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Believed extinct south of the Wall
Forests and mountains
Beyond the Wall, Westeros
Much of the North in ancient times.


Mother of direwolves

Ned Stark and his sons find a dead female direwolf, and her six newborn cubs.

"There are no direwolves south of the Wall."
Robb Stark[src]

Direwolves are an unusually large and intelligent species of wolf. A grey direwolf on a white field is the sigil of House Stark.


Direwolves are held to be near-mythical in most of the south of Westeros. Inhabitants of the North acknowledge that they are a real animal, but they are very rarely encountered there. There are some rumors of them living in the Wolfswood near Winterfell, but these are unconfirmed. There may have been larger direwolf populations in the North in past millennia, but centuries of human encroachment on their territory have pushed their range back to the furthest north.

Robb, Bran and wolves

Robb and Bran Stark adopt the newfound direwolf cubs.

There have been confirmed sightings north of the Wall by the Night's Watch who guard it. The wildlings who live beyond the Wall claim that direwolves can be found in greater numbers in the Haunted Forest to the north of the Wall. By the reign of King Robert Baratheon no direwolf had been sighted south of the Wall, even in the Stark lands of the North, in over 200 years.



A year-old juvenile direwolf, already taller at its shoulder than a man's waist.

An adult direwolf is as large as a small horse, and can rip a man's arm from its socket. Even a juvenile direwolf is quite capable of killing a man by ripping out his throat. Physically they are not simply larger versions of wolves, but have slightly different proportions than their smaller cousins: their heads are larger with a leaner, more pronounced muzzle; their legs are longer in proportion to their body, and they have proportionately larger teeth that are often used to crush bones.

Direwolves can give birth to litters of at least six puppies.


Direwolves are loyal to their masters and will attack anyone who threatens them. Arya Stark's direwolf Nymeria attacked Prince Joffrey after he threatened her with a sword, while Bran Stark's Summer killed a would-be assassin in Bran's bedroom.[1]

At the Battle of Oxcross during the War of the Five Kings, Robb Stark's direwolf Grey Wind plays a vital part in Robb's victory, killing several Lannister sentries and panicking their horses.[2]

The Stark direwolves

(Jon's direwolf)
(Arya's direwolf)
(Bran's direwolf)
(Rickon's direwolf)
Grey Wind
(Robb's direwolf)
(Sansa's direwolf)

The six children of Lord Eddard Stark adopted six orphaned direwolf cubs found in the Wolfswood. They are as follows:

Behind the scenes


Nymeria, portrayed by an adult dog in Season 1.


Ghost, played by a real wolf in Season 2, digitally resized to look even bigger

  • In Season 1, the production team used adult dogs to stand in for the juvenile direwolf puppies. Northern Inuit Dogs from Mahlek Kennels were used.[3] In interviews they have stated that this was done to allow the audience to grow attached to them, which would have been more difficult had the dogs been created by special effects. As the direwolves continue to grow, however, more special effects are going to be used.
  • When Season 1 wrapped up, the dogs used as direwolves were offered to the young actors who played their owners in the show. Sophie Turner (Sansa) took the dog who played Lady. Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran) wanted to take Summer, but his family already had two dogs at home.
  • In Season 2, real wolves were used to portray the adolescent direwolves. Using a variety of camera tricks and techniques, the shots were augmented to make the wolves appear larger, and then composited with the background and actors for the final shots. The result is that in Season 2 the direwolves are played by real-life wolves that have been super-sized in post-production.[4]
  • It wasn't possible to translate "dire wolf" into german, so the species was named "Schattenwolf" in the german dub, what means "shadow wolves" [5].

In real-life

The name dire wolf (Latin: ​Canis dirus​) is given to an actual species of Pleistocene megafauna that once existed on real-life Earth, like the mammoth and sabertooth cat. Dire wolves inhabited the Americas, from 1.8 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago.

Note that the name of the real-life animal is spelled as two words, "dire wolf", but that the name in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels is consistently spelled as one word, "direwolf".

The large Pleistocene mammals went extinct when the last ice age ended, roughly 10,000 years ago. Large herbivores such as mammoths died out due to climate change (and possibly hunting by prehistoric humans), and carnivores such as dire wolves died when their food sources disappeared. Dire wolves and mammoths were adapted to the cold ice age climate, their size maximizing heat retention and strength but at the cost of speed. In the warmer climate following the ice age, smaller but faster animals thrived that didn't need to make these tradeoffs for cold weather. Not only did dire wolves' old large prey such as mammoths die out, but they were being out-competed by smaller and faster grey wolves.


See also


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