Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Extinct Dire Wolf (Canus dirus) Fact Sheet
Extinct dire wolf, Canis dirus. Image detail from a 1921 mural by Charles R. Knight (1974-1953).
Image credit: From the Jesse Earl Hyde Collection, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Department of Geological Sciences. Made available through Wikimedia. Public domain.
Family: Canidae (dogs, coyotes, foxes, jackals, wolves; many extinct genera)
Genus: Canis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Species: Canis dirus (Leidy, 1858) - dire wolf (extinct)
Subspecies: Canis dirus guildayi (extinct)
Subspecies: Canis dirus dirus (extinct)
34-67 kg (75-148 lb)
125 cm (4.1 ft)
80 cm (2.6 ft)
63 cm (2 ft)
Unknown; may have been similar to modern gray wolves
|Distribution & Status
||Behavior & Ecology
North America into northern South America (southern Alberta, Canada to southern Bolivia); rare in South America
Extremely variable: forested mountains, tropical marsh with nearby thorn-scrub, deciduous forest, open grasslands and plains
Species went extinct by 12,000 years ago
Evidence from La Brea suggests dire wolves lived in large groups.
Many other dog-like carnivores lived during the dire wolf's time. Instances of co-evolvement proposed.
Not a specialized predator--fed on abundant, large-bodied animals, and medium-to-large bodied hooved animals.
|Reproduction & Development
- Similar in many ways to modern wolves; heavier body and more robust skull
- Large numbers of dire wolves preserved at La Brea (Los Angeles)
- Estimated to have had a bite force 30% stronger than the modern gray wolf
- Interesting studies relating health and tooth breakage
About This Fact Sheet
© 2009 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
How to cite: Extinct Dire Wolf (Canus dirus) Fact Sheet. c2009. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ extinctdirewolf
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)
Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to email@example.com.
Disclaimer: Fact sheets on prehistoric (extinct) species contain archived content and are no longer being updated. At the time of publication, these pages summarized the best available science. However, some content may become outdated when new scientific discoveries are published.
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Email the librarians at firstname.lastname@example.org