Guest Videos: Bear-like Cats (and cats chasing bears)

Bearcat, a/k/a binturong, by Theerawat Sangprakarn via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Not this cute feliform.

A real cat. One that could easily pin a lion or tiger to the ground.

Family Felidae is current out of stock on bear-like kitties — the ones that we call sabertoothed cats.

The powerful front-end build on Homotherium and Smilodon, although very different in each genus, overall was part of what some paleontologists call a “sabertooth complex” of features in these and the earlier Miocene sabertooths.

It made them much bulkier than any cat today.

Modern cats, in terms of anatomy, are actually throwbacks to the sleek lines of primitive felids like Proailurus and Pseudaelurus. (Antón; Werdelin et al.)

Just how the sabercats used their bear-like powers is still a mystery.

It must have helped them hunt, perhaps through pursuit:

That alleged Smilodon SANU kill in South America is actually VFX-enhanced footage of lions hunting modern ungulates in Africa, of course.

Comparing their bodies with the real “Smilodon populator” skeleton at the top of this post — the tiger-sized species at La Brea and elsewhere was S. fatalis (there was also a jaguar-sized S. gracilis) — I have to wonder if Smilodon, particularly huge “S. populator,” actually hunted that way.

Here’s an interesting video (again, the BBC) that suggests these bear-like cats were ambush predators:

Meanwhile, back at the lab and in real life, paleoartist Mauricio Antón has some ideas based on the cat’s lumbar anatomy:

We saw the whole video earlier this month, but I like the sabercat artwork and animations.

Maybe some of them could chase prey, after all.

For more details of that theory on how sabercats hunted, check out his book, which is referenced below and also available in libraries, as well as this 2011 paper he was a coauthor on, either the abstract or the PDF download.

Well, there aren’t really a lot of good videos on bear-like cats, but I thought this little bit would be good preparation for tomorrow’s look at the awesome but little-known beardogs and —


Fluffy! Put down that knife! I just got the door repaired.

Ow! At least sheathe the claws, okay?

After all, you’ve got a good point (of the nonlethal kind).

It is is still Feline Friday, Little One. Too, there are videos of big, braaaaaave house cats facing down and/or chasing away bears.

More than one video, surprisingly, and from all over the world.

For instance, in Siberia:

There are even compilations!

A little lagniappe:

Here’s the same story, different footage, and with a poignant ending:

Featured image: E. D. Cope, “On the Extinct Cats of America


Antón, M. 2013. Sabertooth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Retrieved from

Werdelin, L.; Yamaguchi, N.; Johnson, W. E.; and O’Brien, S. J.. 2010. Phylogeny and evolution of cats (Felidae), in Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, eds. Macdonald, D. W., and Loveridge, A. J., 59-82. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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