Dire Beast

And you thought bears were bad news before you met one the size of an African elephant.

You know what a dire X is, right? They're like X, only dire.

The dire animal: a larger, often more "prehistoric"-looking version of a normal animal. It's popular in fantasy works. After all, watching your hero fight a normal-sized rat is hardly impressive, but make it the size of a small dog, now, that is amazing. A wolf might be threatening, but a sabre-toothed wolf the size of a bear... now, that's even more impressive.

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:

Subtrope of Animals Not to Scale. Related to Whateversaurus. Subtrope of Bigger Is Better. Compare Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever when these beasts turn gigantic.


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  • In The Killer Shrews relatively giant shrews are attacking and killing. The "giant shrews" are played by German Shepard dogs with not very convincing makeup.
  • Mothra (and it's parody, Insectosaurus - the latter even turns into a butterfly).

  • 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.
    • There's also aurochs, which are prehistoric cattle. They seem to be about as common as regular cows would be in real life.
  • There are many examples of this found in The Iron Teeth web serial. They usually have a well defined ecological role though and aren't just supersized versions of normal animals.
  • 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 essentially dire elephants (the films take this last one to a far greater extreme than the books.)
  • Discworld, according to The Compleat Discworld Atlas, has Dire Yak. However, although they are noticeably larger than regular yak, they are so named because they come from the Dire Peninsula (which is separated from the main continent by the Dire Straits).

  • Dice Funk: Jayne can shapeshift into a dire wolf. She always employs this when combat occurs.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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". [1]
    • While Munchkin: Legends has the "Dire" monster buff.

    Video Games 
  • 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 Elsword, there exist giant versions of Phoru creatures that serves as minibosses. There are also giant, mutated rats in the Elder Bonus Dungeon.
  • Seemingly as a parody, the Age of Wonders series has exactly one kind of dire beast: the Dire Penguin.
  • In Gems of War, the Dire Wolf is, as per its card, "like a wolf, only more dire". They're distinct from the wolf-people who live in the same area.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a variation with the Ice Wolf, Snowy Sabre Cat and Snow Bear - much tougher and deadlier versions of normal predators, only encountered in the colder regions and distinguished by their pale fur. This is Fridge Brilliance, since these animals would have to be stronger to survive in their cold, unforgiving environment, and the polar bear is indeed the largest species of bear still alive today. Given that two out of three of those were Demonic Spiders to begin with... yeah.

     Real Life 
  • In prehistoric times, there were some animals that were, in fact, larger than their modern relatives. These included dire wolves, entelodonts (relatives of modern hippos), Elasmotherium (an ice age rhino), and Deinotherium, Stegodon and several mammoth species (elephant relatives). None of them tended to be quite so large as modern media portrays them (dire wolves, for example only grew to about 110-175 lbs and were actually shorter at the shoulders than modern wolves), and needless to say they weren't covered in spikes, either.
  • Another real-life example: Aurochs, the ancestors of cattle. It took some kind of serious badassery to domesticate them. They also went extinct less than 400 years ago, which means that Knights and Peseants, the Romans and Greeks, and most other ancient Afroeurasian peoples kept these as a source of food, and thus badasses in their own right.
  • The Megalodon an enormous prehistoric shark thats three times bigger than the Great White Shark.
  • In the Carboniferous age, basically every arthropod fit into the Big Creepy-Crawlies trope.
  • Argentavis was a vulture-like bird with a wingspan of 26 feet.
  • Haast's Eagle, once found in New Zealand hunting moas, did not have a wingspan excessively larger than the largest modern eagles, but was much more massive than any modern raptor.
  • The Flemish Giant Rabbit and Continental Giant Rabbit are rabbits that grow way larger than the average rabbit, the largest ones being the size of a small child. They're still adorable.
  • The largest canid to ever exist was the appropriately named Epicyon, "more than a dog". With a more robust build than any modern canine and powerful, bone-crushing jaws that were more like a hyena's, this borophagine from the Miocene of North America was an impressive 5 feet in length, 3 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed up to 370 lb. There are tigers smaller than this!
  • Killer whales might be better described as dire dolphins.