The Biggest Big Cat – Ever

As the name suggests, big cats are, well big cats! But which of all the cats is the biggest? And what was the biggest cat ever to stalk the Earth?

First of all lets define what a big cat is. We’re not talking about Mr Tibbles, next door’s tabby who’s eaten too much Kitty-Nibles! There are four species that are considered big cats and all belong to the genus Panthera. These are the tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars. With long, sharp, retractable claws, powerful jaws and dagger-like canine teeth these are formidable predators indeed.

The biggest of the big cats

Siberian tiger

Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)

Of all the living big cats it is the tiger that takes the crown. In particular it is the Siberian (or Amur) tiger that is the biggest of them all. Weighing in at up to 3ooKg (660 lbs) and measuring up to 4m (13ft) in length this is one big cat. Just to put that in perspective, that’s about as long as a family car and the weight of three grown men.

There was an unconfirmed report of a male tiger weighing 384Kg (847 lb) back in 1950 and this sounds completely plausible given that captive Siberian tigers have been recorded weighing as much as 465 kg (1,025 lb). However, such captive tigers are considered overweight – i.e. they are fat cats.

Compared to the slightly smaller Bengal tiger it appears Siberian tigers are far less likely to attack with only a handful of cases reported over the years. This is in stark contrast to the 375,000 people killed by Bengal tigers over the centuries.
Whilst these figures may reflect Siberian tigers live in more remote regions, encounters also show them to be more reluctant to attack.

So, now we know the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the biggest of all the big cats. Well actually no! The Siberian tiger is the biggest wild big cat. There is actually a big cat even larger than this but it only lives in captivity..

The biggest cat in the world


The liger – the biggest cat on Earth

Yes, sounds like the start of a joke, but – What do you get if you cross a lion with a tiger? Well, actually you can get two things depending on the sex of the parents. We are interested in what you get when you cross a male lion with a female tiger, and that is a liger (wonder how they came up with that name?!).

The liger is bigger than any of the cats that occur naturally. They don’t happen in the wild because lions live in Africa and tigers live in Asia. That and they probably don’t get along that well in the wild either.
In terms of appearance you get a fair mix; some faint stripes from the mother, a mini-mane from the father and growth promoting genes. What this results in is a animal weighing in at a massive 410Kg (904 lb) and this is lean weight.

In case you are wondering, a male tiger crossed with a female lion is known as a tigon. Again they inherit their appearance from both parent, however, they don’t grow particularly big.

The biggest big cat ever


Smilodon – the sabre-toothed tiger

I’ve saved the best til last. For this we are going to have to go back in time around 10,000 years to North America, where the most fearsome feline to ever walk the earth stalked its prey.
In case you haven’t guessed we’re talking sabre-toothed tigers. Smilodon populator to be precise. If you can imagine a modern day tiger on steroids with dagger like canine teeth reaching nearly 30cm (1ft) in length then you are imagining Smilodon.

Whilst Smilodon was around the same height and length of modern day lions and tigers, it was more powerfully built. It is estimated that a large adult Smilodon could have weighed up to 500 Kg (1100lbs).

This bear of a cat was a formidable hunter and would take on prey as large as bison, ground sloths and maybe even mammoths. If you think ground sloths don’t sound scary, think 1 ton bear with giant claws. The Smilodon‘s mode of attack was probably to wait in ambush for its prey and then use its strength to wrestle the prey and sink its huge teeth into the throat of its prey.

So fearsome was the Smilodon that it is thought to have caused the extinction of rival sabre-tooth, Thylacosmilus. Dominating all the Americas for over a million years Smilodon‘s time on earth overlapped that of humans. Given the reputation of modern day tigers as man-eaters these must have been scary days to be a human!

  • Arun Aravind

    What about the American lion? It is arguably the biggest cat ever.

