An Ultimate Guide to Velociraptor: The Quick Plunderers

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 23rd September 2023

Name Meaning“Quick Plunderer or Speedy Thief”Height0.5 meters (1.6 feet)
Pronunciationvuh-LAA-si-rap-torLength1.5–2.07 m (4.9–6.8 ft)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight14.1-19.7 kg (31–43 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Saurischia & TheropodaLocationMongolia and China (Asia)

Velociraptor Pictures

Velociraptor | Elenarts108 via iStock

The Velociraptor

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Velociraptor Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Velociraptor Concept

The Velociraptor is a genus of turkey-sized dromaeosaurid dinosaurs that lived in Asia during the Late Cretaceous Period between 75 million to 71 million years ago.

It is one of the most recognizable dinosaurs in pop culture due to appearances in the Jurassic Park movie franchise, where it was portrayed as a highly intelligent dinosaur species. 

The Velociraptor was first discovered in 1923 during an expedition of the American Museum of Natural History to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

Since then, over a dozen fossils of them have been discovered and described, making it one of the best-known dinosaurs to paleontologists. 

Velociraptor mongoliensis sickle claw
Velociraptor mongoliensis sickle claw | Walter Geiersperger via GettyImages

The discovery and study of the Velociraptor are significant not just because of what it tells us about the ancient world of dinosaurs but also due to their link to the present due to their relationship with modern birds.

Birds are considered avian dinosaurs, descended from non-avian dinosaurs like the Velociraptor and its close relatives.

In this post, we’ll explain some of the known facts about this dinosaur genus and its significance.

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

Physical Characteristics

Dinosaur Velociraptor standing black background
Dinosaur Velociraptor standing black background | bbevren via iStock

The Velociraptor was featured in the Jurassic Park movie as a giant scaly dinosaur that was up to 1.8-2.1 meters (7 feet) tall and about 4.6 meters (15 feet) in length.

This on-screen version of the dinosaur was scaled up for dramatic effect, and it’s closer in size to the Deinonychus—a relative of this speedy thief. 

In reality, the Velociraptor was a small, agile, feathered carnivore that looked more like a vicious turkey.

It was only about 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) tall at the hips and approximately 1.5–2.07 meters (4.9–6.8 feet) long.

Estimates of this dinosaur’s weight place it between 14.1 and 19.7 kg (31–43 pounds).

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Velociraptor Size Comparison Chart
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Velociraptor Size Comparison Chart

This means it was about half the size of the version shown in movies and looked considerably different. 

Velociraptor was a bipedal dinosaur with a slender and agile build. It had a small, elongated head about 23 centimeters (9.1 inches) long.

Scientists think its elongated head made room for a relatively large brain compared to many other dinosaurs.

It also had a long tail that may have helped with balance.

This dinosaur’s jaws were equipped with sharp, serrated teeth that curved backward slightly. 

Velociraptor, like other dromaeosaurid dinosaurs, walked on three toes.

The second toes of this dinosaur’s feet ended in a long sharp claw.

Velociraptor: The iconic 'speedy thief,' a small but highly intelligent and formidable dinosaur known for its hunting prowess | Kitti Kahotong via iStock
The iconic ‘speedy thief,’ a small but highly intelligent and formidable dinosaur known for its hunting prowess | leonello via iStock

These curved talons were up to 6.5cm (2.5 inches) long and were used by the Velociraptor to slash at prey. 

Velociraptor had many bird-like qualities, the most notable of which is its plumage.

In 2007 scientists found fossils of a Velociraptor with quill knobs on their forearms.

Skeletal structure of Velociraptor
Skeletal structure of Velociraptor | Eduard Solà Vázquez via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

This feature helps to anchor feather quills to the bones of the forearm and is seen in modern birds as well.

But unlike birds, the Velociraptor’s arms were too short to support flight. 

Habitat and Distribution

Velociraptors lived during the Late Cretaceous in a region that is now in present-day Asia.

Their range would have covered the location of present-day China and Mongolia.

During the Cretaceous, Asia was part of a supercontinent known as Laurasia which included the landmass of North America, Europe, and Asia. 

The continent was warm and temperate and had distinct wet and dry seasons.

Mongolia and China were in a more inland position compared to their current locations, but the landscape still had extensive river systems, forested areas, and vast plains. 

A predatory Velociraptor stalking a pair of Protoceratops during Earths Cretaceous period.
A predatory Velociraptor stalking a pair of Protoceratops during Earths Cretaceous period | Mark Stevenson via GettyImages

The Djadokhta Formation of Mongolia, where several Velociraptor fossils have been found, has been characterized as an arid or semi-arid environment.

