15 Scary Prehistoric Animals that lived with Cavemen.

Dinosaurs and humans are separated by at least 58 and more accurately 64-65 million years of evolution. This means that the two species as we know define them never coexisted. Although descendants of both did and continue to cross paths to the present day. This did not give cavemen, or prehistoric humans, a free pass to this present day though. We take a look at some of the largest and most scary prehistoric animals that lived with Cavemen in the article below.

Since the split from a common ancestor approximately 7 million years ago human descendants lived with a huge variety of large imposing animals. These include Mammoths, Dire Wolves, Megalania’s, and Terror birds. All these would have provided food or challenges for cavemen and early humans, at that time

There were plenty of these prehistoric animals that co existed with humans to varying degrees since that split 7 million years ago, We will focus on the prehistoric animals that lived with cavemen. Which is around 2 million years ago to about (possibly) 250,000 to 40,000 years ago. These early humans are more scientifically (and accurately) known as Homo Erectus and homo Neanderthalis

We will Start with something that is perhaps more recognisable with animals we have alive today. The Dire Wolf.

Dire Wolf

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? dire wolf
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Dire Wolf6-7 feet long175 lbs (80kg)125000, to 9500 years agoNorth America and east Asia

Although of a similar size and even a similar weight to modern day grey wolves the Dire wolf did live in let’s say more challenging times, at least when it came to prey animals it specialised in hunting larger herbivores like bison, camels and horses, on which it made use of its larger teeth.

it lived in North America and Eastern Asia. it was alive 125,000 years ago which put it directly in competition with cavemen (Neanderthals specifically) for food and caves to live in. It was actually larger 125000 years ago and reduced in size over time. Perhaps as a result of the reduction n prey and climate changes.

Reason for Extinction: Although alive up to around 9-13000 years ago it is though to have gone extinct, or at least reduced to almost unsustainable numbers, during the quaternary Extinction event ( see here for what this was) due to a reduction in prey animals as we mentioned it was particularly suited to large prey and around this time wild horses, bison and camels (yes camels) reduced significantly in numbers as well.


What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? simildon sabre tooth tiger
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Simildon4 feet at shoulder, about 7 feet long. 500-800 lbs (240 – 400 kg)2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago.North and South America

Simildon is one of the most famous prehistoric animals and was alive and thriving when cavemen lived. Like the Dire Wolf it lived in North America, but also South American. Hundreds of fossils have been found in the La Brea tar pits in Los angeles.

it is famous for its two up to 12 inch long canine teeth at the front of its mouth, which it is thought it used to repeated stab its prey, made possible by a very wide opening mouth. Even though it is known more commonly as the sabre tooth Cat, or Tiger it is actually far removed from both.

Also like the Dire Wolf it hunted large herbivores like bison, horses and sloths and along with early humans would have competed for food.

Reason for extinction: Going extinct at the same time as the dire wolf about 10,000 years ago it is thought both cavemen ( although by then we were were homo sapiens) and the reduction in prey animals were the cause. Whether that reduction was climate or human induced (or both) is still researched)


What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? mammoth
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Mammoth13 feet to shoulder, 20 feet long19000 lbs (8000 kg +)5 million to 4000 years agoGlobally, especially the Americas, Europe and Asia.

If smilodon is the most famous carnivore that lived with cavemen then the mammoth has to be the most famous herbivore. Resembling, and being about 99% of the DNA, of a modern elephant it is instantly recognisable for both its abundant hair, long curved tusks and huge size.

It was alive from about 5 million to 4000 years ago (making it alive when the pyramids were being built) and would have certainly come into contact with early humans and cavemen. Although they share the size of African elephants their close relative is the asian elephant.

There were actually many species of Mammoth, although the Woolly Mammoth was the latest and most documented.

Reason for Extinction: Although there was climate changes occuring at the time, end of ice age etc, it is thought that this was not the sole reason for the mammoths extinction. ( ther eis a pattern forming here) It is also though that as cavemen – the mammoth was alive for most of human evolution – became more advanced in their hunting capabilities so did the mammoth numbers decime. This it is not 100% accepted that over hunting is the reason for their extinction but it is at the very least heavily coincidental.

Ground Sloth

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? ground sloth
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Ground Sloth20 ft long and 8-9 feet tall8800 lbs – 4000 kg35 million years ago to 3500 years agoAmericas

The Ground Sloth, also known as megatherium, was a huge ground dwelling member of the sloth family that lived in mainly South america, but also in North America from about 5 million to 10,000 years ago.

When we say huge we mean it, it could be 20 ft in length and 8-9 feet tall when reared up on its hind legs this is almost elephant sized! it would weigh up to 8800 lbs or 4.4 tons. It was a herbivore, although some research has suggested it may have been omnivorous at some points ( fairly widely disputed though) at least if it had those claws it may have been able to fight back if being hunted!

Reason for extinction: Lets just say its extinction was around the same time as cavemen and early humans were stattlign to live in the Americas. However there were likely other factors such as habitat reduction and possible contamination.


