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American Lions and Sabertooth Tigers and Giant Short-faced Bears, Oh My!

Quick facts about extinct animals

No matter how hard you search the wilds, you will never see a Short-faced bear. Even if you spend years scouring plains, you will never see American lions. Look in all the forests you want, not a glimpse of a Sabertooth tiger will come to you.

That’s because they are all extinct. Dead. Deceased. Vanished. Gone. Terminated. Snuffed out. Lost. Fallen. Defunct. Eliminated.

There’s something about things that no longer exist that piques the curiosity of humankind.

American Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera (leo) atrox

Other Names: American Cave Lion

Habitat: North American plains

When it went extinct: 10,000-12,000 years ago

Estimated Size and Weight: 5′ 3 “- 8′ 2” (1.6-2.5m) long from nose to tail, 4′ up to the shoulder (1.2m), 600 lbs (272 kg)

Some scientists wonder if the American lion is really a lion, and not a tiger or jaguar species instead. It was not as heavily built as the Sabertooth tiger, but it may have been smarter than one. Intelligence would have been a great asset in trying to out-hunt them, Short-faced bears, and Direwolves. It had a thick coat of fur. It got named for where it lived: North America.

Sabertooth Tigers

Scientific Name: Smilodon Fatalis

Other Names: Sabretooth (tiger), Smilodon (I will be using this because it is more accurate. There are other, unrelated Sabertooth cats, and Smilodon was not a tiger.)

Habitat: North American grasslands and pine forests that had water sources

When it went extinct: 10,000 years ago

Estimated Size and Weight: 5′- 8′ (1.5-2.3m) long from nose to tail, 4′ up to the shoulder (1.2m), 882 lbs (400 kg).

Smilodon was not even closely related to modern tigers and today’s house cats. (In the cat scheme of things. It’s much closer related to them than to say… a Nyala.) Their build was like that of a bear. Despite its large canines and the fact that its mouth could open up to a 120 degree angle, its bite force was much weaker than the American lions’. It got named for its fangs: Smilodon means knife-tooth.

Giant Short-faced Bears

Scientific Name: Arctodus simus

Other Names: Bulldog bear

Habitat: North American plains and taigas

When it went extinct: 10,000 years ago

Estimated Size and Weight: 5′ 6”- 6′ (1.6-1.8m) long from nose to tail, 5′ up to the shoulder (1.5m), 1600-1900 lbs (726-862kg).

The short-faced bear’s closest living relative is the spectacled bear. It was more-or-less build for running: it had longer legs than today’s bears, and its toes faced forward. It got its name for the shape of its skull – of course.

Spectacled Bear

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