An Ultimate Guide to Carnotaurus: The Meat-Eating Bull

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Name MeaningMeat-eating BullHeight3-3.6 meters (10-12 feet)
PronunciationCar-no-tore-usLength5.8-9 meters (19.2-30 feet)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeightOne metric ton (2,000 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ ‬Saurischia & TheropodaLocationArgentina (South America)

Carnotaurus Pictures

The Carnotaurus | Warpaintcobra via GettyImages

The Carnotaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Carnotaurus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Carnotaurus Concept

A genus of prehistoric theropod dinosaurs, Carnotaurus is an enormous carnivorous dinosaur that lived in South America during the Late Cretaceous period, about 70 million years ago.

This species was first discovered in Argentina by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1984.

The species also received its name, meaning “meat-eating bull,” because of its muscular build and bull-like horns above its eyes.

Carnotaurus is a significant discovery in paleontology because it is one of the few well-preserved members of the Abelisauridae family.

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

It is a group of theropod dinosaurs prevalent in the Southern Hemisphere during the Late Cretaceous period. 

Its discovery has helped researchers better understand the evolution and diversity of dinosaurs during this period.

It continues to be a subject of study and fascination for scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike.

Since its discovery in 1984, only one skeleton of the species has been unearthed. As such, a lot remains unknown about Carnotaurus.

However, this article will focus on known facts about the species and their significance.

Physical Characteristics

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Carnotaurus Size Comparison Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Carnotaurus Size Comparison Concept

Carnotaurus is most known for its unique physical features.

The only unearthed specimen measured around 26 feet, making it the lengthiest member of the Abelisauridae family.

Although its exact size is debated, experts estimate the Carnotaurus’ weight to be between 3,300 and over 4,000 pounds and put its height at around 10 feet.

One of the most striking features of the Carnotaurus was its tiny arms. They were only about a third of the size of their hind legs.

The arms had three-fingered hands with sharp claws that were probably used for grasping and holding prey.

Despite their small size, the arms were still strong and could have helped the dinosaur balance while running.

The dinosaur’s legs were long and powerful, designed for running at high speeds.

Its hind legs were longer than its front legs, giving it a distinctive sloping posture.

The dinosaur’s feet had three toes, with the middle toe being the largest and bearing the most weight.

Compared to other dinosaurs in its family, Carnotaurus had a unique skin texture covered in small, bumpy scales.

The scales were tightly packed, giving the dinosaur a rough and pebbly appearance. 

Scientists believe the scales may have been used for protection, as they would have made it difficult for other predators to bite into the dinosaur’s flesh.

The Carnotaurus | Daniel Eskridge via GettyImages

The dinosaur’s coloration has also been a subject of debate among paleontologists.

Some scientists believe that Carnotaurus had a reddish-brown coloration, while others suggest it may have had a mottled pattern of brown and green.

However, there is no definitive evidence to support either theory. 

One thing paleontologists agreed on, however, was the strength of this dinosaur’s teeth and jaw.

Carnotaurus had a powerful bite that was capable of crushing bones.

Its jaws were long and narrow, with sharp, blade-like teeth curved backward.

One of the most unique features of the Carnotaurus’s skull was its highly flexible jaw joint.

This allowed the dinosaur to open its jaws to a much wider angle than other theropods, which would have given it an advantage when hunting.

Habitat and Distribution

As mentioned, the Carnotaurus was a large theropod dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous period, around 70 million years ago.

This dinosaur inhabited South America. At the time of its existence, South America was isolated and separated from other land masses by oceans.

The continent was warm and covered in tropical forests, wetlands, and savannas.

Although the only Carnotaurus fossil was found in the La Colonia Formation of the Chubut Province of Argentina, experts believe the dinosaur’s range was much broader.

They consider that some individuals inhabited Brazil and Uruguay.

Like other parts of South America at the time, these countries, including where the type specimen of the Carnotaurus was found, were covered in savannas and wetlands and had enough space for the dinosaurs to roam.

The Carnotaurus was a bipedal dinosaur, meaning it walked on two legs, and was adapted for running.

Its long, powerful legs and muscular body allowed it to move quickly and efficiently through its environment.

Additionally, its long tail also helped it to balance and change direction quickly.

Behavior and Diet

Carnotaurus in the Wild
Carnotaurus in the Wild | MR1805 via GettyImages

Carnotaurus was a carnivorous dinosaur that used its sharp teeth and strong jaws, well-suited for tearing through flesh and bone, to consume a wide range of prey.

Although this dinosaur might have hunted larger prey when the opportunity presented itself, its more common prey included smaller dinosaurs, including Saltasaurus and the Gasparinisaura.

In addition to hunting, Carnotaurus also scavenged for carrion.

This allowed it to supplement its diet during times when prey was scarce.

Carnotaurus would use its keen sense of smell to locate carrion, and its powerful jaws would allow it to tear through tough flesh and bone.

