Dire Wolf Size Comparison

© Marc-Olivier Jodoin / unsplash

Written by Megan Martin

Published: October 25, 2021

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dire wolf, wolf, sabertooth, and human
Dire wolves are a much larger predator than the wolves of today.

While you may know of dire wolves from your favorite fantasy series, real dire wolves (Canis or Aenocyon dirus) existed in our world too, up until they went extinct around 10,000 years ago. While we know they’re much bigger than their modern domesticated family members, it can be hard to determine just how big they were – which is why we created this dire wolf size comparison guide.

Have you ever wondered what a modern wolf and a dire wolf would look like standing side by side? How about you and a dire wolf?

We’ve created a complete comparison guide showcasing the dire wolves sizes compared to humans, wolves, and even sabertooth cats so you can see just how large these prehistoric canines were. 

How Big Were Dire Wolves?

dire wolf, wolf, sabertooth, human
Dire wolves were almost 25 percent larger than today’s wolves.

Dire wolves evolved during one of the last ice ages in the Americas and eastern Asia. This means they lived during the time where most things seemed to be supersized, from woolly mammoths to sabertooth tigers

There are expected to be at least two subspecies of the dire wolf, including Aenocyon dirus guildayi and Aenocyon dirus dirus.

A. guildayi was the smaller of the two subspecies, averaging at a weight of 132 pounds compared to A. dirus dirus at 150 pounds. The largest dire wolf fossils were found in Florida in the Aucilla River region in the north, and it’s estimated that they could reach weights up to 200 pounds! That’s around the same weight as your typically top-freezer refrigerator. 

For the species as a whole, the average length from nose to tail was around 5 feet. This is the average height for a 14-year-old boy in the United States. Since it can be difficult to get an exact estimate of their size on fossils alone, it’s also possible they could have grown up to 6 feet in length.

Their average shoulder heigh, which measured from the ground to their shoulders, was around 3.2 feet high (38 inches). With modern gray wolves averaging a shoulder height of 26 to 32 inches, this leaves dire wolves standing taller than all but the largest gray wolves ever discovered.

Dire Wolf Size Comparison to a Human

Wolf Size Comparison - Dire Wolf with Baby Mammoth

Dire wolves lived during the same time as woolly mammoths.

©Aunt Spray/Shutterstock.com

While we know that a dire wolf may have been the same length as a teenage boy, how do they measure up in different areas?

With an estimated maximum weight of 200 pounds, dire wolves would have balanced the scale with the average adult male in the United States. The smaller A. guildayi subspecies, however, would share a weight range with the average 13-year-old. 

In terms of shoulder height, dire wolves were slightly larger than Great Danes. This means that, compared to a human, you can expect that they would be slightly above your belly button. Perfect height for petting!

Including their heads, dire wolves from ground to ear wouldn’t be much bigger than three and a half feet tall. This is around the same height as the average 4-year-old. 

Dire Wolf v. Wolf Size Comparison

wolf howling on top or rock

Wolves can grow up to 240 pounds, heavier than the dire wolf!

©Allison Coffin/Shutterstock.com

One of the most common topics of discourse is whether or not wolves and dire wolves are related. While recent DNA analysis shows that they aren’t direct descendants like we’d initially thought, they’re still distant relatives and ancestors of the canine species we know and love today. 

Full-size dire wolves are about 25 percent bigger than the average grey wolf. Grey wolves, known for their lean frames, usually don’t grow much bigger than 145 pounds, which is smaller than the A. dirus dirus subspecies of dire wolf.

The largest subspecies of the grey wolf, known as the Mackenzie Valley wolf, is most similar to the dire wolf in size. In fact, the largest wolf ever recorded weighed 175 pounds and was a Mackenzie Valley wolf.

Dire Wolf v. Sabertooth Size Comparison

sabertooth skull

Sabertooth cats had teeth up to 11 inches long!

©Brian Wangenheim / unsplash – Original / License

One of the best-known genus of sabertooth was Smilodon, which is often referred to as the sabertooth cat despite not being related to the cats we know of today. The Smildons lived in the Americas during the last ice age, just like the dire wolf, and contained three different species: S. gracilis, S. fatalis, and S. populator.

But how do these top predators of the ice age measure up?

First, it’s no doubt that the sabertooth wins in regard to tooth size. Dire wolves’ teeth are only slightly larger than the average canine teeth of today, while the sabertooth cat had elongated canine teeth that could grow up to 11 inches long. That’s almost as long as a bowling pin!

The Smilodon genus of sabertooth was also able to tip the scale of even the largest of dire wolves. Where dire wolves could grow up to 200 pounds, sabertooth cats easily reached anywhere from 350 pounds to 620 pounds. That’s over three times larger than the largest dire wolf, and it’s also the same weight as a baby grand piano.

However, when it comes to length, sabertooths and dire wolves were about even. While dire wolves ranged anywhere from 5 to 6 feet snout to tail, sabertooth averaged at about 5’8” from snout to rump. 

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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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