The American Lion was the largest subspecies of lion that ever existed. It was comparable in size to it’s Pleistocene relative the Cave Lion (Panthera leo fossillis), but about 25% larger than a modern African lion. It was among the largest predators of its time, yet did not outweigh it’s fiercest competitor for prey, the Giant Short Faced Bear. It was longer than any felines over all and heavier than any modern feline, however but it was not as heavily built as the saber-toothed cat Smilodon Californicus which may have weighed up to 790–1,000 lbs. Approximately one hundred specimens of American lions have been recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits, in Los Angeles, so their body structure is well known. The features and teeth of the extinct American lion strongly resemble modern lions, but they were considerably larger.
Top: Extinct American lion (California).
Middle: Extinct Cave lion (Alaska).
Bottom: Modern African lion.
The American Lion was widespread in the Americas from Alaska to Peru, however it was absent in eastern North America and peninsular Florida. As did many other large mammals, it went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene . Remains are most commonly found in the Yukon, Canada and from the La Brea Tar Pits in California.
It’s believed that the American Lion most likely used caves for it’s den, and in the colder parts of it’s range may have lined the cave with grasses and shrubs to protect itself against the cold – much like it’s modern ancestor, the Siberian Tiger.