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Order a living 'Game of Thrones' dire wolf (almost)

The Dire Wolf project aims to create a breed of domesticated large companion dogs that have the feral look of the extinct dire wolf.

American Alsatian dog
You know nothing, Jon Snow.
Vallecito Alsatians

Before "Game of Thrones" became a pop culture phenomenon, pretty much the only people thinking about dire wolves were historians and paleontologists. Canus dirus means "fearsome dog." The massive wolfy creatures are long extinct, but they've gained a new popularity through the "Game of Thrones" books and television show.

Fans can already get a Hand of the King replica pin, a replica Iron Throne, and even a "Game of Thrones" beer, but they haven't been able to get a dire wolf. That could change soon. The Dire Wolf Project has quietly been in the works since 1987.

Sorry, folks, they're not going all "Jurassic Park" and trying to revive the original species. The goal is to create domesticated dogs that look like dire wolves, but without the potential temperament problems and feral nature of real wolves. Think of something along the lines of a St. Bernard wearing a wolf costume.

The National American Alsatian Breeder's Club is overseeing the project. "Health and temperament remain the highest priority over the look of the Dire Wolf, so this project is slow and methodical," reads the project Web site. The first litter, back in 1988, married an Alaskan Malamute and a German Shepherd. Eventually, other breeds entered the mix, leading up to the new breed earning the name "American Alsatian."

The early focus of the Dire Wolf Project has been on temperament, so the look still isn't quite right, but the project is continuing with the goal of making the breed visually match what real dire wolves looked like (from what can be reconstructed from skeletons).

Speaking of real dire wolves, the Dire Wolf Project takes the "Game of Thrones" series to task for a lack of verisimilitude. "The series is a bit misleading in its interpretation of the Dire Wolf. The wolves portrayed in the Game of Thrones series do not resemble Dire Wolves and should not be confused with Dire Wolf size and build," the site says.

The Dire Wolf Project may raise all sorts of questions about the ethics of dog breeding and sales, but there are bound to be some "Game of Thrones" fans who want to bring their very own dire wolf home, even if the breed hasn't quite reached the goal of looking like an extinct wolf. American Alsatian puppies can cost between $1,000 and $3,000. At that rate, I would encourage checking out the local animal shelter first.

American Alsatian dog
Maya, an American Alsatian, looks like she's auditioning for "Game of Thrones." Dire Wolf Project

(Via AV Club)