What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with?  gigantopithecus
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Gigantopithecus9 to 12 feet tall4-600lbs2 million to 350,000 years ago

Gigantopithecus lived between 2 million and 350,000 years ago, at the same time as Homo Erectus and Homo neanderthalis (cavemen basically) It lived in what is now South China and possibly South East Asia.

it is difficult to be sure of the accuracy of its size, although it was undoubtedly huge ( and the largest ape to have lived – unless you believe in King Kong) as its remains are limited to mostly teeth and jaw bones.

it was thought to be a human ancestor at one stage – which would have been a HUGE human!, but it now thought to be more closely related, and similar to, orangutans. Although it is often portrayed as gorilla like, and has been touted as the origin of the Big Foot, Yeti and Sasquatch legends.

Estimates on its size put it at up to 660 lbs, and its height has been suggested to be another from 12 feet (twice the size of a male silver back gorilla!) to 9 feet tall – still huge and more likely) At this size i am sure cavemen and early humans in the area would have been pleased to know it was a herbivore.

Reason for Extinction: It is nice to be able to write that cavemen and early human ancestors are probably not a suspect in the extinction of this great ape! Where is many ways might is right, and size matters in the animal kingdom for Gigantopithecus this was not the case. its size and its reducing habitat were the main causes of its extinction, it simply didn’t have the area to live and thrive and left us around 350,000 years ago. Up Until that point it, not humans, may have been the dominate primate in the area.

Cave Hyena

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? cave hyena
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Cave hyena3 feet at shoulder. 210lbs (103 kg) 500,000 to 12000 years ago. Europe Across to Asia

the Cave hyena was more suited to hunting, and likely hunted larger animals than its modern equivalent the spotted hyena. It lived throughout Europe and Asia around 500,000 to 11000 years ago.

it was both smarter and slightly larger than its modern relative and would have hunted horses and bison in packs. it interacted frequently, according to fossil finds, with Neanderthal cavemen both with kills and with competition for caves for shelter

Reason for Extinction: Cave hyenas disappeared around 12,000 years ago, through what was likely a combination of factors. Grasslands, the favoured habitat and hunting grounds of Cave hyenas were disappearing and competition with both humans and wolves were likely factors.


megalania biggest lizard did cavemen live with
Editorial credit: Erik Laan / Shutterstock.com
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Megalania11 to 18 or 23 feet longwide estimates from partial fossils suggest up to 1300 lbs ( 620 kg) or even 4000 Lbs plus1.5 million years to 50,000 years ago. Australia

Although we discuss in this article the reasons why cavemen and dinosaurs did not exist if there were arguments saying they did then this is the first of the animals that could be suggested as evidence for the coexistence of cavemen / early humans and dinosaurs!

The Megalania was a HUGE lizard resembling a komodo dragon or monitor lizard. Disputed estimates have it at up to 23 feet long, that’s as long as a Carnotaurus ( as comparison) and 4 times larger than the currently very scary Komodo Dragon. Although these size estimates are often scaled down to 11-18 feet ( still huge of course)

it also potentially had a poisonous bite like the komodo ( which could make it the largest poisonous vertebrate and could wait out an injured prey animal. It lived in Australia and did likely have interactions as it was settled around 50,000 years ago by early humans, though in australia not sure if they can be called cavemen or not.

Reason for extinction: Not entirely know, but there is a correlation between human settlement and the timescale of its demise.

American Lion

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with?
not quite like this one
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
American Lionup to 8 feet long930 lbs (420 kg) 340,000 to 11,000 years ago. North America

Was a panterlike large cat that lived about 340 to 11 thousands years ago. unlike the modern cougar or mountain lion it was much larger and about 25% bigger than a modern day lion.

it would have hunted Bison Tapirs and other larger mammals like the dire wolf and short faced bear that lived at the same time in the same area.

Reason for extinction: Again there is evidence that at least a contributory factor in its extinction was human hunting as well as reduction in large prey animals at the time.


What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? quinkana
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Quinkana23 feet long440 Lbs (disputed) 26 million years to about 10,000 years agoAustralia

Australia is no stranger to huge crocodiles, the Saltwater crocodile is the largest ( current) crocodile species in the world.

however cavemen and early humans would have had something that while looking very similar was an entirely different type of crocodilian to deal with.

Quinkana was larger for a start, but it also was not entirely water based and would be semi aquatic or even land based. Meaning it could move pretty well on land as well. It had longer legs to help it move and more serrated teeth to help it cut rather than grab its prey.

Reason for extinction: It is thought, if quinkana, was semi aquatic then the reducing of the rivers and water ways of Northern australia at the time would have led to its extinction. Other more suited for water life crocodiles moved towards the coasts (salt water..) and the quinkana did or could not.

Elephant birds

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? elephant birds
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Elephant Birds10 feet tall770 to 1600 lbs – 350 to 730 kg? to possibly 800 years or even 300 years agoMadagascar

elephant birds are the largest birds known to have lived. At up to 10 feet tall and weighing over half a ton they populated madagascar to potentially only 300 years ago. This puts them in direct contact with homo sapiens as well as early cavemen like humans.

