Dino Battle: T-Rex Vs. Triceratops

Imagine if you could go back in time and witness a battle between a T-Rex and Triceratops. Nature is so dynamic and so many different factors could take into place in deciding the outcome of the battle between a T-Rex and a Triceratops. There has been a lot of debate on whether a T-Rex was a predator or a scavenger, eventually leading to the idea that it was both. The Tyrannosaurus Rex may have killed off weak, isolated, or already dying triceratops when it was looking for a meal, but that’s not exactly a fair fight. Hence for the fight, we’ll have to set a few ground rules.


  1. Both dinosaurs acknowledge each other before the fight, eliminating any surprise or stealthy tactics.
  2. There is no escape. Neither the T-Rex nor the Triceratops have the option to flea from the battle. It is a battle to the death.
  3. The battle is done in isolation. There are no helpers or secondary actors in the battle, just the T-Rex vs. Triceratops.
  4. The fight is done between two average adult dinosaurs.
  5. No biting. Hah. Just kidding.

Now for the analysis:


In terms of size the T-Rex is much larger than the triceratops in terms of height and length. Below we see a comparison in relative sizes of the two beasts and we also see how small we are compared to these dinosaurs. Although the T-Rex is taller and longer, the triceratops can weigh near the same or even more than the T-Rex. Since the T-Rex was taller, its ability to attack from a higher vantage point gives it a slight advantage.

Advantage: T-Rex


By Oktaytanhu (Kendi çalışmam) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


The Tyrannosaurus Rex, despite how it is portrayed, was not all that fast. One study estimates the T-Rex to have reached a maximum speed of 11 miles per hour. The triceratops, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly built for speed either. Scientists clock the triceratops at a max walking speed of 10 miles per hour. Again we don’t see any advantages here. It still looks like a draw from the looks of it.

Advantage: None

The Horns of the Triceratops vs. The Jaws of the Tyrannosaurus Rex

The most lethal weapon the Triceratops has is its horns and frill. As noted in a previous post on triceratops, the triceratops had faced combat and wasn’t a passive herbivore. It’s horns’ purpose was not only reproductive, but for physical combat in displaying dominance or in territorial defense. It’s shorter stature and lower center of gravity could then act as an advantage for the triceratops, for one good shot at the stomach, side, or legs of the Tyrannosaurus Rex could injure it deeply.

On the other hand, the most dangerous weapon that the T-Rex has at its disposal is its jaws. Its jaws are capable of producing a force of 35,000 to 57,000 N at a single posterior tooth which is the highest bite force estimated for all terrestrial. One good bite of the triceratops and it may be game over. The bite could not only tear flesh, but bone as well. Furthermore, there have been pieces of evidence that point to bite marks of the Tyrannosaurus Rex on the bones of a Triceratops. However, we don’t know the pathology of the events. Who knows whether the Tyrannosaurus Rex was playing fair. It may have just picked out a juvenile triceratops that was isolated from its friends so we can’t use that as supporting evidence for this situation, where there are ground rules that must be followed.

It seems that it may be a draw again, but the triceratops has one more weapon up its sleeve: its own teeth. Its teeth are one of the most complex sets of teeth in the world used for slicing some of the toughest vegetation. Teeth to eat veggies may not sound like much of a weapon, but the teeth of the triceratops had five layers of tissue each with its own function to allow it to withstand the wear and tear of mastication. Furthermore, its strong beak supplements the dangerous nature of getting caught in its bite. The bite may not be as forceful as the bite of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but it will be a sharp bite. Its horns, teeth, beak, and lower center of gravity provide the triceratops a bit of an advantage.

Advantage: Triceratops


It would be a long arduous battle that would look to be a stalemate, but in the end the triceratops would emerge victorious due to its X-Factor: the frill of the triceratops. This bone that projects out of the Triceratops skull can act as a protective shield/battering ram. This dual purpose feature would give the triceratops the edge that it would need to win the battle and send the predator home. The Tyrannosaurus Rex has the high vantage point and has extremely powerful jaws, but it would be difficult to land a hit on an alert triceratops that can charge at any moment. Furthermore, one false move, and the triceratops could take out its legs, a vulnerable part of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The triceratops is extremely stable due to its use four limbs, distributing its weight nicely, but if the Tyrannosaurus Rex were to lose its balance it may well have been game over for the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The outcome is different than in the fantasized world of pop culture, where you see the T-Rex as a lean, mean killer machine. Instead, when a T-Rex won, it probably wasn’t confined by the ground rules set in this dino battle. Rather, it looked for any opportunity to get an easy kill to survive. Under these fair grounds, the triceratops emerges fatigued, but victorious.


By Creator: Dmitry Bogdanov (dmitrchel@mail.ru) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Works Cited
Bates, K. T., and P. L. Falkingham. “Estimating Maximum Bite Performance in Tyrannosaurus Rex Using Multi-body Dynamics.” Biology Letters. The Royal Society, 12 July 2012. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
Erickson, Gregory M., and Kenneth H. Olson. “Bite Marks Attributable to Tyrannosaurus Rex : Preliminary Description and Implications.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16.1 (1996): 175-78. Web.
Farke, Andrew A., Ewan D. S. Wolff, and Darren H. Tanke. “Evidence of Combat in Triceratops.” PLoS ONE 4.1 (2009): n. pag. Web.
Fitzgerald, Richard. “How Fast Could Tyrannosaurus Rex Run?” Phys. Today Physics Today 55.4 (2002): 18-19. Web.
Farlow, James O., and Peter Dodson. “The Behavioral Significance of Frill and Horn Morphology in Ceratopsian Dinosaurs.” Evolution 29.2 (1975): 353. Web.
Lull, Richard Swann, and Clara Mae. Le Vene. “A Revision of the Ceratopsia or Horned Dinosaurs.” (1933): n. pag. Web.
Vergano, Dan. “Smithsonian Hatches High-tailin’ Triceratops.” USA Today. N.p., 21 May 2001. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.