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Who Will Win the Ultimate Showdown: Saber-Toothed Tiger vs American Lion?



Who Will Win the Ultimate Showdown: Saber-Toothed Tiger vs American Lion?

Saber-toothed tiger vs American Lion – Who would win a fight between these two prehistoric wild cats?

Saber-toothed tigers are an extinct species of cat characterized by their long, curved canine teeth.

They also carry the names saber-toothed cats, saber-toothed tigers, or simply their genus name Smilodon.

While there were other similar large-canine cats, Smilodon had the longest teeth.

Despite their popular name, these cats were not closely related to tigers at all.

The American lion is also known as Naegele’s giant jaguar or American cave lion. It is an extinct species of lion which lived in North America during the Pleistocene.

By analyzing the species’ genes, scientists have shown that it shared the same ancestor as the Eurasian cave lion.

The American lion was large, about 25% larger than the modern African lion.

Size and Appearance

Saber-toothed tigers

Saber-Tooth Tiger | Squiggle | Flickr

Saber-toothed tigers lived at the same time as the imposing woolly mammoth.

However, unlike the mammoth, we have not found well-preserved saber-tooth cat specimens.

Though we cannot tell exactly what these cats looked like when they were alive, their fossils do leave us some clues.

The first and foremost feature has to be their long, curved teeth.

Surprisingly, these long teeth were actually pretty fragile and used only to deliver the killing bite.

The rest of the cat’s body was formidable as well.

They had long front limbs and a stout build to help take down their prey. It had sharp claws powerful enough to rip off the flesh of prey.

The color of the coat is still unknown and the fossil record is not adequate to reach any conclusion

They stood 3.3 feet (1 m) tall at the shoulder with a body length of about 5.75 feet (1.75 m).

The largest Smilodon is S. populator which is 490 to 880 lb (220 – 400 kg) in weight.

The American lion

American Lion aka American Cave Lion (Panthera atrox) | Flickr

The American lion is estimated to have measured 5 to 8 feet (1.6 – 2.5 m) from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail and stood 3.9 feet (1.2 m) at the shoulder.

The American lion was originally estimated to weigh between 774 – 930 lb (351 – 420 kg) for males.

Approximately one hundred specimens of American lions have been recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits, in Los Angeles, so their body structure is well known.

The features and teeth of the extinct American lion strongly resemble modern lions, cave paintings show that in fact, the American lion lacked a mane, but they were considerably larger.

It had long slightly slender but muscular legs. Its physical appearance was just like any other lion.

It had very sharp canine teeth with which it used to tear its prey.

American lion had powerful and flexible front limbs. However at least one authority considers the American lion, to be more closely related to the tiger, the braincase, in particular, appears to be especially similar to the braincase of a tiger.

Range and Habitat

Different species of Smilodon Habitat

The different species of Smilodon lived throughout North, Central, and South America.

Researchers found none of the three species higher than the temperate regions of North America.

The largest species, S. populator, lived only in South America.

These cats were widespread and utilized many different types of habitats for survival.

Scientists believe that saber-toothed cats lived everywhere from savannahs to steppes, subtropical forests, woodlands, plains, mountains, and more.

American lion habitat

American lions did not share their territory with jaguars. They preferred open habitats, unlike the jaguars.

They are believed to have used caves or fissures to deal with cold weather. They were solitary creatures.

The earliest known specimens found in the south Alaska region are primarily from the Sangamonian Stage.

In North America, they were found in more places in the western part than in the east.

They spread over Alberta to Maryland to Peru.

A small population was also found as far as Chiapas in Mexico.

The most well-known fossils found were out of the Rancho La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles.


Prey of saber-toothed tigers

While they may not have sat at the top of the food chain, saber-toothed tigers were no joke. Their primary prey was large hoofed mammals.

Scientists primarily use two different methods to determine what these cats ate.

First, they can observe fossils of prey species and match the bite pattern of the cats.

Second, they study the isotopes preserved in the cat’s bones and teeth to determine their diet.

Using these methods, some prey from various locations across the Americas includes the massive ancient bison, prehistoric camels, peccaries, the armadillo-like glyptodonts, and more.

Prey of American lion

American lion’s diet is mainly meat. Their teeth are suited for no other food but meat.

They had strong incisor teeth in front of their jaw which they used to strip the meat from the bones.

They used their strong wide jaw to close around the throat of their prey and with the help of their canine teeth would kill the victim.

It is believed that their primary prey were horses, deer, camels, ground sloths, young mammoths, and bison. The American lion used techniques to kill its prey. The strong, long legs helped them during their pursuit of the prey.


social behavior of the saber-toothed tiger

The social behavior of the saber-toothed tiger is a highly debated conversation. There are a number of theories that suggest these cats lived in groups.

Because researchers found them in great numbers in the La Brea Tar Pits, they posit that distress calls of potential prey attracted them to the area.

Distress calls attract modern-day predators to hunt in groups.

Finally, archaeologists have found fossils of multiple individuals in close proximity to one another.

This also suggests that they might have lived in groups.

social behavior of the American lions

American lions are believed to have been social by behavior because different skeletons belonging to different sexes were found in the same area.

Some American lions, however, are thought to have been solitary that is living alone or in pairs, a male, and a female.

In a fight between a saber-toothed tiger and an American lion, who would win?

More than likely, the American Lion would have avoided conflict with the Smilodon, and to a lesser extent, vice versa.

Both would have recognized the other as potentially dangerous.

The American Lion would have been faster & more agile: thus it would have been more likely to get out of the way to avoid conflict.

The Lion has the classic cat structure with a long, slender, frame and a long tail which allows it to have good agility and balance despite its size.

Smilodon has a bear-like build

Since Smilodon has a bear-like build, small tail included, they likely didn’t have that good of agility and balance compared to other large cats.

Though they are believed to be solitary as opposed to social like modern lions, they were still powerful enough to take down full-grown Long-Horned Bison, which were larger than modern bison.

Saber-tooth cats were physically stronger

Saber-tooth cats were physically stronger. Smilodon’s whole body is “designed” to be a good grappler.

Smilodon’s jaw muscles were much weaker

Furthermore, smilodon’s jaw muscles were much weaker, unsuitable for the standard pantherine killing technique: smothering.

The only possible advantage is that smilodon could kill larger and stronger prey than it could be possible with smothering.

Smilodon probably stabbed and ripped the neck, belly, or large muscle mass, using his strong neck muscles primarily, and only secondarily his weak lower jaw muscles.

Smilodon has paws larger than a Bengal Tigers

Smilodon has paws that are larger than even a Bengal Tigers, which is a huge advantage since their bear-like structure allows them to take down large, powerful, prey.

It is useful for wrestling and paw swipes.

Most people think that saber teeth were a deadly weapon, but in fact, they are a big disadvantage in a fight.

Smilodon’s saber teeth were specifically designed for killing prey, not fighting

The Smilodon’s saber teeth were specifically used and designed for killing prey, not fighting! Smilodon’s saber teeth were actually brittle. Meaning that they were relatively easy to break.

The conflicts of similarly-sized pantherines in nature often take a lot of time. The loser often gives up without fatal or serious injury.

The powerful jaws of pantherines are not that efficient weapons against similarly strong predators.

Instead, the animal better in paw swipes and wrestling asserts a better position more often in a fight, and causes relatively small, but accumulating, exhausting injuries.

The American lion is much better suited to fighting

I believe that the lion was much better suited to fighting than the Smilodon was.

The American lion has a better/stronger bite

The saber-tooth has two deadly swords but the lion has a better bite. If you’re going to make me choose I say that the American lion wins.

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