This formation is located in the present-day Gobi Desert, which means the habitat has remained relatively the same since the time the Velociraptor lived there.

The landscape would have consisted of desert-like sand dunes but with a few intermittent lakes and floodplains.

This is why the dinosaur has been nicknamed the desert darter. 

Behavior and Diet

Computer-generated 3D illustration with the Dinosaur Velociraptor
Computer-generated 3D illustration with the Dinosaur Velociraptor | MR1805 via iStock

Velociraptor was an active and agile predator with behaviors similar to those of modern-day birds of prey.

It was bipedal and likely a fast runner, capable of reaching high speeds to pursue its prey.

Its long hind legs and lightweight build would have allowed it to cover a lot of ground quickly, while its long tail helped with balance.

So far,  no fossils have been found in close association with other individuals.

However, scientists have discovered fossils of Deinonychus, a close relative of the Velociraptor, in association with other dinosaurs.

This has been cited as evidence of pack hunting and other types of social behavior in the dromaeosaurid dinosaurs.

It is possible that the Velociraptor exhibited this type of social behavior, too, especially while hunting.

Velociraptor chase a Bagaceratops in a prehistoric desert.
Velociraptor chase a Bagaceratops in a prehistoric desert | Yuriy Priymak via GettyImages

Recent studies have hinted at the possibility of Velociraptors being more intelligent than previously believed.

The size of its brain, relative to its body, suggests a higher level of cognitive ability, including the possibility that this dinosaur possessed some problem-solving skills and exhibited complex behaviors.

Velociraptor was a carnivorous predator, and its diet mainly consisted of other small to medium-sized dinosaurs and other animals of its time.

One evidence of predatory behavior in the Velociraptor was the famous fighting dinosaur specimen discovered in 1971.

This specimen of a Velociraptor preserved alongside a Protoceratops suggests a fatal encounter between these two dinosaurs. 

These dinosaurs likely used their sharp claws and teeth to capture and kill their prey.

Once thought to be a disembowelment tool, scientists now think the large, sickle-shaped claws on the second toe of the Velociraptor were used for stabbing prey or as a hook to prevent prey from escaping.

Life Cycle

Velociraptor was a carnivorous theropod dinosaur that lived in Mongolia, China, during the Cretaceous Period.
Velociraptor was a carnivorous theropod dinosaur that lived in Mongolia, China, during the Cretaceous Period | CoreyFord via GettyImages

Like other dinosaurs, Velociraptors reproduced sexually.

They laid eggs, and scientists think they may have stayed around their nest to defend their eggs or brooded as some modern birds do. 

One piece of evidence of this was the discovery of the Oviraptor, a relative of the Velociraptor, in a nest with eggs and offspring.

This suggests that female dromaeosaurids laid a clutch of eggs in a nest on the ground and incubated them.

It’s also likely that they provided parental care to their young after hatching. 

Velociraptor dinosaur, scientifically correct, with feathers.
Velociraptor dinosaur, scientifically correct, with feathers | leonello via iStock

Scientists have found fossilized bones of Velociraptor individuals at different stages of growth.

This has made it possible to study the growth patterns of this dinosaur.

Evidence suggests that Velociraptor hatchlings were small and relatively helpless, requiring parental care until they could fend for themselves.

They likely underwent growth within a relatively short period to go from hatching to adulthood.

Evolution and History

Agile dinosaur observing in a araucaria tree forest
Velociraptor dinosaur observing in a araucaria tree forest | Elenarts108 via iStock

Velociraptor belongs to the family Dromaeosauridae, a group of small to medium-sized theropod dinosaurs known for their bird-like characteristics.

Dromaeosaurids are part of a larger group called Maniraptora, which includes modern birds and some of their other closest relatives among the theropod dinosaurs. 

Dromaeosaurid dinosaurs appeared in the geologic record during the mid-Jurassic Period.

The earliest dromaeosaurids shared a common ancestor with modern birds and were probably capable of flight.

Gage Beasley's Film-Inspired Velociraptor Plush Toy
Gage Beasley’s Film-Inspired Velociraptor Plush Toy

It is believed that the Velociraptor and other members of this family that evolved later became secondarily flightless. 

The quill knobs in the ulna of their forelimbs are a feature seen in flying birds today but not in flightless birds.

Their presence, therefore, suggests that the Velociraptor and other large dromaeosaurids lost their ability to fly as they evolved a larger body size. 

Interactions With Other Species

Tarbosaurus attacked by a group of Velociraptor dinosaurs.
Tarbosaurus attacked by a group of Velociraptor dinosaurs | Image via Stocktrek Images

Velociraptor was an active predator that dominated the desert plains of Late Cretaceous Mongolia.

Given their size, they probably targeted small to medium prey.

