Entelodonts, sometimes nicknamed “hell pigs” or “terminator pigs”, are an extinct family of pig-like omnivores endemic to forests and plains of North America, Europe, and Asia from the middle Eocene to early Miocene epochs (37.2—16.3 mya), existing for approx 20.9 million years.
The largest were the North American Daeodon shoshonensis, the Entelodon and the Eurasian Paraentelodon intermedium, standing up to 2.1 m (6.9 ft) tall at-shoulder, with brains the size of an orange. A single specimen was recorded for body mass and was estimated to have a weight of 421 kg (930 lb). Their teeth suggest an omnivorous diet, similar to that of modern pigs. Like many other artiodactyls, they had cloven hooves, with two toes touching the ground, and the remaining two being vestigial.
Entelodonts lived in the forests and plains where they were the apex predators of North America’s Early Miocene and Oligocene, consuming carrion and live animals and rounding off their diet with plants and tubers. They would have hunted large animals dispatching them with a blow from their jaws. Some fossil remains of these other animals have been found with the bite marks of entelodonts on them. Like modern day pigs, they were omnivores, eating both meat and plants, but their adaptations show a bias towards live prey and carrion…
(images: T - Elotherium by Heinrich Harder, 1920; ML - skull of Archaeotherium by H. Zell; MR - Archaeotherium by Robert Bruce Horsfall, 1913; BL - Daeodon by Jay Materness, Smithsonian mural, 1964; Daeodon skeleton)
Yes, it’s an entelodont – a member of a group of fossil artiodactyls that inhabited North America, Eurasia and Africa between the Eocene and Miocene, with the oldest species in the group being those of Middle Eocene Asia.
Entelodonts (properly Entelodontidae) have generally been regarded as suiforms (close kin to pigs and peccaries) but some recent analyses have found the sampled members of the group to be members of the hippo + cetacean clade Cetancodontamorpha (O’Leary & Gatesy 2008, Spaulding et al. 2009) and hence fairly well removed phylogenetically from pigs and peccaries. Andrewsarchus, the famous Eocene giant predator or omnivore so often regarded as a mesonychian (or mesonychid), seems to be a cetancodontamorphan close to entelodonts (see the links below for much more on Andrewsarchus).
Entelodonts are widely regarded as omnivores that scavenged dead animals and, at least sometimes, caught and ate live ones. Evidence for this omnivorous lifestyle comes from their pointed incisors, recurved, pointed, serrated canines , serrated premolars and an unusually mobile jaw joint. Further evidence comes from studies on bite strength (Effinger 1998, Joeckel 1990) and from bite marks left on the bones of other mammals (Hunt 2005). Oh yeah, and there’s the discovery of a pile of bitten-in-half little camels from the Early Oligocene, the marks on their bones matching the tooth anatomy of the entelodont Archaeotherium (Sundell 1999). Massive bony cheek flanges and bony tubercles on the lower jaw might have been used in intraspecific fights, and some specimens preserve skull injuries apparently inflicted by other entelodonts…
Debonair and poised with a fetching meal of a recognizable theropod in its teeth, Luis V. Rey’s Entelodont painting is comedic and effective at conveying the idea that these huge, toothy creatures were predators not to be trifled with. An illustration like this, while fun and beautifully rendered, also sends a sharp message: learn more about entelodonts!
eximago: One time, I got really agitated with some reconstructions of Archaeotherium which gave it a really pig like snout when there isn’t really reason to believe they had such a prominent one. As carnivores, they wouldn’t have needed the shovel-disc nose that’s useful for digging for tubers.
So, I drew one with a reduced one. It may not even had one at all. But I may have an illness.
… sometimes nicknamed Hell Pigs or Terminator Pigs is an extinct family of enormous pig-like omnivores endemic to forests and plains of North America, Europe, and Asia from the middle Eocene to early Miocene epochs (37.2—16.3 mya), existing for approximately 20.9 million years… Entelodonts lived in the forests and plains where they were the apex predators of North America’s Early Miocene and Oligocene, consuming carrion and live animals and rounding off their diet with plants and tubers. ..
“Hell Pigs” or Entelodonts (family Entelodontidae)
Entelodonts spent a lot of time fighting with their own kind. Many entelodont skulls have very severe wounds - some have gashes up to 2cm deep in the bone between the eyes - which can only have been inflicted by other entelodonts during fights. In fact it seems to have been quite common for one to fit another’s head entirely in its mouth! The bony lumps all over their faces, like those of modern warthogs, were designed to protect delicate areas during these fights. This seems to have worked well, since even very scarred entelodonts show no damage to the protected eyes or nose.
* Entelodonts were omnivorous (actually highly predatory), and they were enormous (7 ft tall at the shoulder and up to over 900 lbs). They weren’t actually pigs (family Suidae) but in a closely related family (Entelodontidae).