The Animals Of Game Of Thrones: Real Or Fake?

Do you know which creatures are real and which creatures are pure fantasy in the Game Of Thrones TV show and the A Song Of Ice And Fire book series? Let’s dive in:

Dire Wolf, Photo Credit: James St. John

Direwolf – In the first episode of the Game Of Thrones Television series, the five Stark children (Robb, Bran, Rickon, Arya, and Sansa) and their ‘illegitimate’ brother (Jon Snow), happen across six direwolf pups. The wolves are raised by the children and become their loyal guardians. Were direwolves real or fake?

Canis dirus skull, Photo Credit: California Academy Of Science Geology

Real. The real direwolf is also called a dire wolf (note the space in between the words) or Canis dirus. While they did exist, the dire wolf went extinct around 10,000 years ago. The dire wolf was very similar to today’s gray wolf, with some slight differences. Canis dirus was stronger, stockier, probably slower, and had a stronger bite than a gray wolf. The dire wolf also had a bigger skull and teeth. The dire wolf was thought to eat larger prey than a grey wolf ( like horses, bison, ground sloths, and mastodons, among other things).

Kraken, Photo Credit: The British Library

Kraken – Though regarded by most people in the A Song Of Ice And Fire (ASOIAF) series as a myth, there are some who believe krakens to be real (Who can blame them, dragons exist!). The Greyjoy family has a kraken on their coat of arms and one member of the family, Euron Greyjoy, even claims to have a horn that can summon a kraken.  Was the kraken real or fake?

Fake. This answer probably comes as no surprise, but what maybe will surprise you is that like the characters in ASOIAF, we used to believe that the kraken might actually exist, up until a couple hundred years ago.  The ocean is still vastly unexplored to this day, and 300 and more years ago, the sea was a treacherous place for sailors. The combination of these facts make the belief pretty understandable. The kraken myth is probably based on the giant squid, which does not eat people or drag ships to the depths but will defend themselves from sperm whales if sperm whales try to eat them. There’s definitely a lot of myth and science that surrounds this creature.

Raven, Photo Credit: Alexas Fotos

Raven – In the show and books, ravens are used to transport messages between noble families. There are even special white ravens that are used by the Citadel, the hub of scholars, scientists and advisors, to signal the changing of the seasons (which is much more complicated than it may sound). Are ravens real or fake?

Raven, Photo Credit: Marilyn Brindley

Real. Ravens, and even white ravens, do exist in the real world. They are incredibly intelligent and resourceful, making them one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. What is fake about the ravens in Game Of Thrones is that they were never messenger birds in our history, one of the reasons being that they’d probably take too long to train. Homing pigeons were used in real life because of their ability to instinctually find their way home.

 Shadowcat –  Shadowcats live beyond the Wall, a large defense structure that spans the width of  northern Westeros. They are large felines whose skins are often fashioned into warm outerwear by those who are able to kill them. They are feared by travelers, which are often attacked by shadowcats. At one point, one of the main characters, Tyrion Lannister, possesses a shadowskin cloak. Are shadowcats real or fake?

Cougar, Photo Credit: Mark Dumont

Fake. Shadowcats are probably based on large cats from the present and the past, like the cougar, the Eurasian lynx, the tiger, the Smilodon, and the cave lion.  Cougars live in North and South America and will stalk prey as small as a squirrel to as large as an elk. There are several things you need to do if you encounter a cougar. The Eurasian Lynx is like a cougar in that it will stalk and pounce on its prey, but will go for much smaller prey than a cougar would. Similar to the shadowcat, both cougars and the Eurasian lynx were hunted for their fur, with the Eurasian lynx almost being driven to extinction in the 20th century because of it.

“Augsburger Abbildung des Urs (echten Auerochsen).” Photo Credit: Charles Hamilton Smith

Aurochs – A type of wild cattle that lived in Westeros that then became domesticated. Aurochs are often used to describe someone who is stubborn, strong, and stupid in the books. Are aurochs real or fake?

Maremmano bulls, Photo Credit: Marco Quarantotti

Real. Aurochs did exist in Eurasia, but went extinct in the 1600s; they are an ancestor to domestic cattle. Aurochs were large, wild cattle with huge horns that weighed around 2,000 lbs. They were of much significance to people up to their extinction, which included being depicted in cave paintings.  Scientists today are even trying to bring them back by breeding cattle to be as close to aurochs as they can possibly get.

As you can see, many of the animals have both realistic and fantastical elements to them. Thanks for playing on this blog post of Real Or Fake. Until next time!