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Dire Beast

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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."
South Park: The Stick of Truth, describing the wildlife of...Canada

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 impressive. A wolf might be threatening, but a sabre-toothed wolf the size of a bear... now, that's even more impressive.

Note that dire wolves did actually exist in real life, though they were only slightly larger than "normal" wolves, and disappointingly, recent DNA evidence has suggested that they were not actually in the genus Canis, nor were they closely related to gray wolves.note  In addition, during the Cenozoic era there were many relatives of modern mammals such as rhinos, sloths, and hyenas that were far larger than their extant cousins and could easily be seen as further inspiration to this trope.

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.

May be the subject of Giant Animal Worship.

Dire Animals may fit into various related tropes depending on what animals they are:

Related to Whateversaurus and Prehistoric Animal Analogue. Compare Animals Not to Scale, Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever when these beasts turn gigantic. Prehistoric variants often overlap with Prehistoric Monster (and, as mentioned above, many prehistoric animals were giant relatives of modern animals). Contrast Fun Size.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Guyver: In a Flash Back, the Uranus test the abilities of the first Guyver by having it fight one of their last surviving T-Rexes, which has been biochemically enhanced through the same process which transforms humans into Zoanoids. It's also mentioned that ancient Zoanoid genes still resurface from time to time, with the resultant "dire humans" having inspired mythical creatures like werewolves and Bigfoot.

  • In Beast Fables, dire beasts are animals that can gradually and permanently transform into bigger versions of themselves.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, Mei and her female relatives have the ability to transform into what are effectively dire red pandas.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avatar has the Direhorse, a six-legged alien beast ridden by the Na'vi as a mount. As the gravity of Pandora is far less that of earth, the creatures there get quite big, with the Direhorse reaching about the size of an African elephant.
  • In The Killer Shrews relatively giant shrews are attacking and killing. The "giant shrews" are played by German Shepherd dogs with not very convincing makeup.
  • As with the literary version, the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings feature wargs and oliphaunts, basically Dire Wolves and Dire Elephants. The wargs in The Two Towers look less like wolves however and more like grotesquely mutated hyenas, while the oliphaunts are 50 feet tall and have six tusks, with the largest pair covered in spikes.
  • Mothra and her parody, Insectosaurus — the latter even turns into a butterfly.
  • Rampage has three ordinary animals: an albino gorilla named George, a wolf named Ralph, and an alligator named Lizzie, who are exposed to an experimental CRISPR mutagen that transforms them into rampaging Kaiju. While George looks the same, though bigger, Ralph and Lizzie gain monstrous appearances, complete with Spikes of Villainy.
  • In Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger , Sinbad and his crew are attacked by a giant walrus on the ice floe before Hyperborea. It was animated by Ray Harryhausen.

  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Nightmares II: In The Shadow Wood, while traveling through the titular forest, one of the obstacles the hero faces is a giant wolf with an iron muzzle and limbs made of rock. Fortunately, he defeats it.
  • Discworld: According to The Compleat Discworld Atlas, the disc has dire yaks. 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).
  • Inheritance Cycle: The Beor Mountains are home to a number of giant versions of regular wild animals, including feldûnost (giant goats), shrrg (wolves the size of horses), nagra (boars who grow even larger than the shrrg), and urzhad (cave bears the size of houses). Feldûnost are raised as livestock by the dwarves, but the others are dangerous wild animals — nagra are prized as challenging and dangerous prey by particularly brave dwarf hunters, while urzhad are stated to be dangerous foes even for dragons.
  • The Iron Teeth: There are many examples of this. They usually have a well defined ecological role, though, and aren't just supersized versions of normal animals.
  • The Pendragon Adventure: "Quigs" take the form of some local wild fauna but are even more dangerous and single-mindedly attack anyone they dance across. On one territory they look like bears, in a marine one they're sharks, on Earth they're dogs, etc. On one territory where man isn't the dominant species, they look like feral, bestial humans.
  • 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. They normally live north of the Wall but in the first book Ned Stark finds a dead female and a litter of pups in his lands on the south side and gives the pups to his six children.
    • There are also aurochs, which are prehistoric cattle and seem to be about as common as regular cows would be in real life, and mammoths.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Wargs are perfect examples of giant, evil wolves, although a distinction is made in-universe between them and true wolves; the latter are natural animals, while wargs are monsters in Morgoth's and Sauron's service.
    • Oliphaunts are essentially dire elephants (the films take this last one to a far greater extreme than the books, with the Oliphants in the books described as being "house sized", but the film versions being outright Kaiju sized).
    • Giant eagles and giant spiders are also featured; both are ancient spirits in animal form, the former are Always Lawful Good, often acting as The Cavalry in the most dire situations, and the latter are Always Chaotic Evil.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: In the first episode the Stark children adopt 5 direwolves puppies whose mother was killed by a stag: Ghost, Shaggy Dog, Nymeria, Lady and Grey Wind.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power features two different species of wargs, and a giant eagle in the intro.

