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Velociraptor: Quick Facts

Larry Slawson received his master's degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.

Depiction of Velociraptor in the movie "Jurassic Park"

Depiction of Velociraptor in the movie "Jurassic Park"

Velociraptor: Quick Facts

  • Species: Velociraptor mongoliensis
  • Discovery: 1924 (Henry Fairfield Osborn)
  • Regional Origins: Mongolia and Upper China region
  • Measurements: Approximately the size of a large turkey; 6.8 feet long and only 1.6 feet tall
  • Weight: Approximately 15 kilograms (33 pounds)
  • Speed (estimated): Disputed; believed to have a top speed of 40 miles per hour
  • Lifespan: Believed to live for approximately 15–20 years
  • Feeding habits: Predator; scavenger; nocturnal; likely fed on small reptiles, insects, and amphibians
  • Period: Late Cretaceous period (approximately 71–75 million years ago)
  • Number of fossils found: Approximately a dozen specimens
  • Skin/appearance: Disputed – believed to have had a feathery appearance, along with a long tail and large, retractable claw; skin color is currently unknown, however

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Clade: Dinosauria
  • Order: Saurischia
  • Suborder: Theropoda
  • Family: Dromaeosauridae
  • Subfamily: Velociraptorinae
  • Genus: Velociraptor
Scientific depiction of Velociraptor

Scientific depiction of Velociraptor

Quick Facts About Velociraptors

  • Velociraptor (which means "swift seizer" in Latin) was a dromaeosaurid dinosaur that lived 71 to 75 million years ago (during the Cretaceous period). Velociraptor was bipedal, and likely had a feathered body, similar to modern birds. Two species of Velociraptor have been discovered by archaeologists so far, including V. Mongoliensis and V. Osmolskae. Velociraptor was first discovered during an American Museum of Natural History outing to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Here, on August 11th, 1923, Peter Kaisen discovered the first recorded fossil of Velociraptor. It wasn’t until 1924, however, when Henry Fairfield Osborn (Museum President of the American Museum of Natural History) declared the find as a new specimen; dubbing it "Velociraptor." The term is a play on two separate Latin words: velox (which means swift) and raptor (which means robber).
  • Along with Velociraptor’s long tail, the dinosaur also possessed a sickle-shaped, retractable claw on each of its feet. Scientists and archaeologists believe that this claw was used to disembowel its prey, as the dinosaur was most certainly a carnivore. At nearly 2.6 inches long, this claw was highly effective in both tearing and restraining its prey. Velociraptor also possessed two additional claws on each foot that were quite similar to the wing bones of modern-day birds.
  • Despite Jurassic Park's depiction of Velociraptor as a medium-sized reptile (human-height), Velociraptor was actually quite small in real life. In fact, the animal was roughly the size of a modern turkey. Fossil remains indicate that Velociraptor measured up to 6.8 feet long and approximately 1.6 feet high, with an average body weight of 33 to 43 pounds.
  • In 1971, a "Fighting Dinosaurs" specimen of Velociraptor was discovered that provided direct evidence of the animal’s predatory traits, due to its stance and combat readiness alongside Protoceratops specimen. Judging from the attack stance, scientists believe that Velociraptor was likely a scavenger but also actively hunted animals of similar (or smaller) dimensions. Velociraptor’s sickle-claw appears to have been its most potent weapon and was likely used by the animal to disembowel or pierce vital organs, particularly in the abdominal regions and throat. Scientists remain unsure as to whether or not Velociraptor hunted alone or in packs. It is also unclear if Velociraptor preferred hunting in the day or at night; though, more recent evidence tends to support the idea that Velociraptor may have been more nocturnal.
Fossilized Velociraptor remains

Fossilized Velociraptor remains

More Fun Facts

  • Jurassic Park’s portrayal of Velociraptor is actually inaccurate, in a number of ways. Raptors in the movie were actually based on a completely different animal, known as Deinonychus. Velociraptor, in reality, was not much bigger than modern-day turkeys.
  • Scientists believe that Velociraptor may have used its sharp claws as a means for climbing as well. Although evidence remains thin on this subject matter, some argue that the shape and dimensions of Velociraptor’s claws would have offered it superior climbing abilities, particularly along the bark of trees.
  • Some scientists believe that Velociraptor was quite intelligent, due to its larger-than-average brain. However, until more fossilized remains can be uncovered (that indicate behavioral patterns), this idea remains only a hypothesis for the time being.

