Saber-Tooth Cat (Smilodon), lived 1.6 million years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch. This ferocious cat became extinct about 11,000 years ago. It lived during the last Ice Age. They are named for their large, saber-like maxillary canine teeth that extended from their mouths even when it was closed. Despite the name, not all animals known as saber-toothed cats were closely related to modern felines.
Smilodon was the largest saber-toothed cat. It was a fierce predator about 4-5 feet long and 3 feet tall. It weighed about 440 pounds. It was a slightly smaller than a modern lion, but much heavier. It had relatively short legs and a short, bobbed tail. Its front legs were especially powerful. Its body was adapted for springing onto prey, but it was not a very fast runner.
Smilodon was a meat-eater. This ferocious hunter may have eaten thick-skinned prey like mastodons (hairy, extinct elephants), horses, and bison. It probably ambushed its prey since its short legs limited its running speed. Its hunting strategy may have been to mortally wound its prey with its saber-like teeth, probably in the belly, and let the victim bleed to death. Smilodon, like most meat-eaters, may also have been a scavenger.
Saber-tooth cats lived in grasslands, shrubby areas, and pine forests where plant-eating animals were its main diet. Smilodon fossils have been in Pleistocene tar pits and rocks of North and South America.
The skull of a Smilodon was 12 inches long with 2 huge canine teeth. These saber-like teeth were serrated, oval in cross-section, and up to 7 inches long.
Smilodon had powerful jaws that opened to an angle of about 120°. Today's lions can only open their jaws 65°. Smilodon also had very strong jaw and neck muscles that let it stab prey with its deadly teeth. Saber-Tooth cat fossils have been found with broken canines. A fossil wolf was found with a Smilodon tooth fragment embedded in its skull.
This natural history set includes a miniature plaque of a Saber Tooth Cat Skull.