    • surfgatinho

      Not much in it. According to Wikipedia Smilodon populator weighed in at up to 400 kg / 880 lbs compared to the American lion weighed up to 350 kg / 772 lbs. However, previous studies thought the American lion might have weighed up to 420kg / 930 lbs…

    • Ace

      Male Lions look big coz of their Fur.. If you shave of the Fur, they look like lioness.
      And if a Tiger had a Fur, it would look like a Grizzly Bear.
      Tigers are Muscular , Lions are Fat

      • Lion King

        So we have another tiger lover Maybe you haven’t learnt enough about lions,they are a lot more stronger much more bigger than tigers. the lion didn’t just get the title (King Of The Beasts) It earned it click on the link below and take a look who is muscled and who is fat and as a matter of fur lions only have fur mainly on their neck and on the rest of their body is really really short fur and for tigers they have long fur all over their body. Learn more about these big cats before you think you know all about these big cats when you don’t know anything about these wild predators.

        • surfgatinho

          What are you, some kind of tiger denier? Tigers are bigger than lions according to every source available. Oh, except on that bullshit YouTube video link you posted (and I removed)…

          And to the previous poster – no, lions are not fat. In fact they look half starved most of the time. However, they would have no problem ripping you to shreds.

          • Midnight Reaper

            And what are you some kind of lion denier, tigers are only longer in length compared to lions, lions are taller that tigers and as a matter of ripping people into shreds yes they can rip people into shreds but don’t forget you are only human too so what ever they can do to others,they can also do to you and (For Your Information)
            buddy you have no idea how much I know about lions I have studied about them for more that 7 years but by the looks you sure seem to be a lion denier.

            M R

          • surfgatinho

            Well I’ve studied lions and tigers for about an hour but I still seem to be something of an expert compared to you guys.
            So, why is it every reference source I look at says tigers are bigger than lions then?! Show me one legitimate source that states a lion is heavier than a tiger – and yes weight is the determining factor of size as it reflect volume…

          • Chris Richards

            These people don’t know what they’re talking about. The largest big cat is the Siberian Tiger, period. What does, “only longer in length” mean? That’s like saying a guy who’s 6’10” and 300 pounds isn’t really bigger than a guy who’s 6 feet and 175 pounds, he’s just longer in length. And no, lions are not “fat”. All big cats are muscular and extremely powerful. The most powerful, pound for pound, is the leopard, but none of them are “fat”. And the reason tigers might appear “shorter” is because they’re solitary stealth hunters who keep low and camouflage themselves in tall grass in order to ambush their prey.

          • Chris Richards

            Lions are a bit taller when they’re standing on all fours, but stand them up on their hind legs, and tigers are taller. That just means lions have longer legs, but in overall size and weight, Siberian tigers are a lot bigger than lions. They’re in an an entirely different weight class . You seem to be arguing that a 500 pound lion is bigger than a 600 pound tiger.

          • Midnight Reaper

            No I agree with you chris all I am saying is that lions are taller than tigers, not heavier,I know tigers are a lot more heavier than lions but check out this YouTube video I found, it clearly stats that a lion is more longer and taller than a tiger.

            M R

          • HITMAN 556

            The youtube video is very biased, it is animal planet, and most of animal planet is solely based on popularity, as people assume the lion is larger due to the larger amount of encounters with the african lion, either nature documentary, or african tours on reservations, but… the AMUR TIGER IS THE LARGEST NATURAL CAT! captive cats upto 1035lbs and 14 ft long documented! The LIGER IS THE LARGEST CAT ON THE PLANET AS OF NOW…MALE LION AND FEMALE TIGER …look it up… his name is HERCULES THE LIGER, BUT IT IS NOT NATURALLY OCCURRING!
            i like both cats and also the puma or mountain lion, they get friggin huge also, they too are solitary cats with a pretty wicked growl also hearing one get a redtail hawk was pretty scary sounding as i thought i were a dead man when i seen it 30 feet away from me….

          • Sooky Das

            Re Ligers & Tigon. Very sad that again, humans couldn’t keep their ‘mits’ out of it. Had to meddle with nature & cross breed 2 such majestic species being cats alone, who both stand alone in their magnificence. You’d think they’d carry the intelligence to want to join in the efforts of saving or breeding the threatened original species. Eg. only 2,500 tigers left in the wild I was reading.

