Owning a Dire Wolf

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

American AlsatianReal dire wolves (Canis dirus) died out 10,000 years ago. They were more robustly built than modern gray wolves, weighing a quarter more, and able to take down the megafauna prey of their time.

The fantastical dire wolves of HBO’s Game of Thrones are played by Northern Inuit Dogs, which have been bred to resemble gray wolves.

Now the American Alsatian Breeders Association has started its own Dire Wolf Project to combine the look of the extinct dire wolf with the temperament of a domesticated companion dog:

Topping out at 130 pounds, American Alsatians are not quite up to dire wolf size, but in that regard Schwarz says the breed will be informed more by practicality than accuracy. Few families are looking for a 160-pound dog, and Schwarz is anxious to avoid American Alsatians ending up at the pound.

And what Schwarz’s dogs lack in prehistoric dire wolf minutiae, they make up for with their pleasant temperament. The cluster of characteristics she claimed to be able to breed for consistently — intelligent, alert pups who would seek human contact but sit calmly instead of chasing or barking — seemed unlikely, especially for a breed whose ancestors were primarily working dogs.

Then, I met my first American Alsatian puppies. At four weeks, they crawled up wide-eyed and alert to investigate my shoes, as their mother Autumn sat patiently by.

“Watch this,” Schwarz told me. “This is a temperament test.” She dropped a large chest of tools on the ground with a clang. I jumped, but the puppies just glanced lazily over before continuing about their business. Even as puppies, American Alsatians are noticeably calm, whether they’re exploring their environment or scooped up in your arms; it’s easy to believe Schwarz’s claim that many end up companion or therapy dogs for owners with special needs.

So how close are they to actual dire wolves? Extinct canid expert Xiaoming Wang of the Vertebrate Paleontology Department at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles told Wired that an actual genetic connection is very unlikely, given that dogs originated much later than — and on a different continent from — dire wolves. And Schwarz herself admits that the reconstruction on which she’s basing the breed’s coat and stature are more wishful and fantasy-oriented than scientific, matched more to the needs of prospective owners than prehistoric fact.

Still, if what you’re after is a friendly, mellow dog with that shaggy, fantasy-wolf look, an American Alsatian might be your best bet. Don’t get too excited, though: Even if you can hack the $3,000 price tag, there’s a long waiting list for puppies, which Schwarz expects will get even longer as more Game of Thrones fans find their way to her kennels.

I may need a bigger yard.


  1. etype says:

    There is no such thing as an “Alsatian” dog, nor has there ever been. The Alsatian is a German Shepherd, or properly an Altdeutsche Schäferhunde, and the American Alsatian Breeders Association is an unrecognized, discredited front for various puppy mill breeders to legitimize their mongrels and thus sell them for more than they are worth.

    They have no legitimacy whatsoever. This tie in to a ludicrous television show is more American televisual mind rape.

  2. Isegoria says:

    German Shepherds were known as Alsatians for decades:

    The breed was named Deutscher Schäferhund by von Stephanitz, literally translating to “German Shepherd Dog”. The breed was so named due to its original purpose of assisting shepherds in herding and protecting sheep. At the time, all other herding dogs in Germany were referred to by this name; they thus became known as Altdeutsche Schäferhunde or Old German Shepherd Dogs.

    The direct translation of the name was adopted for use in the official breed registry; however, at the conclusion of World War I, it was believed that the inclusion of the word “German” would harm the breed’s popularity, due to the anti-German sentiment of the era. The breed was officially renamed by the UK Kennel Club to “Alsatian Wolf Dog” which was also adopted by many other international kennel clubs. Eventually, the appendage “wolf dog” was dropped. The name Alsatian remained for five decades, until 1977, when successful campaigns by dog enthusiasts pressured the British kennel clubs to allow the breed to be registered again as German Shepherd Dogs. The word “Alsatian” still appeared in parentheses as part of the formal breed name and was only removed in 2010.

  3. FNN says:

    GSD’s have become such a physical mess that this is probably a welcome step forward.

    Lots more similar disgusting GSD videos available on YouTube.

  4. FNN says:

    A lot of self-styled GSD fanciers need to hung by the neck for a minimum of 20 minutes before expiration.

  5. etype says:

    Isegoria, this is twaddle, of which you should be ashamed to propagate.

    AltDeutscher Schäferhunds are called “AltDeutscher” or “Old German” because they have been around for centuries, before recorded Latin or Roman time. Von Stephaniz registered the name in 1901 because that was when international breeding associations were formed, not because that was when the breed originated.

    Furthermore, the UK kennel club changed the name for propaganda reasons, not to give the dog a nice name. This is something no civilized country or person should recognize. It is illegal, dishonest and contemptible.

    Stop raping our culture.

  6. FNN says:

    The Brits — aside from the many geniuses they have produced — are barely tolerable as human beings for a host of reasons. So what else is new?

    Many Brits absurdly still fear Teutonic domination. This when the Germans have become the most docile, self-effacing and guilt-ridden people on the planet. Many of them publicly celebrate Bomber Harris’s extermination program, and Merkel recently enthused over the memory of the Red Army entering Germany and raping every female from eight to 80.

  7. etype says:

    FNN, Germans have not become docile, self-effacing, etc. You certainly don’t know Germans outside of televised reality. Of course we have to present this face to the world, but these people you mention are the usual self-selected idiots every country has. Even then your comments go too far. Merkel, no matter how questionable, has never said what you claim. As for publicly celebrating Bomber Harris, this is another magazine and newspaper reality.

    FNN, if you mean by “geniuses” Newton, Babbage, or Darwin, then you mean plaster saints, for these men were nothing but propaganda achievements, the case is so bare it boggles the mind that any educated person could claim Newton, Babbage, Darwin, among others, as people who have made any contribution to human civilization other than to propagate junk science and mislead humanity for centuries.

