Any of the extinct cat species forming the subfamily Machairodontinae. They had two long, bladelike canine teeth in the upper jaw. They lived from 36.6 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago, arising in North America and Europe and spreading to Asia, Africa, and South America. The best-known, the short-limbed Smilodon of the Americas, was bigger than the modern lion. Its “sabres,” which grew to 8 in. (20 cm) long, were used to stab and slash prey, including the mastodon, whose pattern of extinction paralleled their own.
Learn more about sabre-toothed tiger with a free trial on Britannica.com.