At the end of the last ice age, two different types of cats were living in the Midwest areas of the United States.
The first was the old favorite, saber tooth tiger, whose real name was Smilodon.
He had extremely large canine teeth which you usually think about with the sabertooth.
His canine teeth could be up to 8 inches long. Long enough in-fact that I would have hidden from him.
The second kind, the scimitar cat had shorter teeth, about 4 inches long and very flat.
The huge upper teeth were one of the biggest features of the group of cats we call sabertooth.
Since the first time these cats were seen, scientists have been debating the use of the teeth, and why they had grown in this way. One choice is as a weapon, or to kill their pretty, and if so they were used as a sort of shearing tool. Another usage that was discussed was as a social display for gaining mates. This would mean that the sabertooth was a social animal.
Both Smilodon and Scimitar cats were about the same size as a full grown lion of today, but they both were different in many ways from the lion.
Sabertooth had very short extremely long legs. They were built for strength not speed. The sabertooth cat was most likely to be an ambush hunter, and would have attacked its prey from a hiding place, choosing larger animals.
Scimitar cat had longer legs, a very long neck and short powerful back legs, and would have been both strong and swift. It probably could chase its prey and win the race.
The development of these huge flatter canine teeth, like the sabertooth and scimitar cat had is very common in large carnivores. Over the last several million years, this kind of tooth has show in two separate types of cats, and one marsupial from South America.
This is the upper canine from a Smilodon. It was found in a cave in Missouri in the United States.
During the last Ice Age, the sabertooth apparently roamed a great deal of North and South America. Scimitar cat went further still.
Both kinds of saber-toothed cats were extinct about 11,000 years ago.
Read more about the Saber Tooth Smilodon over at Wikipedia »