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Did Ratha really exist?
Many readers have asked me what prehistoric species Ratha is based on. Originally, I chose Nimravus, a leopard-like creature from the early Miocene. I was inspired the Charles R. Knight painting of Nimravus fighting with another early sabertoothed nimravid, Eusmilus. At the time Knight did the painting, nimravids were thought to be early felids and were called "paleofelids".
Painting by Charles R. Knight
The painting visualises a real incident in paleo-history, since Knight based it on a Nimravus skull that had a hole in the forehead that matched a Eusmilus saber. Eusmilus got Nimravus right through the forehead, as depicted. Interestingly enough, the Nimravus skull shows signs of healing, which indicates that the individual lived for a while after the attack. It suggested an intriguing story, which became part of the idea for Ratha's Creature.
Nimravus later gave its name to its family, which is called Nimravidae. Individual species are nimravids, such as the one shown.
Image from the John Day Formation (Oregon) website
This fossil of N. brachiops (Eaton - 1926) included only the neck and head, so little is known about the body and legs. The different artists used their own judgement and interpretation. Knight's Nimravus appears to based more on the African leopard, with it's longer legs. Another nimravid, Nimravus' cousin Dinictis, does have longer limbs.
The John Day artist portrays it more like the tree-climbing Asian clouded leopard, with a longer body and shorter legs. He may have based his interpretation on the skeleton of Proaelurus, thought to be directly ancestral to the felids.