The dire animal: a larger, often more "prehistoric"-looking version of a normal animal. Popular in fantasy works. After all, watching your hero fight a rat the size of ... well, a rat
is hardly impressive, but make it the size of a small dog
, now that is amazing. And a wolf is threatening, but a sabre-toothed wolf the size of a bear... Well, that's even more impressive.
Nonetheless, Dire Animals have become a staple of fantasy works, often serving as early game enemies (with Dire Rats ideal for a Rat Stomp
). Dire version of more impressive animals can still pose a challenge later in the story (Dire Bears the size of elephants, Dire Tyrannosaurus Rex
) but most often these form one of the earliest challenge heroes must face.
Dire Animals may fit into various subtropes depending on what animals they are: Bears Are Bad News
, Rodents of Unusual Size
, Big, Badass Wolf
, Panthera Awesome
, Scary Scorpions
, Giant Enemy Crab
, Creepy Centipedes
, Full Boar Action
Invariably causes Animals Not to Scale
. Related to Whateversaurus
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Dire Wolf is the symbol of house Stark. At adulthood, if the TV show is any indication, they grow to the size of a horse. Everyone of Ned Stark's children is given a Dire Wolf pup as a companion early in the first book.
- In The Pendragon Adventure "Quigs" take the form of some local wild fauna but are even more dangerous and single-minded to attack Bobby and his friends. On one territory they look like bears, another (undersea) they're sharks, on earth they're dogs, etc. On one territory where man isn't the dominant species they look human.
- Wargs in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are perfect examples of dire wolves, even though they are never referred to as such. Also, Beorn's animal form could be considered a dire bear, and oliphaunts are, practically, dire elephants (in the films, the book implied they were just ordinary elephants).
- Dungeons & Dragons
- This game is likely the Trope Codifier: Dire Animals are numerous, and Dire Rats, Badgers, Wolves and Bears are staples of the game and many adaptation, but more creative examples include Dire Crocodiles and Dire Sharks. Basically any animal you can think of often has a dire version. Dire animals are distinguished by their size and being covered in spikes.
- In 3.5, even Dire Animals had their own "more dire" counterpart in the form of "Legendary" beasts and "Paragon" beasts.
- Savage Worlds includes numerous dire beasties in its core rulebook's list of pre-generated foes.
- Exalted has a bunch of super-sized animals found across the setting. They're usually some kind of Wyld mutant or supernatural creature.
- In the Penny Arcade expansion pack for the game Munchkin, one of the treasures is a "Dire Teddy Bear". 
- While Munchkin: Legends has the "Dire" monster buff.
- Dire creatures appear in Final Fantasy XII. Dire Rats and Dire Flans.
- Dire wolves appear in RuneScape's forest of Isafdar as larger-sized versions of their cousins, guarding the entrance to the Elven city of Lletya.
- Dire wolves are a pain in the ass in Age of Empires II, due to their propensity to violently murder your villagers.
- Dire Wolves appear in The Battle for Middle-Earth. They did not appear in the books however (instead there were Wargs).
- World of Warcraft has a ton of dire animals: Dire Wolves, Dire Boars, Dire Bats, Dire Apes, Dire Condors and Dire Lions.
- In the Diablo franchise, there are often large, mean versions of common animals, especially spiders. Justified in the cosmology since all animals were originally based on demons, and are easily corrupted.
- Dragon Age: Origins has the "Blighted" versions of some animals, such as spiders, wolves, and bears, which are bigger and tougher than their baseline counterparts. The blighted bear (known as "Bereskarn") in particular is much larger and even grows bony spikes all over its body.
- In South Park: The Stick of Truth, Canada(in 16-bit top down view) has a whole array of dire woodlands creature like bears, snakes and spiders. Oh, and dire AIDS too, they're like regular AIDS but dire.
- In prehistoric times, there were many larger, meaner, versions of the animals we had today. Woolly Mammoths, Sabre-toothed Tigers to name a few. In fact Dire Wolves are apparently based off of canine ancestors from many millenia ago.
- Another real-life example: Aurochs, the ancestors of cattle. It took some kind of serious badassery to domesticate them.