  8. Isegoria says:

    Vizzini: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
    Westley: Yes.
    Vizzini: Morons.

  9. etype says:

    Well, if you’ve heard of Aristotle, then perhaps you’ve heard of logic, or more germane – logical fallacies, and what they indicate when someone’s only reply is a logical fallacy.

  10. And I thought I had odd historical hangups…

    Anyway, etype, if Newton (I’ll go out on a limb and say your more of a Leibniz man), Babbage, and Darwin aren’t you speed, how about G.H. Hardy, Bertrand Russell (whatever you think of his politics he was a brilliant mathematician), Francis Galton, J.J. Thompson, or William Harvey? If we expand this from English to British we gain David Hume, Adam Smith, James Hutton, and Joseph Black among others. If we include engineers; great doers as well as thinkers, it explodes in size.

    And FNN, “barely tolerable as human beings” seems a bridge too far, even if I agree that they’ve fallen on some difficult times. I agree that all of Europe is probably a little too fearful of a strong Germany, but you can hardly say there’s no reason for that. Two reasons, in fact; now conveniently labeled “I and II” in most history texts.

    Before you jump all over me, yes I agree that Germany was not responsible for the Great War (at least, no more than France, Austria-Hungary, or Russia). No, that was the doing of the Serbians and their magnificent employment of the “Leeeeeroy Jenkins” strategy. They were certainly responsible for the second, however.

    I’m of largely East Prussian extraction myself, but you are hardly doing the German peoples a favor by showing off these sorts of odd historical-OCD neuroses.

  11. etype says:


    The case concerning Newton is so clear, so obvious, so elementary that it moves beyond that debate into a debate of what is going on. How is there even debate? It’s all there, even in English texts, especially in English texts. It does spur OCD impulses, how can it not? I know it’s impolite, but I must believe that the favor is granted by standing up and questioning what is certainly clever insanity.

    As for Babbage, he copied Liebniz designs; this is obvious; there can only be ignoring the obvious.

    Darwin not only did not first propose the theory of evolution — Mendel had already demonstrated the mathematical system of heritability — but most of all, Darwin was wrong! Lamark was right, yet we are still hung with Governments, Social systems and people whose systems of social and biological analyse is based on Darwinian twaddle, and it is destroying all cultures equally.

    Russell is a non-entity; he is a showman and bad playwright, nothing more. Have you read Principia? It amounts to nothing. He is trying to be a British substitute for Nietzsche by pretending to be a mathematician. Another celebrity working to be seen as an intellect, by being a celebrity, much like Darwin.

    Russell was a harbinger of the tendency of Anglo literary celebrities (like Beckett, who is a extreme monstrosity) to court fame by being seen as incomprehensibly ‘smart’. Read the Principia however, and it says nothing very cleverly.

    It has got so bad the British now bring out a spastic, drooling idiot in a wheelchair with a voice-box (because in all likelihood someone offstage is reading script) who repeats in some cases almost verbatim Heisenberg’s musing letters to Bohr, and suddenly another British Celebrity Genius For The World! And then there is Einstein, and things really begin to blur.

    How are we doing any favors to European peoples, much less German or British peoples, who stand on the brink of cultural and historical annihilation, by playing along with this insanity. I must be as you suggest, a little stupid and impolitic, by asking what is going on here. It seems other people ask too, but then withdraw immediately when faced with the fact the information is right in front of your face, but it’s impolitic to ask about it. Stay calm, keep a stiff upper lip, and good luck.

    But these and your questions are generalities based on particulars. It’s proper to deal with the particulars before the generalities. I do not see questioning madness as a wrong to German or British peoples. It is our heritage to seek truth, not propagate complete fallacies. But let’s go back to the Alsatian/DeutscheShaferhund question.

    This absolutely confuses me, perhaps you can help as a ‘largely extracted Prussian’ yourself. (I am also Prussian, unextracted, but abroad). How is it impolitic to protest and condemn this appropriation of our historic, loved and excellent animals? I understand for the British it’s a deeply ingrained habit. Do we not serve the British people better by asking them about their deeply ingrained habit to rewrite and distort all history for everyone? Was that for the purpose of the inscription on their tombstone? For they are only a decade or two from complete dispossession. Everyone asks why but doesn’t want to know if it conflicts with their ego. Instead it’s “look, we won WWI & II, and you started it”.

    But wait, who actually did start it? Who declared war on whom, in both cases? And why? Does it matter? I think it does, but let’s move back to our dogs. How about this renaming our dogs to again distort history. The AltDeutsche Schaferhund registered in 1901 are Prussian, not Alsatian. As geographical entities they are two different pieces of earth, the dogs and the wolves are from Dershou. So what I am saying is naming it an Alsatian is in every sense wrong — historically, geographically, culturally and taxonomically. All right, it’s propaganda, yet it’s still a lie, in every sense. Continually repeating mistruth does not make it truth. The excuse for propaganda is a while ago. What about now? Why are they still lying?

  12. FNN says:

    “FNN, Germans have not become docile, self-effacing, etc. You certainly don’t know Germans outside of televised reality.”

    I’ve met plenty of Germans in Austria, France, Hungary, US and Central America. Mostly tourists — so maybe they were on good behavior, unlike what is typical of Brits.

  13. etype says:


    The man on the street, especially tourists, must be sensitive to the prevailing sensibility. I have met British, Scots, and English all over the world, worked with them, lived with them, and found them excellent and the very best of people, and close to my heart, although I know what you are speaking of — budget tourists.

    Who cares if they call a AltDeutsheShafer hund a German Shepherd or an Alsatian? I do, for one. It’s the principle of the situation, one example of the sanctioned, permitted idiocies that lead to all the rest.

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