Asides from its distinctive features, Carnotaurus was famous for its solitary nature.

This dinosaur preferred to live and hunt alone, and experts believe it liked to stalk its prey before attacking.

Its skin allowed it to camouflage perfectly into the surrounding areas, making it easy to attack and kill its intended target.

Once within striking distance, the Carnotaurus would launch at its prey, using its powerful legs to deliver a devastating blow.

This was easy because the Carnotaurus was a relatively fast and agile dinosaur, capable of running up to 25 miles per hour.

Life Cycle

Carnotaurus Replica in Theme Park
Carnotaurus Replica in Theme Park | BitsAndSplits via GettyImages

Like other dinosaurs, the Carnotaurus hatched from eggs laid in twig nests buried underground to protect them from predators.

The incubation period for these eggs was around two to three months, after which they were hatched.

Experts believe that Carnotaurus hatchlings, like other theropods, were covered in downy feathers to help regulate their temperature.

They relied solely on their mothers for food and protection during this period.

As the Carnotaurus grew, it went through several stages of development.

As a juvenile, the Carnotaurus was more independent and began exploring its environment.

It was also at this stage experts believe it started to develop its distinctive horns.

At this stage, Carnotaurus would have begun to devise its hunting skills. It would have learned to hunt smaller prey, like lizards and mammals.

As it grew, it would have become more adept at hunting larger game, such as other dinosaurs.

The Carnotaurus was ready to mate and reproduce by the time it reached adulthood, and males are believed to have competed for the attention of females by engaging in fierce battles to exert dominance.

Carnotaurus Head
Carnotaurus Head | Art by Maurilio Oliveira and Published by Rafael Delcourt via Wikipedia

When a male won the fight and right to mate, he would approach the female and engage in courtship behavior.

The Carnotaurus also likely had internal fertilization, which means that the male’s sperm would have fertilized the female’s eggs inside her body.

The female then laid her eggs in a nest, and the cycle would begin again.

Although there is no precise way of knowing their lifespan, some estimates suggest that this dinosaur lived as long as 25 years.

They also believe that this time frame varied depending on access to food and predation.

Evolution and History

Carnotaurus Skeleton
Carnotaurus Skeleton | GeorgePeters via GettyImages

Carnotaurus was a member of the theropod group of dinosaurs, which included other well-known species such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor.

The theropods were a diverse group of carnivorous dinosaurs that roamed the earth for over 160 million years, from the Late Triassic period to the end of the Cretaceous period.

It is believed to have evolved in South America, where it inhabited Argentina’s lush forests and open grasslands.

Because only one incomplete specimen of this dinosaur was found, much remains unknown about this species.

However, this fossil has provided scientists valuable insights into its anatomy and behavior.

While a generous amount of facts are known about its physical appearance, its relationship with other prehistoric animals is an area that requires further study.

Theropods were a diverse group of dinosaurs characterized by their bipedal stance and carnivorous diet.

Among these theropods, the Carnotaurus was a unique species that stood out due to its distinct physical characteristics.

Despite its distinctive features, Carnotaurus was not alone in the Late Cretaceous period.

Many other prehistoric animals shared their habitat, including other theropod dinosaurs, ornithischian dinosaurs, pterosaurs, sauropods, and ornithopods.

Look at the legs!
Look at the legs! | Fred Wierum via Wikipedia

As a theropod dinosaur, it shared its ecosystem with several other carnivorous dinosaurs.

One of its closest relatives, Abelisaurus, also lived in South America during the Late Cretaceous period.

Abelisaurus was similar in size and shape to Carnotaurus, with a similar diet and lifestyle.

Both predators likely competed for the same prey animals, such as the sauropods in the region.

Another theropod dinosaur that would have been a competitor for Carnotaurus is Giganotosaurus.

Giganotosaurus was one of the heaviest carnivorous dinosaurs of all time, measuring up to 43 feet and weighing over eight tons.

While Giganotosaurus likely preferred larger prey than Carnotaurus, the two predators may have still competed for access to smaller herbivorous dinosaurs.

Other theropod dinosaurs that lived alongside Carnotaurus include Aucasaurus and Majungasaurus.

A Carnotaurus mother brings her offspring down to a river to drink as two Apatosaurus dinosaurs wade by.
A Carnotaurus mother brings her offspring down to a river to drink as two Apatosaurus dinosaurs wade by | CoreyFord via GettyImages

While these species were also theropod dinosaurs, they had different physical characteristics than Carnotaurus.

Ornithischian dinosaurs were a diverse group of herbivorous dinosaurs that lived during the Late Cretaceous period.

Experts believe that these dinosaurs were prey to the Carnotaurus at some point.

While much of the focus on Late Cretaceous ecosystems tends to be on the giant dinosaurs that lived during the period, many smaller mammals coexisted with these giant reptiles.

These mammals likely competed with dinosaurs like Carnotaurus for resources, like smaller prey.

