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Phorusrhacos is a genus of terror bird from the Late Pliocene to the Late Pleistocene in what is now South America.


Phorusrhacos had a skull 26 inches (66 cm) long, stood 7 feet 10 inches to 8 feet 10 inches (238 cm to 269 cm) tall, and weighed 290 pounds (131 kg). It had very strong legs, capable of running at high speed, and had flightless wings, a long neck, and a large head. This ended in a huge, hooked beak that could tear through flesh easily, or stab into prey. The lower jaw was smaller than the upper jaw. There were three toes on each of the feet, all of which were armed with sharp claws. It lived on pampas in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.

Discovery and Classification[]

Phorusrhacos was part of the group called the Phorusrhacidae, which is an extinct group of flightless, cursorial carnivorous birds

Remains are known from several localities in the Santa Cruz Formation and Monte León Formation in the Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. Among the bones found in the strata of the Santa Cruz Formations (now considered as mainly of mid-Miocene date) was the piece of a mandible which was discovered by Florentino Ameghino in early 1887 and the same year at first described as that of an edentate mammal which he named Phorusrhacos longissimus.

The generic name means "Rag Bearer", probably in reference to the wrinkled jaw surface. When the original derivation was no longer understood, other translations were given, such as the literal translation of "Rag-Thief", and "branch-holder" from the mistaken assumption the name had been intended to be derived from a Greek rhakis, "branch". The specific name means "very long" in Latin, again in reference to the lower jaws. The holotype is the mandible, specimen MLP-118 (Museo de La Plata). In 1889 Ameghino amended the name to a more grammatically correct Phororhacos but the earlier name has priority. In 1891, it was by him recognized to be a bird.

In the Media[]

  • Prehistoric Park, "Saving the Sabretooth" where one male is brought back by Nigel Marvin.
  • Walking with Beasts, episode 5 "Sabre Tooth"
  • It (or Gastornis) Appeared in the 1918 movie The Ghost of Slumber Mountain
  • Phorusrhacos’ first verified appearance was in the 1961 movie Mysterious Island
  • A single individual appears in the documentary Life on our Planet, where it hunts down a group of Theosodon. After chasing the group, it finally catches a young Theosodon and kills it.