The saber-toothed cats or sabre-toothed cats are some of the best known and most popular extinct animals. They are among the most impressive carnivores that ever have lived. These cats had enlarged canines usually associated with the name saber tooth. This suggests a different style of killing from modern felines.
- Machaeroides and Apataelurus, Creodonts, were the earliest sabre-tooths known. They lived in the Eocene, and are in a different order from the Feliformia.
- The Nimravids were a basal group in the Feliformia, lasting from the Eocene to the later Miocene epochs.
- The Barbourofelidae is another family of Feliforms, which also developed the sabre-tooth lifestyle. They flourished in the Miocene. They are probably more closely related to the felids than the Nimravids.
- Sparassodonts, such as Thylacosmilus, were a metatherian group of mammals. They used to be called "marsupial sabre-tooths", but they belong to a sister-group to the marsupials. Miocene to Pliocene.
- The Machairodontinae: a subfamily of the Felidae, lived from the Miocene to the Pleistocene (23 million years ago to 11,000 years ago). Includes the famous Smilodon.
- Nimravides, which is a member of the Felinae, and not one of the Nimravids.
The saber tooths were ambush predators, and probably lived in open forests. This would explain their widespread occurrence in the Miocene, when much of the land was covered with woodland. Apart from the canine teeth, their adaptations included strength in the forelimbs (more than present-day large cats. Their robust (heavy, tough) bodies speak of strength rather than speed.
An idea of how they killed is as follows. They hid in wait, and pounced. They hung on round the prey's neck, gripping and slashing the underside of the throat with their canine teeth. This would cause death by blood loss and loss of the air supply.