Dire wolves surrounding a sabertooth tiger at La Brea Tar Pits, California.

Dire wolf

The dire wolf was probably the heaviest canine ever to have existed. It earned its 'dire' tag from comparisons with the modern grey wolf. A much heftier beast with larger teeth, its powerful build and short legs indicate it might have been more of an ambush hunter and less of a long-distance runner than modern wolves. Despite being heavier, the dire wolf had a smaller brain than the grey wolf. Dire wolves were native to the Americas and thousands of their skeletons have been found in the La Brea tar pits. They became extinct between 16,000 and 10,000 years ago in different areas of the Americas.

Scientific name: Canis dirus

Rank: Species

Watch video clips from past programmes (2 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

What their world was like

Ice age Ice age
The last ice age hasn't ended, the climate has just warmed up a bit causing the ice sheets to retreat. When the ice was more extensive, our climate was very different.