Largest Feline in the History of Cats

Cats are some of the most popular pets in the world. Hundreds of millions of people all around the world have various cats as their pets. Those cats also range is sizes. Their size depends on their gender, age, individual genetics, nutrition and species. To many people, this brings up a question: “what cat species are the largest ones”? Or even better “What cat species are the largest one in history, extant or extinct”? Well, we are going to answer just that with this Largest Feline in the History of Cats article.

The largest feline species of all time, according to curent scientific data – is extinct. And they are… drumroll please… Smilodon Populator. Now, if you don’t mind me saying so, but he looks more like a de-populator to me, you know what I’m saying? Smilodon Populator is the proper scientific latin term for this gigantic cat, but it is colloquially known as the Saber-toothed tiger. Well, that’s the short answer for the who’s the Largest Feline in the History of Cats question.

Smilodon’s illustration

You might know Diego, the Saber-toothed tiger from a cartoon “Ice age”, but the fact of the matter is that the cartoon didn’t properly display this huge felid’s size. Because it was massive!

I also have to mention that there is still a debate whether Smilodons were the largest felines. There are other extinct felines that are sometimes thought to have been the largest ones. American lions and Ngandong tigers are also sometimes thought to be the biggest ones by some scientists. Truth is, we can’t be too sure, because all of these three feline species went extinct sometime ago and we don’t have too much evidence or just general knowledge about them to know their exact sizes, fur color, general appearance, size, strength and life spans. But the general consensus seems to sway towards the Saber-toothed tigers being the largest cats ever.

It’s also important to note that there were three subspecies of Smilodons. Smilodon Gracilis was the smallest one – about the size of a modern jaguar. Smilodon Fatalis – about the size of a modern lion. And the one biggest one – Smilodon Populator.

Brief History and Location

Smilodons lived approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago, from the Early Pleistocene Period through the Modern Period. Based on current scientific consensus, they’ve inhabited both North and South Americas and their bones have been discovered all the way up in Canada and USA, and in Mexico and Brazil.

Smilodon’s Skeleton


Alright, it’s time to talk about how big these kitties were.

Based on current estimates, an average smilodon weighed about 300 kilograms or 661 pounds, but some fully grown males could reach the weight of 500 kilograms or 1102 pounds. Also, average smilodon was about 2.3 meters or 7.5 feet in overall length and about 1.2 meters or 4 feet tall at the shoulder.

Now that is a big kitty.

Other Physical Characteristics

Smilodons, or Saber-toothed tigers, or Saber-toothed cats, because they aren’t really tigers, are iconic because of their disproportionately large canines that could reach 30 cm or 12 inches. Smilodons used these canine teeth to sink them into the necks of their victims and then let them bleed to death.

Although they weren’t as agile as most modern cats are, they were incredibly strong and powerful. Their jaws could open very wide, enough for their canines to touch their lower lips.

Saber-toothed cats were apex predators – vicious carnivores who were on the top of the food chain and are thought to have been responsible for extinction of many species, including Sabre-toothed Marsupial.


Smilodons went extinct about 10,000 years ago, during the the Late Pleistocene extinction event. This is likely due to the warming climate and also being hunted by new apex predators – humans. Smilodons and humans seemed to have hunted each other and, eventually, humans won.

An animated recreation of smilodon


Smilodons were incredibly large, sometimes weighing half a metric ton, apex predators who had incredibly long canines and roamed both Americas. There is some debate who were the biggest cats of all time, though. American lion, for example, was longer, but in overall body mass, Smilodon Populator seems to have the lead. Also, here’s another article about smilodons. And that’s the end of Largest Feline in the History of Cats article.

If you’re interested about cats in general, you can read this article: 15 Unbelievable Facts About Cats

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