Knights of Terrova Creature Design: The Atlas Lion, Novasmilodon gigantofatalis
Physical description: The atlas lion is truly a massive cat with males standing 5 feet at the shoulder (1.5 meters) 12 feet in length (3.6 meters) weighing upwards of 950pounds (430 kg) females standing 4 feet at the shoulder (1.2 meters) 9 feet in length (2.7 meters) weighing 700 pounds (317 kg). The most striking feature of this cat is their 14 inch (.35 meters) long top canine teeth, imbued with magic they do not suffer the flaw of their ancestors their top canines are harder to break than a tempered steel sword. The canines of these cats are completely covered by their jowls giving them an almost bulldog-like appearance. Their coat is a light orange-brown color similar to fallen leaves, with a rich chocolate brown patterning similar to that of the old world “king cheetah”. The males sport a bright auburn almost fiery mane ranging to a deep midnight black, this mane seems to work somewhat paradoxically as they are the opposite of old-world lions, with stronger males possessing bright almost flaming manes and weaker males having darker manes. The young of this species are born with light Tawney coats sporting dark grey spots and normal-sized canines although they retain the long jowls of their elders.
Diet: the diet of these cats consists of almost entirely large animals. They will not scavenge each of their meals must come from an animal that they or their pride has taken down and will not eat meat that has been sitting for some days even if it was their kill.
Behavior: The Atlas lion can be found in rather large prides, consisting of 1-5 males all must come from the same bachelor group as once a pride is established it will not accept any outside males, 1-15 females and their cubs. Prides containing over 30 animals have been documented but are exceedingly rare. Watching as pride hunt is a truly remarkable sight, it can truly be boiled down to controlled chaos. The first step of the hunt involves the atlas lions surrounding their prey and sneaking close to the herd, they communicate via low rumbling noises that are too low a frequency for most of their prey to hear. Once close enough the pride relies on the sheer terror and panic they create to single out a prey animal and isolate it, once isolated the third phase of the hunt can begin. The largest of the atlas lions, usually the dominant male, will grab the prey animal by the throat, slashing at it with its massive sabers whilst smaller cats leap on its back and grab its haunches in an attempt to drag it to the ground. Once downed the prey animal is quickly dispatched by an almost surgical bite to the neck slicing through the carotid artery. The chaos of the hunt is turned into an almost stately order with each animal taking their designated places on the kill feeding with no urgency or infighting. These are a relatively territorial animal not tolerating outside atlas lions on their territory but mostly ignore the presence of all other animals. Most of their day is spent sleeping on large flat sunning rocks that lie at the heart of every atlas lion territory, each atlas lion can sleep upwards of 20 hours per day.
Ecology: No animal or man dares to challenge a pride of Atlas lion, this creates an almost lethargy to their behavior as they are unconcerned with their own safety, this is not to say that these are slow animals as they can sprint at speeds of 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour) for short bursts. They live in the dense woodlands or scrublands of the continent rarely venturing into the wetlands or open areas, this provides them ample covor to stalk their prey.
Lifespan: Living to around 20 years old this animal usually reaches these old ages in the wild. Reaching maturity at 5 years of age the Atlas lion is a slow breeding animal with females often only having 2-3 litters in their life. Each litter consists of 1-8 cubs each cub is born around 10 pounds (4.5).
Relationship with Humans: The Atlas lion will often ignore humans and their livestock as they make to small of a meal for the animal to worry about. A starving or sick atlas lion may predate on humans and their livestock though. They will become highly aggressive if you threaten their cubs or den. Currently, there are no known captive atlas lions as they are extremely expensive and time-consuming to maintain as they only eat live prey and require others of their own kind to live with, housing a pride of these animals would require an individual to have a level of wealth and power that is simply relegated to the most powerful underground crime bosses.