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Fossil range: Early to Middle Eocene
Restoration by Heinrich Harder
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Palaeotheriidae
Genus: Palaeotherium
Cuvier, 1804
  •  ?P. curtum
  •  ?P. duvalii
  •  ?P. medium
  • P. parvulum
  • P. muehlbergi
  • P. minus
  • P. magnum
File:Palaeotherium curtum skull.JPG
Palaeotherium curtum skull
Illustration of a tapir-like Palaeotherium from 1905.
Palaeotherium curtum Fossil

Palaeotherium ('old beast') is an extinct genus of primitive perissodactyl ungulate. George Cuvier originally described them as being a kind of tapir, and as such, Palaeotherium is popularly reconstructed as a tapir-like animal. Recent reexaminations of the skulls show that the nasal cavity was not designed to support a small trunk, thus starting a recent trend to reconstruct them as looking more horse-like. Recent anatomical studies also suggest that Palaeotherium, along with other palaeothere genera such as Hyracotherium, were closely related to horses.

The average species of Palaeotherium was about 75 cm (2 ft 6 in) tall at the shoulder and lived in the tropical forests covering Europe around 45 million years ago, during the early to mid Eocene. The largest species, P. magnum of Mid Eocene France, grew to be almost as large as a horse.


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