It is thought that once Madagascar was colonised it was a relatively short time for the last Elephant bird to be killed.

Reason for extinction: There is no escaping the face that these islands bound birds were hunted to extinction by both early and late humans. Especially their eggs which were so large it would have been a full meal for a family.


What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? glyptodont
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Glyptodon9-10 feet longup to 1800 lbs ( 800 kg +)2.5 million years to 11,000 years agoNorth America

The odd looking Glyptodon was an armadillo type animal that lived from 2.5 million years ago to around 11,000 years ago. It was a herbivore that would have been on the menu of a great many predators including cavemen and prehistoric people.

They were huge car sized animals that ate plants and would have been hunted by bears, wolves and terror birds.

Reason for extinction: Once again there is significant evidence that glyptodonts extinction was contributed to by early Humans, with their meat being used and their shells used as shelters ( they were that big)

Marsupial Lion

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? marsupial lion
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Marsupial Lion5 feet long270 lbs +2 million to 46,000 years ago

The marsupial lion, also known as thylacoleo, lived in Australia about 2 million to 46,000 years ago. they could weigh up to 223 lbs and had a formidable bite the strongest for size of any mammal predator.

It can be described as a very large tasmanian devil,

Reason for extinction: Climate change is thought to be the main reason for the marsupial lions extinction. Although Human Action may have been a factor as well.

Wooly Rhino

What animals did cavement live with wooly rhino
Editorial credit: troyka / Shutterstock.com
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Wooly Rhino12 -15 feet long2500 – 4400 lbs3.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago

The woolly rhino was about the same size as the modern day white rhino, although would have looked large due to its thick covering of hair.

There is evidence for cavemen and Wooly Rhino interactions, and cave paintings from france show it was alive and at least close enough to be recognised by early Humans. There is also evidence of some hunting and use of bones

it had a front horn that could be up to 1.4 metres long, making it longer than even a triceratops horn.

Reason for extinction: Although Human hunting is a consideration, there are also other factors like reducing habitat due to climate change and disease as well.

Short faced Bear

short faced bear did caveman live with
AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Short faced bear.5 feet when on four legs, over 12 feet when on 2300-900 kg (660 to 2000 lbs)2.5 million years to 10,000 years ago. North America and Mexico

The short faced bear, or more accurately Arctodus, is the one of the largest ever mammal carnivores ( or omnivores like other bears)

It could be over 12 feet when standing and regularly weighed up to 2000 lbs. Unlike modern bears it had relatively long legs and is thought to have been able to run at 40-45 km per hour.

it lived at the same time as other bears including the black and brown bears, and may have suffered from competition with them.

it is likely, if not hunting ( we did that later to plenty of bears) cavemen and early humans would have had experience with the short faced bear. Possibly over kills and shelter and a human, alone at last, would have been a relatively easy meal for a bear of this size and strength.

reason for extinction: Along with climate change and the reduction in the prey populations for the larger carnivores at the time, it would have had direct and indirect competition for these dwindling resources from not just humans ( this time) but other predators like simildon, bears and wolves.

Terror Birds

AnimalHeight / LengthWeightWhen it livedWhere it Lived
Terror birds3 to 10 feet tall100lbs +62 million years to 100,000 years ago. South America

Although there are some huge and terrifying animals in the list we think we have saved the best for last. We have an article here on if dinosaurs lived with Cavemen or prehistoric humans ( spoiler they didn’t) btu surely the terror bird makes a case that if not by science at least by appearance they did.

terror birds, named phorusrhacidae, actually cover a wide range of species. Living 62 million to just 100,000 years ago they have been around not just with cavemen and early humans but just a few million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Although Humans may have had limited dealings ( thankfully!) with these birds as they were in decline before Neanderthals appeared in large numbers there is a chance that there were meetings with smaller varieties.

Although scary looking animals it is thought they would have preyed mainly on smaller animals as their beak though terrifying looking was not particularly strong.

Reason for extinction: it is likely that climate change and competition with other mammal predators ( possibly early human) were causes for the terror birds extinction.

What Prehistoric Animals Did Cavemen Live with? terror birds
could this look anymore like a dinosaur!


What is of concern that in almost all of the animals detailed above that although not always the primary reason, humans either were or were a contributing reason for their extinction. There are said to be 5 great mass extinctions in the history of life on Earth, and that the next one is actually occuring right now.

it is called the Holocene or Anthropocene Extinction event, and its cause is people. this might be through climate change, deforestation, destruction of habitats or with our cavemen and early human ancestors over hunting.

We have have come a long way since we started to walk upright those 7 million years ago, but when we started putting one foot in front of the other how sure can we be that it was in the right direction.


So while Cavemen ( more commonly known as Homo Erectus or Homo Neanderthals) may not have lived with dinosaurs as depicted in older movies, they didn’t have an easy ride in the 2 or so million years they lived on Earth.

there were plenty of huge terrifying animals that they did live with, from sabre tooth tigers ( simildon) to the frankly dinosaur looking terror birds, it would have made living hunting and lets face it surviving a daily challenge for our ancient ancestors.




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