What’s the Largest Non-Dinosaur Land Predator to Ever Live? (It Will Surprise You!)

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: August 31, 2022
© Tim Bertelink / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License / Original
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Several animal species predated humans and are yet undiscovered today, making it nearly impossible to know every animal species that has lived since the dawn of existence and the human race. Scientists only know around 1.5 million of the estimated nine million animal species that have existed since the inception of time.

Some of the millions of as-yet-undiscovered animal species are exceedingly little. Going by this same logic, some are also incredibly big, having existed millions of years ago and dwarfing creatures like elephants and giraffes. Land predators were the most dominant and identifiable of the largest undiscovered species due to their size and the fact that they essentially ruled the planet. So, what’s the largest land predator that ever walked the Earth? Find out in this article.

The Largest Land Predators: Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs were some of the largest land predators in the world.

©iStock.com/Orla

Dinosaurs were a group of reptiles that lived on Earth for around 180 million years, beginning about 245 million years ago, at the start of the Middle Triassic Epoch. However, most dinosaurs became extinct by the end of the Cretaceous period, roughly 66 million years ago. Over the years, with the discovery of fossils and traces of life, more than a thousand species of dinosaurs have been identified worldwide, and many more are still undiscovered. 

Although dinosaurs were believed to be some of the largest land predators, research and findings over the years establish that some species were tiny and feathery, spending more time in the sky than on land. The largest dinosaurs were those with the longest length from head to tail, although gauging the size or weight of dinosaurs was also helpful in figuring out the largest.

Dinosaurs had unique appearances: horned, armored, dome-headed, crested, long-necked, and sickle-clawed. Some were peaceful vegetarians, while others were flesh-ripping predators. Also, some dinosaurs were not fully terrestrial; some could move around in bodies of water. Despite this, dinosaurs were still the largest predators to walk the earth. However, other large non-dinosaur land predators also walked the earth long before humans, and the largest of them all was a Paraceratherium.

What’s the Largest Non-Dinosaur Land Predator to Ever Live? 

Paraceratherium is an extinct genus of hornless rhinoceros, standing as the largest terrestrial mammal to ever exist. This species of hornless rhinos lived between the early to the late Oligocene epoch (34 to 23 million years ago). The species belongs to the family Paraceratheriidae, and the name Paraceratherium means “near the hornless beast” in reference to the hornless rhino genus, Aceratherium, depicting their close resemblance. The first Paraceratherium fossils were found in areas now known as Pakistan, other parts of Eurasia, and between China and the Balkans. 

What Did Paraceratherium Look Like? 

Paraceratherium
Paraceratherium had body parts that were either extremely large or extraordinarily lengthy, and their necks were no exception.

©Tim Bertelink / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

Although Paraceratherium was the largest land predator to have ever lived, there is no accurate measurement of how big it was because of the lack of a complete specimen. Regardless, the body length of an average Paraceratherium was around 28.5 feet (8.7 meters). However, not all species grew that long, and some averaged a length of 23.7 feet (7.21 meters). Aside from being long, these bad boys were also very tall. The average Paraceratherium grew as tall as 17.2 feet (5.25 meters).

Being large animals, Paraceratherium had body parts that were either extremely large or extraordinarily lengthy, and their necks were no exception. The necks of Paraceratherium grew as long as 6.6 to 8.2 feet (2 to 2.5 meters). For comparison, a giraffe’s neck typically measures 6 feet long, though some can reach a length of 7 feet. As such, the Paraceratherium had longer necks than even giraffes. The skulls of the Paraceratherium were relatively small compared to the rest of their body. The largest Paraceratherium skull ever found measured 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) long, 13 to 15 inches at the back, and 24 inches (61 cm) wide across.

To be called the largest land predator, after dinosaurs, is no easy feat, but Paraceratherium seemed to own and live up to the title effortlessly. The initial estimate of the typical Paraceratherium’s weight, which claimed that these land predators weighed about 66,000 lbs (30 tonnes), contained some errors, but these were later addressed. More studies have established that the average weight of a Paraceratherium is estimated at 33,000 to 44,000 lbs. To put into perspective how big these animals were, an adult male African elephant weighs around 13,000 pounds, making a Paraceratherium the size of a little over three fully developed male African elephants.

Habitat and Feeding Habits of Paraceratherium 

Paraceratherium 
Like other herbivores, the Paraceratherium had large digestive tracts, and they were also hindgut fermenters like horses.

©Momotarou2012 / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Paraceratherium fossils and remains have been found across Eurasia, particularly in areas that now make up Pakistan. Fossils and remains have also been found in Mongolia, Turkey, modern-day China, India, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Balkans, and Bulgaria. Just like their modern-day descendants, Paraceratherium enjoyed spending their time in humid or arid climates. They also enjoyed inhabiting tropical bushland, grassland, and savannas. Additionally, like most rhinos, Paraceratherium lived alone and only ever moved in groups when females were with their young. During these periods, the males were with them as a means of protection. 

Paraceratherium also had terrible eyesight. To make up for their poor vision, they had to acquire keener senses of smell and hearing. Like the entire family of rhinos, Paraceratherium communicated with each other through infrasonic frequencies, which are too low for humans to pick up. However, it is also worth noting that although Paraceratherium communicated through infrasonic frequencies, they also communicated by making sounds at each other. 

Despite its size, Paraceratherium was very fast and quick to strike. Regardless of this, these big boys were strictly herbivorous. Their low-crowned teeth served as an indicator that their diets consisted mainly of relatively soft leaves and shrubs. Because of their choice of habitat and how tall they were, it was easy for them to move from tree to tree, finding whatever leaf or berry they wanted. Scientists believe the Paraceratherium had a prehensile upper lip or a trunk, which it probably used to pull the leaves from tall tree branches. Like other herbivores, the Paraceratherium had large digestive tracts, and they were also hindgut fermenters like horses and other present-day rhinos. This means that they had to eat a lot more food to survive because they could only extract relatively small amounts of nutrients from their food. 

Up Next:

Top 10 Biggest Animals That Ever Walked The Earth

Top 10 World’s Largest Dinosaurs Ever

Meet The Largest Carnivorous Dinosaur in History (Bigger Than A T-Rex!)


The Featured Image

Paraceratherium
© Tim Bertelink / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License / Original

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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