During the night, an old hulking Smilodon had spotted a baby mammoth that had wondered away from its mother. It attacked the calf before mama saw what was happening. The mother charged at the cat making it scatter, but the damage was done, the calf collapsed to the icy ground succumbing to its injuries. The mother hovered over her fallen calf, making it dangerous for the cat to claim its kill. By the time the mammoth did move on, night had given way to morning, and the old fellow found it had found a new obstacle in its way.
The light of the morning revealed a huge muscular sabre-toothed cat standing next to his kill. It was Samson the strong, the slayer of Dire wolvers, the devourer of Mastodons, and he had come to claim the kill. He stood there like a giant boulder, with a thick shoulders, and powerful claws that packed the power to hook into and drag down large animals with ease. A fierce fire burned in his eyes and his mouth opened with a snarl. The legendary sabres gleamed in the morning sun. Around his head and neck was a tousled, curly, voluminous mane. The old fellow could only look upon Sampson with envy and fear as he had never seen a Smilodon like this before. “It’s gotta be the hair, he thought. It’s was beautiful, windswept and flowing. Smapson roared a warning, and swung its killer claws in his direction, which snapped him out of his trance. In its younger days the old fellow had met a short faced bear that fractured his jaw and knew a similar fate awaited him if he contested the kill. He turned and fled. A little ways away, he laid down and curled himself up next to a rough and fissured trunk of a fir tree. As he laid there, he was angry that his break feast was taken from him, and that he would never have hair on his head that would look that nice.
The 2017 Papo Roaring Smilodon is certainly a different take on this classic creature. When I first saw this figure I wasn’t sure about it. It is certainly dynamic but I had some concerns. First it has a mane. Secondly there was just something that looked wrong with the animal, but I couldn’t figure out what.
There isn’t any fossil evidence for a Smilodon having a mane or stripes, but I guess the absence of proof doesn’t mean that it didn’t have them either. Since this figure has a mane and lacks a shaggy coat it does looks a lot like a male lion! But I couldn’t help but wonder, was it a lion in disguise, with large sabers to mask its true identity? I could not make my mind up by looking at pictures online, I needed to hold it in my hands.
I finally found it in a local toy store. I took it off the shelf and held it in my hands for the first time. I turned it over, examined it from all angles, and my mind changed. I used be in sales so I know holding an object, feeling its weight, and having that physical connection to an item can help convince a person to buy it. I like to think this didn’t bias my opinion on why I started to like this toy but as I stood in that store, holding this figure, I noticed just how awesome the musculature was depicted on this animal. You could feel its raw power.
It stretches out at 6 in (15.4 cm) long from paw to paw and is 3.4 in (8.7 cm) high at the top of its mane. The pose is dynamic. Its legs are spread out with one paw reaching out to give you a hand shake or pull you into a hug. The head is up with the jaw wide open snarling at it rivals.
There are three species of Smilodon recognized today: S. gracilis, S. fatalis, and S. populator. Which one this is supposed to represent I do not know. My assumption is that it is modeled after S. populator.
The head with its wrinkled nose, snarling visage, and those gaping jaws are very nicely sculpted. The actual animal had a muzzle that was short and broad and it looks correct on this sculpt. Some people might think the large maxillary canine teeth extending from the mouth look too big, almost like bananas. The upper canines were slender on the real animal, and the ones on this model are a little wider, but I still think they look terrifyingly good. Moving down the animal and looking at the shoulders, limbs, and the flank, there is a sense of power, as you can see the immensely strong muscles under the animal’s skin.
Comparing it to fossil evidence, at first, I thought the back was too long and too extended, as the Smilodon had a stiff and shorter lumbar region. But on closer examination, I couldn’t help and wonder that it might have been possible for it to stretch out this far. If it had enough back flexion, its back would be able to dip down, if the body and limbs were stretched out. Which is what pose this figure is in. I haven’t seen any research that says it couldn’t. The paws might also be slightly larger on this model than in real life. The proportion seemed wrong to me at first glance but ended up matching up closer than I originally thought.
The paint job on the coat is plain dark tan with black fur on the arms and mane. A lighter tan is used on the underside. The stripes on the rump are a dark brown. The claws are a dirty yellow. The scrotum is painted grey. They missed an opportunity to really make this toy stand out. All they needed to do was add some highlights or dry-brushing to the mane, to really make it flow. It would have accentuated its face and body better than the flat base color they used. The same goes for the ball of fur at the end of its small tail.
As for the texture on this toy it is rather smooth. If you close your eyes you can really feel the muscle bulges and the skin where it is folded and bunched up. The long wavy mane on this model is rough to the touch but the rest of the body has very short, almost non existing fur with the exception of the forelimbs. It looks a lot like a lion on the savannah.
Overall: At first glance it looked more like a fictional character or mythical beast like the Nemean lion or Shere Khan than an accurate Smilodon figure. I even named mine after a person of legend. I named it Sampson due to the long flowing mane and the bulging muscles on its frame.
Despite my early trepidations about the figure, I think it is actually quite nice, even with the addition of the mane. I admit that I had to find alternate theories to make the anatomy work, and as I am not a Smilodon expert, these theories might not stand the test of time. This figure is not perfect, but it is nicely sculpted. There are some other good Smilodon’s out there, but in my opinion, this one by Papo has great detail and has been overlooked. If you like Smilodon’s then I think you’ll like this figure too.
Available at Amazon.