Throat clamp

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Coyote with a typical throat hold on domestic sheep Coyote with typical hold on lamb.jpg
Coyote with a typical throat hold on domestic sheep

Throat clamp is method of subduing often seen in predatory felids and occasionally canids and hyaenids. It involves the predator grasping the throat of the prey and clamping tight so that the windpipe is either crushed or blocked. Cats use this to kill prey while dogs and hyenas use this to weaken the prey before eating it, generally alive. It's more often used than the muzzle clamp and is generally safer, though slower. It is usually and most effective when positioned as near to the mandible as the carnivore can get. Between the larynx and the jaw, the windpipe is surrounded with less cartilage and is more malleable, while lower down, near the chest, the passageway would be increasingly harder to collapse, so the throat clamp is usually positioned high up on the animal's neck.

The muzzle clamp is a method of killing used by large predators, usually cats such as Panthera leo, the lion, Panthera pardus, the leopard, and Panthera uncia, the snow leopard. It requires the subduing of prey, usually completely on the ground and pinned by the predator, and the engulfing of the muzzle of the prey in the mouth of the predator, blocking respiration through either the mouth or nose.

Mandible The lower jaw bone

The mandible, lower jaw or jawbone is the largest, strongest and lowest bone in the human face. It forms the lower jaw and holds the lower teeth in place. The mandible sits beneath the maxilla. It is the only movable bone of the skull.

Larynx voice box, an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals

The larynx, commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the top of the neck of tetrapods involved in breathing, producing sound, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. The larynx houses the vocal folds, and manipulates pitch and volume, which is essential for phonation. It is situated just below where the tract of the pharynx splits into the trachea and the esophagus. The word larynx comes from a similar Ancient Greek word.



If the prey is on the ground and pinned, most predators position themselves behind the animal to use their body's weight to help control the movements of the prey and reach around to grab the throat, usually twisting the head around, aiding in both their grasp and the blocking of the windpipe.

If the prey is standing, a solitary predator can use a throat clamp usually only if the prey is small or in shock. A strong, large animal can easily kick and injure the predator from this angle. A social predator can use the standing throat clamp much more easily because there can be other individuals on the back of the prey, stopping it from kicking, which could lead to collapse, or using a throat clamp periodically to tire the animal out. This latter method usually involves large, patient carnivores such as Canis lupus or the wolf and Lyacon pictus or the African wild dog. They surround the prey in relatively large numbers, individuals taking turns to jump in and grab the prey by the flanks to try and pull it down, while the prey forcing them off grows exhausted, and in the meantime, more experienced individuals secure a throat clamp on the distracted animal and hold on as long as possible to the struggling prey. The temporary throat clamp can make the prey dizzy and uncoordinated and even force it to go into shock if the chase and attack wasn't enough, aiding in the predator's attempts to pull it to the ground. Agile predators such a lions have been observed to perch on the upper back and neck of large cape buffalo and wrap around to secure a partial throat clamp.

Acute stress reaction is a psychological condition arising in response to a terrifying or traumatic event, or witnessing a traumatic event that induces a strong emotional response within the individual. It should not be confused with the unrelated circulatory condition of shock/hypoperfusion. Acute stress reaction (ASR) may develop into delayed stress reaction if stress is not correctly managed. ASR is characterized by re-living and avoiding reminders of an aversive event, as well as generalized hypervigilance after initial exposure to a traumatic event. ASR is differentiated from PTSD as a disorder that precedes it, and if symptoms last for more than one month, it will develop into PTSD. It can thus be thought of as the acute phase of PTSD.

African wild dog species of canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa

The African wild dog, also known as the painted hunting dog, painted wolf, African hunting dog,Cape hunting dog or African painted dog, is a canid native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest of its family in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon, which is distinguished from Canis by dentition highly specialised for a hypercarnivorous diet, and a lack of dewclaws. It was classified as endangered by the IUCN in 2016, as it had disappeared from much of its original range. The 2016 population was estimated at roughly 39 subpopulations containing 6,600 adults, only 1,400 of which were reproductive. The decline of these populations is ongoing, due to habitat fragmentation, human persecution and disease outbreaks.


