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Dinosaurs may dominate our imagination when it comes to prehistoric creatures, but there’s a host of other fascinating and terrifying beings that once roamed the Earth. Among them are the intriguingly named “hell pigs,” a group of prehistoric animals that, despite their menacing name, weren’t exactly what they seemed.
Source: PBS Eons/YouTube
The term “hell pigs” doesn’t refer to a single species but encompasses various members of the scientific family Entelodontidae. Contrary to their name, these creatures were not true pigs. Recent research even suggests a closer relation to hippos and cetaceans rather than their domesticated counterparts. Extant between 38 million and 19 million years ago, these prehistoric beings left their mark across the Northern Hemisphere.
Hell pigs were far from friendly-looking, with one of their defining features being a large skull with an elongated facial portion. For instance, the Daedon genus boasted skulls measuring around 90 centimeters (35 inches) in length. Bony outgrowths from their lower jaws, along with large incisors and canines, gave them a carnivorous appearance. Some members of the group, like Daedon, reached staggering weights of around 1,984 pounds. Even the smaller hell pigs weighed about 331 pounds, making them formidable in their own right.
Despite their fearsome appearance, recent research challenges the notion that hell pigs were ruthless carnivores. Previous beliefs suggested they were opportunistic hunters with bone-crushing teeth, akin to hyenas. However, a recent study on Entelodon Magnus, primarily found in Europe, revealed a microwear pattern on their teeth indicative of an omnivorous diet, similar to wild boars. They likely consumed roots and fruits and may have scavenged for meat.
While their diet suggests a more varied approach to sustenance, evidence of healed bite marks on entelodont skulls indicates they weren’t entirely docile. It appears they engaged in combat, possibly over territory or food resources, showcasing a more aggressive side when needed.
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