Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Extinct American Lion (Panthera atrox) Fact Sheet
Extinct American Lion, Panthera atrox
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Family: Felidae (lion, tiger, jaguar, leopard, cougar, cheetah, lynx, caracal, domestic cat and many fossil taxa)
Species: Panthera atrox - American lion (extinct)
Large male up to 235 kg (518 lb)
Large female up to 175 kg (386 lb)
*estimated to be 25% larger than modern lions
1.6-2.5 m (5.3-8.2 ft)
0.5-0.8 m (1.7-2.7 ft)
Coloration and pattern unknown. Thought to have no mane.
|Distribution & Status
||Behavior & Ecology
During Pleistocene: Alaska to Peru, but was absent in northeastern Canada and U.S. and southern Florida
Open habitats, grasslands; probably occupied steppe tundra and mountain conifer/grasslands ecosystems
Went extinct around 13,000 years ago
Slender, but powerful legs for moving through open country
Assumed to be social because of skeletal differences between sexes, but also evidence of solitary hunting or hunting by pairs (not prides).
Carnivorous. Probably fed on horses and deer, camels, ground sloths, young mammoths, and bison in North America.
Juvenile P. atrox fed on adults' kills.
No known predators, except for Paleolithic humans
|Reproduction & Development
- No other mammal (except for humans) has had such a wide geographical distribution as the extinct lions in the Panthera lineage
- atrox means "cruel" or "frightful" in Latin
- Competed with other large carnivores of the time, like sabertooth cats and giant bears
- The last North American lions became extinct around 13,000 years ago, along with mammoths and many other large mammals
- Painted by Paleolithic artists
About This Fact Sheet
© 2009 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
How to cite: Extinct American Lion (Panthera atrox) Fact Sheet. c2008. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ extinctamericanlion
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)
Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Fact sheets on prehistoric (extinct) species contain archived content and are no longer being updated. At the time of publication, these pages summarized the best available science. However, some content may become outdated when new scientific discoveries are published.
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Email the librarians at email@example.com