Strong canines are generally required for this move: canines that are too short won't penetrate deeply enough and struggling prey can tear free, while canines that are too long or weak can be broken in the struggle with large prey. This fact created a controversy that is still generally unresolved as to the killing tactics of the extinct carnivores machairodonts, or sabre-toothed cats. Strong jaws are often needed to compress the windpipe far enough.

Most often, the canines pierce the prey behind the windpipe so that it is not torn, but compressed between premolars of upper and lower jaws. It can be compared to the bit of a horse's bridal in placement. With the mouth completely enclosing the windpipe, it is, if the predator does not relax its grip, very difficult to break free from.

Alternative forms

Occasionally, and as suggested for the killing method of machairodonts, the canines actually pierce the windpipe and the surrounding blood vessels so that the tear in arteries and adjacent windpipe lead to a flow of blood into the windpipe and down into the lungs where the animal essentially drowns in its own blood. [1] This method has not been used regularly by any modern carnivores and is, due to the bloody nature, not suitable for an area with high competition due to the smell attracting other predators. It can be argued that this not a true throat clamp, but another specialized type of killing.

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Carnivore organism that eats mostly or exclusively animal tissue

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Predation A biological interaction where a predator kills and eats a prey organism

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<i>Machairodus</i> genus of mammals (fossil)

Machairodus is a genus of large machairodontine saber-toothed cats that lived in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America from the late Miocene to the Middle Pleistocene. It is the animal from which the family Machairodontidae gets its name and has since become a wastebasket taxon over the years as many genera of sabertooth cat have been and are still occasionally lumped into it.

Dinofelis is a genus of extinct sabre-toothed cats belonging to the tribe Metailurini. They were widespread in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America at least 5 million to about 1.2 million years ago. Fossils very similar to Dinofelis from Lothagam range back to the Late Miocene, some 8 million years ago.

<i>Smilodon</i> An extinct genus of saber-toothed cat

Smilodon is a genus of the extinct machairodont subfamily of the felids. It is one of the most famous prehistoric mammals, and the best known saber-toothed cat. Although commonly known as the saber-toothed tiger, it was not closely related to the tiger or other modern cats. Smilodon lived in the Americas during the Pleistocene epoch. The genus was named in 1842, based on fossils from Brazil. Three species are recognized today: S. gracilis, S. fatalis, and S. populator. The two latter species were probably descended from S. gracilis, which itself probably evolved from Megantereon. The hundreds of individuals obtained from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles constitute the largest collection of Smilodon fossils.

Herd group of animals

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Saber-toothed cat

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Black-backed jackal species of mammal

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Machairodontinae extinct subfamily of mammals

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Smilodontini tribe of mammals

Smilodontini is an extinct tribe within the Machairodontinae or "saber-toothed cat" subfamily of the Felidae. The tribe is also known as the "dirk-toothed cats". They were endemic to South America, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa during the Miocene to Pleistocene, from 10.3 mya—11,000 years ago, existing for approximately 10.289 million years.

<i>Megantereon</i> Extinct genus of saber-toothed cat from North America, Eurasia and Africa

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<i>Acinonyx pardinensis</i> species of mammal (fossil)

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Domestic sheep predation

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Intraguild predation

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<i>Amphimachairodus</i> genus of mammals

Amphimachairodus is an extinct genus of large machairodonts belonging to the clade known as Eumachairodontia along with relatives like Smilodon and Homotherium. It is also a member of the tribe Homotherini within Machairodontidae and is most closely related to such species as Xenosmilus, Homotherium itself, and Nimravides. It inhabited Eurasia, Northern Africa and North America during the late Miocene epoch.

Promegantereon is an extinct genus of machairodont from the Miocene of Europe. It is one of the oldest machairodont cat species in the Smilodontini and is believed to be an ancestor of Megantereon and Smilodon.


  1. Turner, Alan (1997). Big Cats and their Fossil Relatives. Columbia University Press. ISBN   0-231-10229-1.