Name Meaning:  Cave Lion

Geologic Era: Middle Pleistocene to Early Holocene

Location Discovered: Carpath Mountains, Romania

Size:  Large male could be in excess of 4 feet tall and 7 feet long

Estimated Range: Continental Europe to Alaska (while Bering land bridge was still present)

Extinction Date:  Around 13,000 years ago

This is a partial lower jaw of a European Cave Lion. One premolar is still intact, and a closer look at the end of the jaw reveals the root of the lower canine embedded in the bone. This jaw would have come from a respectably sized adult.

Similar in appearance to a modern lion, but somewhat larger, the European Cave Lion roamed Europe and Asia until relatively recently. It did not survive to historic times, but very likely gave early humans some competition for food. It was also more than capable of killing and eating a human as well. Likely the only thing that saved people was that these lions appear to have been solitary hunters, as opposed to pride-based like modern lions are. Bone analysis shows that the lions preferred reindeer and caribou for food, but horses, giant deer, pigs, and early cattle could also have been on the menu.

Hair samples have been recovered from the European Cave Lion, and show that it had a similar color to modern lions, only a bit lighter. Cave paintings also show that males were somewhat larger than females, but unlike modern lions, males did not appear to have manes. The European Cave Lion may also be a candidate for de-extinction, as two very well preserved, frozen cubs have been found in Russia. Assuming the DNA is intact, it may be possible to bring back this animal. Work on the two cubs, who appear to have died when their den was buried in a landslide, is ongoing.

Image Credits:

Skeleton: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24117616

Life Restoration: By Heinrich Harder (1858-1935) – The Wonderful Paleo Art of Heinrich Harder, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=726942