(many thanks to Deb for locating this info for this blog)
Physical Appearance: 5 feet long 110 pounds. Contrary to popular myth they were only slightly larger than the modern gray wolf (Canis lupus), with the exception of their teeth. They also had short but sturdier legs than the gray wolf.
Habits and Reproduction:
Geographic Range: North & South America** during the Pleistocene Epoch (Ice Age).
Diet: Bison, Horse, Sloth**
IUCN Status: EXTINCT
Threats to Survival: Elements, Lack of Food, Environmental hazards (tar pits)
The dire wolf was a large canine that exhibited hyena like characteristics. Like the hyena, the dire wolf hunted and scavenged for food. Researchers suspect that dire wolves, due to their scavenging nature, scattered the bones of animals they killed or that were killed by other prey. The dire wolf was not quite like any animal we have today. It was similar in overall size and mass to a large modern gray wolf. (A popular misconception is that dire wolf dwarfed the modern day grey wolf) It was about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and weighed about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) on average. The dire wolf looked fairly similar to the modern gray wolf; however, there were several important differences.
The dire wolf had a larger, broader head and shorter, sturdier legs than its modern relative.
The teeth of dire wolf much larger and more massive than those of the gray wolf.
The brain case of the dire wolf is also smaller than that of a similarly-sized gray wolf.
The fact that the lower part of the legs of the dire wolf are proportionally shorter than those of the gray wolf, indicates that the dire wolf was probably not a good a runner as the gray wolf.
Many paleontologists think that the dire wolf may have used its relatively large, massive teeth to crush bone. This idea is supported by the fact that dire wolf teeth frequently have large amounts of wear on their crowns.
Several people have suggested that dire wolves may have made their living in similar ways to the modern hyenas.
Wolves and coyotes are relatively common large carnivores found in Ice Age sites. In fact, several thousand dire wolves have been found in the asphalt pits at Rancho La Brea in Los Angeles, CA. The coyote, gray wolf, and dire wolf have all been found in paleontological sites in the Midwestern U.S.
The first specimen of a dire wolf was found at near Evansville, Indiana. Clark Kimberling of the University of Evansville has traced the very interesting history of this specimen.
The Midwest and 16,000 Years Ago