'Game of Thrones' math: How many dragons could a dire wolf eat?

Crave's Michael Franco puzzles out a "Game of Thrones" question that's been nagging him for as long as winter's been coming. How many Targaryen dragons would one Stark dire wolf need to eat to survive?

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
4 min read
Definitely cooler than a condor, Daenerys Targaryen's dragons would nonetheless taste pretty good to a dire wolf. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

Possible spoilers ahead if you're not through with the third season: With the fourth season of "Game of Thrones" imminent, there are a lot of questions in the air (especially if, like me, you haven't read the books). Will the khaleesi finally make it to Westeros to capture the Iron Throne? Will the Starks in the diaspora ever find each other again? Will winter ever actually come? And will someone finally beat the royal stuffing out of Joffrey?

But I've been giving thought to a particularly pesky question that I'm sure hordes of fans are dying to know. (OK, probably not, but it's certainly a question that's crossed my random-factoid-focused science brain). It began when I started thinking about what would happen if Robb Stark ever met up with Daenerys Targaryen (which of course, can never happen now with Robb being all dead and whatnot). While some might think my ponderings might have turned to the beautiful offspring that surely would have resulted if those two ever got together, I had a much different question in mind: How many Targaryen dragons could a Stark dire wolf eat per year if it got its fangs on them? To find out, I embarked on some very scientific research.

dire wolf
Robb Stark with his dire wolf Grey Wind. Looks hungry, doesn't it? Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

To begin my investigation, I grabbed the screenshot you see to the right from a YouTube clip featuring Robb Stark. In this particular scene, he's got his dire wolf, Grey Wind, next to him in an effort to scare the piss out of Jaime Lannister. (If you ask me, it worked. But I digress.) Robb Stark is played by actor Richard Madden, who, I found out thanks to a quick Google search, is 5 feet 11 inches tall.

To determine the actor's approximate inseam height, I reached out to Max Berlinger, a men's fashion writer for Esquire magazine. "Honestly, I have no way to gauge this. I wish I could be more helpful, but this is a puzzle," Berlinger said. However, he did say that if he had to make a guess -- and a guess only -- he'd put it at 32 inches, which is pretty standard for a man of Madden's size. Because I am the same height as Madden (and share a certain rugged set of good looks with him, but again I digress), and have a 32-inch inseam, I went with that. Science at its best.

So if Robb Stark's inseam is 32 inches and the wolf is standing a little more than a foot above that, let's put Grey Wind's height at 46 inches.

Next up was a question for Rolf Peterson, a research professor at Michigan Technological University who has studied wolf-prey relationships at Isle Royale National Park for more than 40 years. He told me that if we're assuming a dire wolf is approximately 150 percent bigger than a regular wolf (which it would be at the height we've estimated), he would approximate its food needs at 25 deer per year. The average weight of a white-tailed deer, according to the Adirondack Ecological Center, is 203 pounds.

OK, now to convert deer to dragons.

To do so, I looked to the bird kingdom. I know I could have used something more reptilian, but considering that dragons have to be able to fly, I thought a bird was a better analogy. Plus, birds are relatives of dinosaurs and all that, so there you go. (See, very scientific). I went with the Andean condor, one of the largest flying birds in the world. I could have chosen the wandering albatross (also a big bird), but the condor just looks a little more badass, it can live up to 100 years, and likes cliffs. All dragon-like qualities if you ask me. Plus, it's a heavy sucker -- the adults weigh up to 33 pounds, according to National Geographic.

So let's say that at the end of the third season, the khaleesi's dragons are about the size of a full-grown condor, with 10-foot wingspans. It kind of looks right based on the above screen grab from the epic scene in which the khaleesi unleashes her beast (and her completely captivating knowledge of Valyrian).

That would mean there are about 6 dragons to one deer. If a dire wolf eats 25 deer per year, that results in an annual adolescent dragon dietary need of 150, or almost three of the flying lizards per week. I'm not sure which variety the wolves would prefer, but I'd go for the red ones as I tend to like spicy food. Of course, there's the question of a dire wolf even catching a dragon (and the fact that the Targaryen dragons are going to get just a little bit bigger), but I'll leave those investigations to a researcher wiser than me.

Now that that's settled, you can pay tribute by leaving your undying thanks for solving such a critical and nagging riddle related to "Game of Thrones" in the comments below. I promise not to get a Joffrey-like swelled head.