  • 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.
    • The Eberron setting also adds horrid animals: dire animals that were bred into living weapons for use against the daelkyr. They tend to have even more spikes and plates than ordinary dire animals, to the point where the horrid rat has almost no actual fur visible between the spikes.
  • Pathfinder adapts most of D&D's dire animals, but links many of them to various real life prehistoric creatures - dire apes are Gigantopithecus, dire boars are Daeodon, dire tigers are sabertooth cats, etc. This comes with a fair bit of Artistic License – Paleontology, since not all the prehistoric creatures named were actually all that closely related to their mundane counterparts: Daeodon, for instance, wasn't really part of the pig family, and the sabretooth cats weren't tigers.
  • 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.
  • Scion: Introduced in Hero 1e are titanspawn enemies known as nemeans (taken from the Greek legend of the Nemean lion), which are animals, insects or beasts tens of times bigger than their mundane versions with immensely durable hides. They can be any species of animal; the provided example in the source book is a gigantic nemean wild boar called Hogzilla. God takes it to the next level with typhonian animals, beasts that are hundreds of times larger that can even give gods a hard time; one example is the 300-ft-long typhonian dunkleosteus called Leviathan.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer puts a spin on this with its dire wolves, which are undead creatures under the control of the Vampire Counts faction.

    Video Games 
  • Dire creatures appear in Final Fantasy XII. Dire Rats and Dire Flans (a flan is a type of Blob Monster).
  • 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.
  • Also parodied in BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, this time with the Dire Turnip.
  • 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:
  • The Isle has the Hyperendocrin Rex, which is three times the size of the standard T. rex in the game and has far more attack power and health. However, it depletes its hunger meter very quckly, and must eat constantly to avoid starving.
    • Later updates included the Hyperendocrin versions of the Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus.
  • Ancient Empires has Dire Wolves as a unit type. They're strong and fast and apparently have poisonous fangs, as their attack poisons the enemy.
  • Red Dead Redemption II has Legendary Animals, unique critters that are larger and more powerful than their ordinary cousins. The one that stands out the most in this regard, though, is the Legendary Bull Gator, an alligator that's close to 40 feet long, over three times the size of the game's other, more proportionally accurate gators.
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey has the legendary creatures from The Goddesses' Hunt side quest. Each one is an Optional Boss that must be tracked down and killed to complete the quest. They are: two rhino-sized boars, a massive Hind, a huge bull, an enormous lion, a gargantuan bear, a wolf the size of a horse, and a monstrous hyena.
  • Dwarf Fortress has giant versions of most animals in the game. The largest cross into Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever territory.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps has a dire wolf named Howl as its first boss, a giant spiky rhinoceros beetle as it's second boss, and the dire owl Shriek as the Big Bad. On the more benevolent side, there's the giant frog guardian Kwolok, and the giant brown bear Baur of Baur's Reach.
  • In Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, Admiral Agares' pet, Lanaluna AKA Elizabeth, is a giant toad from Deep Afroca.
  • Fallout series:
  • Elden Ring has normal Bears which are a bit more dangerous than the other normal wildlife but not too much trouble. It also has Runebears, which are massive Lightning Bruiser monsters that will relentlessly try to tear you apart if they notice you.
  • Animals (and plants) in The Sapling have the ability to evolve into one of four different body sizes. Larger body sizes (which were even named "Greater [X]" in earlier versions of the game) have proportionally greater hit points and lifespans at the cost of needing a lot more energy and having much slower reproduction rates. Larger predators also have the chance of swallowing smaller prey whole, as opposed to similar sizes ones that would have to kill their target and eat the carrion dropped.
  • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet introduced Paradox Pokémon to the franchise, being (supposed) distant ancestors/descendants to modern day species. In the case Scarlet'', the various ancient Pokémon are all significantly larger than their modern counterparts and usually more powerful as well.

    Web Comics 
  • An arc of 8-Bit Theater where the Light Warriors are looking for a dire rat's tail prompts a discussion on the meaning of the term "dire".
  • The Order of the Stick, being based on D&D, has a few dire beasts on occasion.
    • One of the incentive comics has the joke monster Dire Lemming, which looks fierce but ignores the characters to dive off a cliff.
    • Hinjo's paladin mount is a horse-sized celestial wolf named Argent.