The Velociraptor’s sharp teeth and long curved claws would have made it an effective hunter.

They also moved very quickly, chasing down prey such as small herbivorous dinosaurs like the Protoceratops and other similarly-sized species. 

There’s also evidence that Velociraptors exhibited some level of scavenging behavior.

Scientists have found pieces of bones from dinosaurs that would have been too big for the Velociraptor to hunt in its gut. 

Velociraptors probably faced competition from other predators living within the same ecosystem.

Dinosaur species roaming in nature.
Velociraptors with other dinosaur species roaming in nature | Orla via iStock

The Djadokhta and Bayan Mandahu Formations, where fossils of this dinosaur have been found, also had fossils of other dromaeosaurid dinosaurs and bones from other carnivore dinosaur groups that would have competed for prey and other resources.

Examples include theropod dinosaurs such as Machairasaurus and troodontids like Linhevenator

Larger dinosaurs like the Tarbosaurus also lived in Asia around the same time.

Although Velociraptors targeted smaller prey compared to these larger predators, occasional competition for resources may have still occurred.

As a scavenger, these dinosaurs may have followed these large dinosaurs like some small-sized carnivores do, feasting on leftovers from bigger prey killed by them. 

Cultural Significance

Running velociraptor watercolor illustration.
Running velociraptor watercolor illustration | Elena Malgina via iStock

Velociraptor is one of the most well-known dinosaurs both to paleontologists and the general public.

This dinosaur and its close relatives have served as key reference points in the study of the evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and modern birds.

The presence of feathers and other bird-like characteristics in Velociraptors has been severally studied by scientists seeking to uncover clues about the origins of flight and other avian traits.

Velociraptor gained widespread recognition and popularity with the public through its depiction in the Jurassic Park novel and the film series adapted from it.

In Jurassic Park, this dinosaur is often depicted as an intelligent, agile, and deadly pack hunter.

However, it is important to note that the characteristics of the on-screen Velociraptor have been significantly exaggerated for dramatic effects.

Not only was the real-life version of this creature smaller than the on-screen version, but it also had feathers and may not have hunted in packs. 

Witness the sleek and agile form of Velociraptor, a predator with sharp claws, a long tail, and a keen sense of vision
Witness the sleek and agile form of Velociraptor, a predator with sharp claws, a long tail, and a keen sense of vision | MR1805 via iStock

In fact, the Jurassic Park version of the Velociraptor is based almost entirely on the Deinonychus, a close relative but completely different genus of dromaeosaurid dinosaur.

Michael Crichton, the writer of the original Jurassic Park novel, modeled the dinosaur after the Deinonychus but had to change the name to Velociraptor because the latter’s name was more dramatic. 

Despite these obvious inaccuracies, dinosaur fans still find this dinosaur intriguing.

The distinct physical appearance of this dinosaur, such as its sharp claws and toothy jaws, has inspired its depiction as one of the most recognizable symbols of the prehistoric world. 

Various velociraptor-inspired imagery has been featured in various forms of media, including books, toys, video games, and other merchandise, contributing to its enduring cultural presence.


Velociraptor was a medium-sized bipedal dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous in present-day Mongolia and China.

It is popular as an agile and deadly predator that took down Protoceratops and other similarly-sized dinosaurs and reptiles.

The dinosaur is also popular for its distinct bird-like appearance. 

Since its discovery and subsequent portrayal in the movies, Velociraptor has captured the public’s attention as one of the most intriguing dinosaur species.

Aside from that, this dinosaur also holds scientific significance due to its evolutionary relationship with modern-day birds.

Its unique characteristics and impressive fossil discoveries, like the famous fighting dinosaur, continue to propagate the emblematic status of this dinosaur genus. 


Can a Velociraptor fly?

Despite its plumage and wing-like arms, Velociraptors and other dromaeosaurids were incapable of flight.

It did have many bird-like features, including the fused collarbone seen in modern birds.

The shape of this bone was not the right shape to support flight. 

What was the habitat of Velociraptor?

Velociraptors lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 75-71 million years ago.

It inhabited parts of what is now Mongolia and China.

The environment during that time was characterized by arid or semiarid plains with occasional forests, rivers, and lakes.

How fast was Velociraptor?

Based on anatomical features such as its long legs, lightweight build, and evidence of adaptations for agility, scientists estimate that the Velociraptor could have achieved speeds of around 40-50 kilometers per hour (25-31 miles per hour).

This estimate is similar to that of some modern-day medium-sized mammals and birds.

Were there different species of Velociraptor?

Yes,  there are currently two species of these dinosaurs.

The first species, Velociraptor mongoliensis was discovered in 1923, while the second (Velociraptor osmolskae) was named in 2008. 


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