Interaction with Other Species

The Carnotaurus probably frequently interacted with different herbivorous dinosaurs in the ancient environment.

Large herbivores like the Saltasaurus and the Argentinosaurus would have been confronted and hunted by it as a top predator.

Since the Carnotaurus relied mostly on herbivores for nourishment, these interactions were essential to its existence.

This predator-prey connection was crucial in keeping the environment in balance and guaranteeing the survival of both species.

Although being a powerful predator, the Carnotaurus lived in a habitat alongside other large carnivorous dinosaurs.

One of these kinds of dinosaurs was the Giganotosaurus, a huge predator that also preyed on herbivorous dinosaurs.

The Infamous Meat-Eating Bull
The Infamous Meat-Eating Bull | Vac1 via GettyImages

Although sharing comparable ecological niches, the two dinosaurs probably diverged in their preferred prey and hunting methods, which lessened direct rivalry.

Nonetheless, occasionally territorial disputes and conflicts may have occurred, particularly when resources were in short supply.

Interactions between the Carnotaurus and other predators were not limited to hunting.

The Carnotaurus, like many carnivorous dinosaurs, probably ate corpses that had been left behind by other predators or by natural disasters.

When hunting was difficult or ineffective, scavenging offered a substitute food source.

Sharing a corpse may result in occasional fights with other scavengers, including smaller theropods or opportunistic animals like the scavenger dinosaur known as the Majungasaurus.

This dinosaur likely also went after flying reptiles that dominated the Mesozoic skies.

There is a possibility that the Carnotaurus occasionally targeted these aerial creatures, preying on smaller pterosaurs that ventured too close to the ground.

Such interactions may have been rare, but they demonstrate the intricate connections between different groups of prehistoric creatures.

Cultural Significance

Although only one Carnotaurus fossil exists, the dinosaur’s discovery in 1984 opened up new perspectives on the different theropod dinosaurs that lived in the Late Cretaceous.

Its unique physical features have provided new insights into the evolution and diversity of these animals.

Questions have also been raised concerning the function of its shallow, narrow head and short, bull-like horns and how the dinosaur employed them.

The discovery of well-preserved fossils has also allowed scientists to study the skin texture and possible thermoregulatory system of the Carnotaurus.

This has helped us better comprehend the Late Cretaceous period’s ecosystem by revealing new information about the physiology and behavior of these animals.

The Carnotaurus has also hugely impacted popular culture, particularly in the film industry.

Carnotaurus Concept by Walking with Dinosaurs
Carnotaurus Concept by Walking with Dinosaurs | Vaderxl via Walking with Wikis

It has appeared in several movies and TV shows, including Disney’s Dinosaur and the BBC’s Walking with Dinosaurs.

Its distinctive physical features have made it a favorite among filmmakers and dinosaur enthusiasts.

The dinosaur has also been featured in video games, such as Jurassic World Evolution and ARK: Survival Evolved, which have further popularized the dinosaur.

Its unique appearance and reputation as a fierce predator have made it a popular choice for gamers and collectors.


Carnotaurus was an enormous, bipedal dinosaur that lived approximately 70-80 million years ago.

It was first discovered in Argentina in 1984 and is known for its distinctive physical characteristics, including its small, horned head, long neck, and short, muscular arms.

Carnotaurus was a predator and is thought to have primarily hunted small to medium-sized prey, such as other dinosaurs, lizards, and small mammals.

Its sharp, serrated teeth were ideal for tearing flesh, and its strong jaw muscles allowed it to deliver powerful bites.

Despite its fearsome appearance, the Carnotaurus was relatively small compared to other predatory dinosaurs, reaching only around 25 feet and weighing approximately 1-2 tons.

Its small size gave it more agility, making it a successful hunter.

The Carnotaurus has been studied extensively by paleontologists, who have uncovered numerous fossils and analyzed its anatomy to understand its behavior and evolution.

While many mysteries remain about this fascinating dinosaur, its unique physical features, and place in the Late Cretaceous ecosystem make it a popular subject of study and fascination.


How did the Carnotaurus become extinct?

Although scientists are unsure how this species went extinct, the popular belief is it went extinct at the same time as other non-avian dinosaurs that lived in South America.

The most widely accepted theory for the extinction of this species is a massive asteroid impact occurred near the Yucatán Peninsula in what is now Mexico led to the death of the dinosaurs and many other species.

Is Carnotaurus the fastest dinosaur?

With a top speed of 25 to 35 miles per hour, the Carnotaurus is thought to have been among the fastest dinosaurs.

Its legs were unusually long and slender, and its tail was designed to allow the principal locomotor muscles to attach more securely.

Is the Carnotaurus related to the T Rex?

Although these two dinosaurs shared several similarities, including short arms, the Carnotaurus had shorter arms, while the T-rex weighed more.

As such, these two strong dinosaurs were not related.


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