One of the biggest concerns conservationists have these days is the ever-decreasing population of big cats across the planet. Their concerns are certainly warranted as a large number of big cats have gone extinct since the animals first began appearing some two million years ago. While most people are familiar with the likes of the famed sabre-toothed cats, there are recent examples of tigers, the Barbary lion, and other familiar animals that have disappeared in the 20th century.
Starting with the most recently extinct animals, this list of extinct big cats includes many that went extinct thousands of years ago, but there are a few examples of animals that disappeared in the 1900s. Protecting the remaining lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, and others is imperative if we want to keep lists like this one of extinct cats as short as possible.
History - The Bali tiger was a distinct population of tigers that colonized the Sunda Islands some 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. They went extinct after the population was hunted to extirpation sometime in the 1940s to 1950s.
Physical Description - Physically, the Bali tiger was the smallest in the Sunda Islands, but featured the traits typical of a tiger living today.
Size - The length of a Bali tiger could reach nearly 8 feet with their weight going as high as 220 lbs.
Location - The Indonesian Island of Bali.
Modern Relatives - The closest living relatives are the Asian and Siberian tiger.
Scientific Name: Panthera tigris balica
Type Of: Tiger
History - The Cape lion was an isolated population of Eastern and Southern African lions that was extirpated in the mid 19th century. DNA analysis indicates the population was related to Panthera leo melanchaita, but still distinct.
Physical Description - They have been described as being very large with a black mane and ears. Its skull was slightly larger than equatorial lions, but only by approximately one inch.
Size - Cape lions were slightly larger than Asiatic lions and could reach up to 600 lbs in weight.
Location - Natal and Cape Provinces of South Africa.
Modern Relatives - The Cape lion was genetically similar to the Southern and East African lions still extant today.
Scientific Name: Panthera leo melanochaitus
Type Of: Lion
History - The Smilodon, commonly called a sabre-toothed cat, was a genus of large cats consisting of three recognized subspecies. They lived between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago having gone extinct during the Quaternary extinction event, resulting from a decrease in large herbivores (prey animals).
Physical Description - All sabre-toothed cats possessed enlarged canines, which extended outside the mouth. Teeth could reach up to 11 inches in length making them formidable weapons.
Size - The largest species, S. populator, ranged from 490 to 880 lbs. in weight and could reach up to 4 feet in shoulder height.
Location - Wide-ranging from North America to South America with most fossils located in isolated areas such as forests or brush.
Modern Relatives - Though referred to often as a sabre-toothed tiger, the Smilodon was not closely related to modern tigers. There is no extant species closely related as all members of its genus have gone extinct.
Scientific Name: Smilodon
Type Of: Machairodontinae
Types: Smilodon gracilis
History - Yes, there was a time when lions roamed North America, but they died out some 11,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene epoch.
Physical Description - The American lion was much larger than any extant relatives and bigger than its sister lineage, the Eurasian Cave lion. They looked much like lions do today, but may not have had manes. They were larger than sabre-toothed cats of their time-period and likely competed with the giant short-faced bear.
Size - Approximately 25% larger than modern lions, which put them at about 4 feet at shoulder height, but weighing in as much as 1,150 lbs. for the largest known examples.
Location - The North American continent. Many examples have been found in the La Brea Tar Pits and were depicted on cave paintings in Santa Cruz.
Modern Relatives - The African and Eurasian Lions are the closest extant relatives.
Scientific Name: Panthera leo atrox
Type Of: Lion