Just as the characters in HBO's smash hit "Game of Thrones" have evolved over the past three seasons, so too have the animals portraying the ancient dire wolves. The creatures have morphed from live animals -- a breed known as the Northern Inuit dog -- to computer-generated images that are bigger, scarier and wolfier than ever.
In "Game of Thrones," a tribe of ancient people encounter a dire wolf mother dead near her surviving cubs. Tribal children are given a cub to raise and learn about elements of honor and sacrifice needed to claim the king's throne. "Game of Thrones" is based on a book series by George R.R. Martin.
The real dire wolf -- canis dirus -- lived across North and South America 10,000 years ago and were about 25 percent bigger than modern gray wolf, weighing up to 175 pounds, according to the San Diego Zoo.
The first two seasons used dogs bred by Julie Kelham, founder of the Northern Inuit Society in the United Kingdom.
"I think the real dogs are better," said Kelham, who helped develop the breed 25 years ago. "They were supposed to be dire wolves, which were a giant thing, but the Northern Inuits couldn’t measure up to the size of a dire wolf."
Kelham said the Northern Inuit dogs originally had some traces of wolf in their bloodline, but that it has been bred out over the generations as they have been mixed with other northern dogs such as huskies and malamutes.
"They are very, very docile," Kelham said. "They don't make good guard dogs. They are great with kids, great with other dogs."