    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 that looked like giant pigs with More Teeth than the Osmond Family), Elasmotherium (an ice age rhino with one horn, that grew to the size of an elephant), 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.
  • Thylacoleo, the so-called "marsupial lion", was in fact more of a carnivorous Dire Wombat.
  • Another real-life example: Aurochs, the ancestors of cattle, were on average larger and stronger than modern cows, and were more aggressive and territorial as well — far more like bison and cape buffalo than farm cows. It took some kind of serious badassery to domesticate them. They also went extinct less than 400 years ago, which means that Knights and Peasants, the Romans and Greeks, and most other ancient Afroeurasian peoples kept these as a source of food and often hunted them in the wild, and were thus badasses in their own right.
    • Some scientists today are exploring backbreeding the aurochs' closest living relatives to "re-evolve" the giant sizes of the originals.
    • Other giant ancient cattle included the long-horn bison of North America and the giant African bison, both stood more than eight feet tall at the shoulder and weighed more than two tons, that's heavier than a giraffe!
  • The aptly-named Hyaenodon, which looked somewhat like a Dire Hyena or Dire Dog the size of a small horse, though it was a creodont and thus not closely related to hyenas or any other member of Order Carnivora. It had a straight back and a proportionally very large head, giving it a warg-like appearance.
    • The fossil record also produced a number of dire "true hyenas", such as the bear-sized Dinocrocuta (originally believed to be a hyena relative but now considered a true hyena) and the lion-sized Pachycrocuta (aka the giant short-faced hyena).
  • The short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, was the largest known species of bear. A large male could stand six feet tall on all fours and rear up to eleven or twelve feet on its hind legs while weighing over a ton. It was one of the largest predatory land mammals of all time.
  • Megalodon, an enormous prehistoric shark that was three times bigger than the modern Great White Shark.
  • In the Carboniferous period, basically every arthropod fit into the Big Creepy-Crawlies trope.
  • Hornets are essentially Dire Wasps, and some species, notably the Asian Giant or "Murder" Hornet, can reach lengths of up to over two inches. The so-called bald-faced hornet is actually not a true hornet, but a black & white dire yellowjacket.
  • Argentavis was a vulture-like bird with a wingspan of 26 feet. It was part of a group of truly immense birds called teratorns, literally "monstrous bird".
  • 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.
    • There was also the Nuralagus rex, the largest lagomorph to ever live.
  • 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.
  • Temnospondyls, an extinct group of tetrapods from the late Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras, are essentially Dire Amphibians. A good number of them could get to the size of a crocodile, with some like the absolutely gargantuan Prionosuchus approaching the size of a bus. Temnospondyls often filled the same niches as crocodiles, and as such generally looked pretty similar.
    • Beelzebufo was essentially a Dire Frog large enough to eat baby dinosaurs.
  • Livyatan melvillei was pretty much a Dire Whale. While not much bigger than today's sperm whale, it had far more powerful jaws equipped with massive teeth on both upper and lower jaws, and was believed to have preyed upon small baleen whales as well as sharks.
  • Inverted, however, with the blue whale, which is still the largest animal known to have existed, and as such is bigger than any of its ancestors. Studies of whale evolution indicate that the "supersizing" of whales is a still-ongoing trend that began within the last ice age; in other words, they're still getting bigger.
  • Glyptodonts were giant armadillos. Some of them even had clubs on their tails like ankylosaurs!
  • Paraceratherium (called by its other name Indricotherium on Walking with Beasts or Baluchitherium) was a relative of the modern-day rhinoceros. Like modern rhinos, it was bulky, but unlike modern rhinos, it had a long neck like a giraffe, and it stood two stories tall! It didn't even have a horn, because it was so big, it simply did not need one. To date, it is tied with the Asian straight-tusked elephant as the largest terrestrial mammal known to have ever existed!
  • Megalania. Picture a Komodo dragon...the size of a pickup truck!
    • For that matter, the modern Komodo dragon is essentially a dire lizard.
  • Gigantopithecus was a giant ape that lived in Asia between 2 million and 300,000 years ago. Its size has been estimated (from a handful of jawbones and teeth) as being over 9 feet tall and weighing over 1000 lbs. There is still some debate as to whether it walked on all fours as most apes (including its closest living relative, the orangutan) do, or whether it walked upright.
    • Note that a lot of this is an extreme and among scientists it's mostly agreed upon to be much smaller (although still the largest known ape) and a quadruped.
