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Dire wolf
Temporal range: Late Pleistocene – early Holocene (125,000–9,000 years ago)
Canis dirus Sternberg Museum.jpg
Mounted skeleton, Sternberg Museum of Natural History
Scientific classification
Genus:
Canis
Species:
dirus
Subspecies
  • Canis dirus dirus Kurten 1984
  • Canis dirus guildayi Kurten 1984
Synonyms
  • Canis primaevus Leidy (1854)
  • Canis indianensis Leidy (1869)
  • Canis mississippiensis Allen (1876)
  • Canis ayersi Sellards (1916)
  • Aenocyon dirus Merriam (1918)
  • Aenocyon dirus nebrascensis Frick (1930) (nomen nudum)

The dire wolf (Canis dirus, "fearsome dog") is an extinct species of wolf in the genus Canis. It is one of the most famous prehistoric carnivores in North America. The dire wolf lived in the Americas during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs (125,000–9,440 years ago). The species was named in 1858, four years after the first specimen had been found.

Subspecies

Two subspecies are recognized. These subspecies are Canis dirus guildayi and Canis dirus dirus. The dire wolf probably evolved from Armbruster's wolf (Canis armbrusteri) in North America.

The dire wolf was about the same size as the largest gray wolves alive now.

Diet

The dire wolf probably ate horses, ground sloths, mastodons, bison, and camels. The dire wolf was probably a pack hunter. This means that many dire wolves would hunt for prey together. Modern wolves are also pack hunters.

Extinction

The dire wolf became extinct during the Quaternary extinction event.

  • For the younger readers - Dire Wolf by Marc Zabludoff, Marshall Cavendish, 2009

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