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The direwolf is a close relative of the wolf, but larger. According to Theon Greyjoy, direwolves hadn't been sighted south of the Wall for two hundred years, until Robb Stark found a dead female direwolf with a litter of six direwolf pups on the path between the holdfast where Gared was executed and Winterfell. A grey direwolf in a white field is the banner of House Stark.

see: Wolf for examples and the background of the real world inspiration for direwolves in 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'