  • Titanoboa was a dire boa constrictor or anaconda that was 48 feet long (longer than the average transit bus) and weighed about two tons! It occasionally fed on large animals, such as prehistoric crocodiles, though some evidence suggests that the majority of its diet was comprised of fish.
  • Gigantic crocodiles are recurrent in the fossil record, such as the Cretaceous genera Deinosuchus (sometimes called Phobosuchus;10-12 meters long) and Sarcosuchus (11-12 meters long), as well as post-Mesozoic creatures like Purussaurus (11-13 meters long). For comparison, the largest saltwater crocodile on record is about 6.6 meters long.
  • Wolverines, as the largest members of the mustelid family, are essentially dire weasels. The same can also be said of several prehistoric mustelids such as the leopard-sized Ekorus or Megalictis, a wolverine the size of a black bear.
  • The gaur, which is a type of large wild bovine found in Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent. It is the largest living bovine.
  • The Giant Squid could be considered an example that has survived to modern day, as not only are they way bigger than normal squid they are far older than most species around today. Their genus name (Architeuthis Dux) reflects this, it translates to "ancient squid". Though contrary to most expectations so far it appears to be more of a Gentle Giant than a Sea Monster. The very few cases of giant squids "attacks" were by extremely sick, wounded or dying squids surfacing and lashing out at a perceived threat.
  • Chalicotherium. It was a relative of the modern horse, but thanks to convergent evolution, was built more like a ground sloth. (Hence its other name, the "sloth horse." It had long forelimbs, and it walked on its knuckles.)
  • Not to mention the ground sloths themselves. The largest species grew as large as hippos, and were so bulky and monstrous in appearance that you probably wouldn't recognize them as sloths.
  • Muskoxen look similar to cows, but they're actually an arctic-dwelling dire sheep or dire goat. In the same subfamily is the takin of the eastern Himalayas, which rivals the muskox as the largest living caprine.
  • Leopard seals are basically dire seals.
  • Dunkleosteus was an ancient species of fish called a placoderm. It grew to around thirty feet long, weighed four tons, and its head and most of the front of its body was covered in heavy bone plates that acted like natural armor. It was also a voracious predator that lacked teeth but instead had jaws that had two pairs of sharp bony plates that formed a beak-like structure and the strongest bite of any animal, living or extinct. It died out before vertebrates began colonizing land.
  • Megaloceros were dire deer. The largest species, Megaloceros giganteus, vernacularly known as the Irish elk, was seven feet tall at the shoulders and had a twelve-foot antler span. Modern-day moose and elk (wapiti) also qualify, being the largest living members of the deer family.
  • Panthera atrox, commonly called the American lion but more of a Dire Jaguar, was the second largest carnivoran in the Americas at its time, after the aformentioned short-faced bear.
  • The California condor is a giant New World vulture that evolved to scavenge on Pleistocene megafauna, and when they were around, it ranged all across what's now the United States. It's been described as an animal that's "lost in time."
  • As the largest feline that can purr but not roar, the cougar is effectively a dire house cat.
  • Picture a cute lil' otter. Now picture one the size of a American black bear. That's Enhydriodon dikikae. It lived alongside your ancestors in East Africa, and probably ate some of them.
    • The living Giant Otter also qualifies. While not quite as impressive in size as its aforementioned prehistoric relative, is still huge for an otter at 5.6 ft long, and is a voracious predator which hunts in close-knit groups. They don't have the nickname "River Jaguar" for nothing.
  • Leptoptilos robustus, a prehistoric relative of the modern marabou stork, was essentially a dire stork. Two meters tall, it would dwarf a modern human, but it shared its habitat with (and likely preyed on) Homo floresiensis, a dwarf hominid, compared to which it was gigantic. And if it looked similar to modern marabou storks, then it had a bald, scabby-looking head, making it even more monstrous-looking.
  • Archelon, a dire sea turtle of the Cretaceous Period, was four meters long and five meters front flipper to front flipper, nearly four times the size of the present-day leatherback turtle.
  • Although not exactly dire, the capybara, being a cavy, is more-or-less a giant guinea pig.
    • And there were once dire capybaras in South America around 8 million years ago: the largest of which was Phoberomys, which grew up to four-and-a half feet at the shoulder and weighed three-quarters of a ton: roughly the size of a full-grown water buffalo.
  • The giant Pacific octopus is much larger than other octopus species, with the largest live individual being recorded at 156 lb and over 20 ft across, though there an unconfirmed report of a carcass weighing in at 600 lb with a 30-foot arm span.
  • Halszkaraptorinae and unenlagiinae were subfamilies of dromaeosaurid dinosaurs that basically acted as "dire ducks" and "dire herons" respectively.