          • Bernardo A. Badani

            LION DENIER??? That is a good one! But yes, Tigers are the largest

        • HITMAN 556

          Sizes of the cats is proven in documentation of the big cats through history, tiger is almost double the weight of a lion and many more documented cases of a single male amur tiger easily killing or mortally wounding an an adult male lion, numbers do not lie, and the sight is amazing when you see both together in person! The adult lion looks the size of the tigers offspring at 10 months old!
          Granted the lion is pretty agressive but being pack oriented, it does not have to be as aggressive as a solitary tiger who is rarely seen in groups!
          Either way, we will dispute until the end!
          Its the old superman or incredible hulk….who would win….

          • Bernardo A. Badani

            Why argue? Get a measuring tape and a (large) scale, go to the Zoo and jump in their respective compounds and try to measure them, Just remember not to feed the animals

      • Bernardo A. Badani

        I had a cat named Pepper. Not the largest but the GREATEST and, as Napoleon told a very tall soldier standing too close to him probably to show off he was a larger man than his Emperor, Greatness is what counts

  • OnsVirJouSuidAfrika

    If any of you guys have come into firsthand contact with both of these magnificent animals – the lion and the tiger – you would know that a male tiger is bigger and heavier than any modern-day lion – be it the Barbary lion, the Cape lion, the Kalahari lion, the African lion or the Asiatic lion. A male Bengal tiger is more muscular, heavier and bulky than the biggest male lion, namely the Barbary lion. In every distinction, the tiger is in fact heavier and stronger than the lion, however, in a hypothetical one-on-one fight, a male lion will subdue and beat a tiger, because a lion is an animal built for chasing and killing, whereas tigers ambush their prey. Because of the sizes of lion prides, lions are also more subjected to fighting for the right to mate and to maintain their position in the pride. Thirdly, a lion’s mane is there to protect him against the bite of other animals such as leopards, baboons and other lions. It will naturally protect him against the bite of a tiger, too.

    • ThePaganSun

      Not all tigers are bigger and stronger than all lions though. And many experts have said that in the WILD, the two species on AVERAGE usually are similar in weight and size. So I guess the Siberian and Amur tigers gaining such size mostly occurs in captivity.

  • Roman Hunter

    Lots of wrong information in the article.The writer said that lions are found only in Africa and Tigers in Asia.Actually both this big cats are found in India as well . Also there are a total of 7 big cats and not 4 Cheetahs, Pumas and Snow leopards are the other 3 species.Moreover the biggest ever big cat caught in the wild was a tiger caught in India in 1967 which weight 389 kgs and this is not unconfirmed as there is documented evidence for this.

    • surfgatinho

      OK, I’ll give you the ones about lions not being found in India and the biggest tiger ever caught. But they don’t change the overall conclusions of the article.

      As for the term “big cats”, it is an informal one. Therefore what one chooses to include is somewhat subjective. As far as I know there are 4 generally accepted members and I’m sticking to that.

      • CurryMan21

        The most widely accepted definition of “Big Cats” DOES include the Cheetah, as well as Pumas and Snow Leopards (Leopards in general). But yes, it isn’t written in stone.

  • Ross Wind

    TIGER SIZE IS OFTEN OVERATED. FROM WCS RUSSIA (wildlife conservation society) Siberian tigers are often considered the largest of the tiger sub-species, although they are in fact about the same size as the Bengal tiger. An adult male usually reaches a body length of 2 meters, with his tail adding another meter. Average weight for males is 160-190 kg (353-419 lbs), while females are smaller, weighing in at 110-130 kg (243-286 lbs). The largest male captured for scientific research under the Siberian Tiger Project weighed in at 206 kg (450 lbs). Lion’s muscular structure is the greatest of the mammalians family. It was not unnoticed. Combine with superior fighting skills, courage and will power the lion specie was compared by the antique civilizations to the most powerful thing known to men the “sun”. The mighty lion was considered as a force of the nature the optimum land predator and warrior. All kings wanted to be related to lions. They could had chosen their native Caspian tigers or brown bear. No they choose the mighty lion as king of the beasts.

  • Bernardo A. Badani

    Which ever was stalking you was probably the one you would consider the largest in those times!

  • surfgatinho
  • jake mccollum

    The smilodon as well as the short face bear and dire wolves may have delayed the settlement of the Americas per an article I once read. Being too difficult for primitive man to handle.

  • Mike Wheeler

    It also says there are megladon on you tube .tigers are the biggest …morons