“Raptors did not actually resemble the reptilian monsters depicted in popular cinema, but were very large predatory ground birds, some with wings of substantial size. The ‘raptors’ did not closely resemble their carnosaurian cousins, but rather oversized Archaeopteryx.”

— Matthew P. Martyniuk

Quotes About Velociraptors

  • "As I’ve said numerous times before, there is no proof that this theropod had chimpanzee-level intelligence, nor that it hunted in organized packs. It may seem obvious, but it shouldn’t be seen as a terrifying ‘killing machine,’ but simply as an interesting and opportunistic diapsid predator which was most probably a solitary ambush hunter, with a behavior and intelligence intermediate between that of crocodiles and large flightless birds." —Andrea Cau
  • "Raptors did not actually resemble the reptilian monsters depicted in popular cinema, but were very large predatory ground birds, some with wings of substantial size. The ‘raptors’ did not closely resemble their carnosaurian cousins, but rather oversized Archaeopteryx." —Matthew P. Martyniuk
  • "The more that we learn about these animals the more we find that there is basically no difference between birds and their closely related dinosaur ancestors like velociraptor. Both have wishbones, brooded their nests, possess hollow bones, and were covered in feathers. If animals like velociraptor were alive today our first impression would be that they were just very unusual looking birds." —Mark Norell
  • "These are among my very favorite dinosaurs. Their long upcurved skulls, slender yet compact proportions, and great sickle claws make these elegant, attractive, yet demonic animals. There is nothing else like them." —Gregory S. Paul
Actual size of Velociraptor, in contrast to humans.

Actual size of Velociraptor, in contrast to humans.

Presence of Feathers

Fossil remains of Velociraptor indicate the presence of feathers, due to the abundance of quill knobs that have been found along its forearms. According to research performed by Alan Turner, Velociraptor appears to have had fourteen secondaries (wing feathers); a feature and characteristic of Velociraptor’s ancestors, as well. Scientists do not believe that Velociraptors could fly, however, due to its size. Instead, these feathers were likely used for display (mating), additional speed, and for the covering of nests. The presence of feathers (quill knobs) have proven extremely fruitful for modern-day scientists and archaeologists in their research, as the similarities between modern birds and dinosaurs, in general, appear to be on the rise.

The presence of feathers on Velociraptor are not unique. Scientists believe that other species of dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex, may have also possessed feathers due to the presence of quill-like marks on fossil remains. Additional research is still needed to prove this theory, however.


In closing, Velociraptor remains one of the most interesting and intriguing dinosaur species known in the scientific community. As additional fossilized specimens of this fascinating creature are found by scientists and archaeologists, alike, it will be interesting to see what new forms of information can be gleaned from future findings. Velociraptor’s inherent connection to modern-day birds remains one of the most interesting aspects of this dinosaur’s characteristics, and will likely be a crucial element in understanding this early carnivore’s behavior, instincts, intelligence, and traits in future research. Only time will tell what new things can be learned, as advances in science and technology hold the key for a greater understanding of this unique and fascinating animal of years past.

Works Cited

News, Jeff Peterson Deseret, and Peterson Deseret News. "Things 'Jurassic Park' Got Wrong about Dinosaurs." Las Vegas Review-Journal. March 02, 2017. Accessed January 19, 2019.

Wikipedia contributors, "Velociraptor," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 19, 2019).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Larry Slawson


Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on January 24, 2019:

Wow, you think it make a good pet? Lol, good informative read Larry. Dinosaurs are so interesting.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 20, 2019:

I think Jurassic Park maybe used some poetic licence with its depictions. This is a great fact file.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 20, 2019:

I knew virtually nothing about the Velociraptor before reading your excellent article. I think he must have been an interesting creature when he was alive.