What Did Saber-Tooth Tigers Eat?

The saber-tooth tiger, the largest of which was the smilodon, was a carnivore that fed opportunistically on whatever meat it could find; scientists believe it ate thick-skinned animals such as bison, horses and mastadons, which were hairy, elephant-like creatures that are now extinct. Because the saber-tooth tiger had short legs that kept it from running very fast, it is likely that it laid in wait for its prey and ambushed it by surprise.

Scientists theorize that the saber-tooth tiger likely mortally wounded its prey by first using its teeth, perhaps attacking in the abdominal region so that the prey would die from bleeding. It is also possible that the saber-tooth tiger may have scavenged carcasses left behind by other predators, like many meat-eating animals.

Although the saber-tooth tiger is now extinct, the fossil record shows that it lived during the last Ice Age. It had two serrated canine teeth, which measured up to 7 inches in length. The saber-tooth tiger could open its jaws up to 120 degrees, whereas the modern lion can only open its jaws to 65 degrees. Scientists theorize that the saber-tooth tiger’s strong neck and jaw muscles helped it take down prey, while its teeth provided a deadly weapon when hunting for food.