Paiting of a European cave lion (Panthera spelaea).

Cave Lions

The European cave lion (Panthera spelaea) was probably the largest cat that ever lived. Twenty-five percent larger than modern lions, this formidable hunter stood over 4 ft (1.25 m) at the shoulder. It was one of the most common predators of its time, using its relatively long legs to run down horses, deer, and other large, hoofed animals.

The cave lion appeared in Europe about 400,000 years ago and survived there until about 12,000 years ago, toward the end of the last ice age. Similar large cats were known from North America and are thought to have descended from European cave lions that migrated across the Bering land bridge to Alaska.