Epicyon (Wikimedia Commons).


Epicyon (Greek for "more than a dog"); pronounced EPP-ih-SIGH-on


Plains of North America

Historical Epoch:

Middle-Late Miocene (15-5 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About five feet long and 200-300 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; quadrupedal posture; big-cat-like head

About Epicyon

Possibly the largest prehistoric dog that ever lived, Epicyon was a true "canid," belonging to the same general family as wolves, hyenas and modern dogs—and was thus a different beast altogether from the non-canid "creodont" mammals (typified by the giant Sarkastodon) that ruled the North American plains for millions of years before the Miocene epoch. The largest species of Epicyon weighed in the neighborhood of 200 to 300 pounds—as much as, or more than, a full-grown human--and it possessed unusually powerful jaws and teeth, which made its head look more like that of a big cat than a dog or wolf. However, paleontologists don't know much about Epicyon's feeding habits: this megafauna mammal may have hunted alone or in packs, and it may even have subsisted exclusively on already-dead carcasses, like a modern hyena.

Epicyon is known by three species, all of which were discovered in western North America in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. The lightest variant, Epicyon saevus, was named by the famous American paleontologist Joseph Leidy, and for a time was classified as a species of Aelurodon; adults only weighed about 100 pounds fully grown. E. haydeni was also named by Leidy, and has been synonymized not only with Aelurodon, but with the even more obscure Osteoborus and Tephrocyon as well; this was the largest Epicyon species, weighing more than 300 pounds. The most recent addition to the Epicyon family, E. aelurodontoides, was discovered in Kansas in 1999; you can tell by its species name that it was also close kin to Aelurodon!

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Strauss, Bob. "Epicyon." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, thoughtco.com/epicyon-more-than-a-dog-1093206. Strauss, Bob. (2020, August 25). Epicyon. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/epicyon-more-than-a-dog-1093206 Strauss, Bob. "Epicyon." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/epicyon-more-than-a-dog-1093206 (accessed May 31, 2023).