at navigating inclines, stairs, and other obstacles in order to reach the player. They can climb ladders but rarely do.

There is a rare variant of the skeleton, the Spider Jockey, where the skeleton is riding on a spider.

Slimes

Slimes are perhaps the most annoying hostile mob in the game. They’re slow, they’re easy to kill, but on top of making a really annoying noise, they split into smaller slimes when attacked. The largest splits into smaller cubes, which in turn split into even smaller cubes.

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They spawn randomly underground in what are known as “slime chunks.” Out of every 16 map chunks, one is selected to be a microbiome of sorts that allows slime spawning. If there is an appropriate cave or opening in that chunk, the slimes will spawn there. Outside of caverns, slimes also spawn in the swamp biome.

When killed they drop slimeballs which are used to make tools like animal leads and sticky pistons.

Silverfish

Silverfish are small insects found in Minecraft and in fact, are the smallest mob in the game. They’re found only in Strongholds and in the Extreme Hills biome. As such, players uninterested in focusing on end-game strategy can play for years without encountering them as extreme hills biomes are rare and Strongholds are difficult to find.

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In Strongholds they spawn from a special monster spawner in the portal room and in the Extreme Hills biome they spawn from “monster eggs” stone blocks hidden in the ground in the aforementioned biome that crack open and reveal silverfish when broken. Attacking a revealed silverfish will call forth nearby silverfish (if present) which can lead to a nasty (and often fatal) swarm effect.

Witches

Witches are, compared to other lighter weight mobs like zombies and skeletons, quite dangerous. They spawn in The Overworld at night and in dark caverns and chambers. They aggressively use thrown potions to injure the player and regular potions to heal/help themselves.

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Although they’re strong and can easily take down an underprepared player, they do drop quite a bit of loot which makes witch hunting a worthwhile affair. Upon death, they have a chance to drop 0-6 of each of the following items: glass bottles, glowstone dust, gun powder, redstone, sugar, sticks, and spider eyes as well as potions.

Given the relative difficulty of finding some of the previous materials, as well as how much effort it takes to scale up to creating potions in the game, it’s oftentimes worth risking a fight with a witch.

The witches and their friends we outlined above constitute all the creatures, friendly and unfriendly, you’ll meet in The Overworld.

Next Lesson: Exploring Minecraft Game Modes

Tomorrow’s lesson is focused on breaking away from Creative Mode and exploring the other game mods (as well as when and why you would want to use them).

Your homework for tonight is to continue to explore your new Minecraft world in search of new biomes, structures, and the creatures we’ve just studied.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek, How-To Geek's sister site focused on product reviews, roundups, and deals. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker.
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