Did Atrox Have Manes? {Updated}

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 16th, 2009

Updated with the following image via Sordes:

Click to enlarge.

Did the supposedly extinct American Lion (Panthera atrox), a Pleistocene mammal for North America, have manes? It is a question still hotly debated.

Most commentaries too quickly assume atrox were maneless. But one of the greatest wildlife artist seems to even think otherwise.

Panthera atrox is shown above, 25% larger than the modern lion, by natural history illustrator Carl Buell.

F. E. Koby studied prehistoric drawings and sculptures, and found two types of Pleistocene felids represented in Europe, one without manes and one with a mane and tufted tail.

C. A. W. Guggisberg wrote in Simba: Life of the Lion: “Two lions in the Gotto des Trois-Frères, of which one is maned, turn their heads towards the viewer and stare at him with big eyes.”

See Mysterious America for more.

What do you think?

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.


8 Responses to “Did Atrox Have Manes? {Updated}”

  1. kittenz responds:

    If Panthera atrox were indeed lions, I think it’s likely they had manes or at least ruffs. I’m just not convinced they were lions, at least as we know lions.

    Not too long ago, many authorities referred to P. atrox as “the great cat of America” and could not agree whether they were lions or huge jaguars. The Panthera cats are closely related to each other, especially lions, leopards, & jaguars. Panthera atrox was much larger than modern lions and had proportionately longer legs. We have no idea what they actually looked like and I believe that lumping them together with lions and cave lions as one species may be a mistake.

    Some people who have studied cave lion photos see “a touch of striping”. I wonder if that “striping” is actually a depiction of a ruff or mane, rather than stripes.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    Good story, Loren!!!

    I’m having a nice time speculating here!

    And thanks for the input, Kittenz!!! 🙂

  3. springheeledjack responds:

    Ultimately, it depends on what the mane is for functionally. If it is something used to attract females, then most likely I would say they probably did. ASSuming they were actual lions.

    If, on the other hand, as Kittenz speculates that they were not lions at all, then we’re at the “no” end of things.:)

    Interesting topic though, even though cats are not on my usual big list of cryptids.

  4. shumway10973 responds:

    To me the question is not whether it was maned or not, but rather was the mane something worth looking for? The lions we see in the zoos today their manes are distinctively different than the rest of their fur, in both color and hair length. The Atrox probably did have a mane, but like the drawing above, was it almost totally blended in with the rest of the fur? Was the hair short or long? Was it the same color or something totally different? Considering the Americas had the same critters as Africa at one time, we must consider that they probably migrated here before the continents drifted too far apart. Therefore the Atrox was a descendant of some African lion (probably some cross between a Moroccan male and a female mountain lion). I only say Moroccan because their range would have been the last to be close to the Americas. Were they a completely different group? Were they the ancestors to the African lions? There’s no way to know for sure. What if we crossed an African with a mountain lion? Then compared the offspring with what we have of the Atrox? That would be an interesting experiment.

  5. maeko responds:

    from what i can gather, altrox was sister to it’s african, european, and asian contemporaries. however, different from modern lions. reading scientific studies is sometimes likened to code-breaking, so it won’t surprise me if i misread.

    here is the article about the genetics.

    i do think that altrox and other leo (extinct or otherwise) had manes. i just think they were more like the “ruff” that kittenz describes. i don’t think that altrox had the large, dark mane associated modern african lions because i am inclined to believe that is modern adaptation, a recent exaggeration of a pre-existing, sexually-dymorphic feature. on the other hand, i cannot find pics of the cave paintings and have not had a chance to look at the book. so, this is still just my uneducated opinion.

  6. maeko responds:

    gees…atrox, not “altrox”…!!!

  7. Sordes responds:

    It is very probable that at least some cave lions had manes, even if they were not as big as those of most modern lions. There is a very high variability of shape, length and colour of the mane in living lions, even within local populations.

    There is a cave drawing from Chauvet, France, which shows clearly a mane (see above, in updated image added above).

    It is probable that most male cave lions had only sparse manes, but some may have had manes not much smaller than those of modern lions. You have to keep in mind that most lines of lions in modern zoos have still ancestral lines to barbary and cape lions, which had very strong manes, and that many zoo lions have bigger manes than most lions in the wild.

    As the American lion was still closely related to the cave lion, which was also already bigger than the African lions and not much smaller than its American cousin, it is very probable that even in american lions manes occured.

  8. fossilhunter responds:

    Greetings All!
    Not sure if anyone is reading this topic anymore or not, but I had a thought to add!
    Last weekend there was a TV show that theorized what a fight between a short-faced bear and an American Lion would have looked like. They also went into why two such uber-predators would be doing in the same place at the same time. It occurred to me that with these two big predators around, pressure on prey would be intense, at the same time people were trying to move in.
    Rather than focusing on how those people might have added to the extinction of the prey animals, it occurred to me that these two big predators might have been enough to keep humans from being able to establish a foothold on North America. Let’s face it, we’re yummy, soft, and generally poorly defended, almost non-defended if we are caught by surprise.
    Just something to keep in mind as more evidence is unearthed.




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