#3. Ceratogaulus, aka Horned Gophers
Well, aren't these the most precious little things? They're like giant stoned hamsters. They just look so happy and fuzzy and cuddly, you almost forget about those awkward devil horns sprouting from their heads.
We have no idea why, but back in prehistory, some gophers absolutely had horns. Both male and female ceratogaulus had them, so it's unlikely they had anything to do with mating. Digging? That was probably a no as well, since a built-in shovel would presumably point outward from the end of its nose, rather than stick straight up above it. So maybe it was pure defense; if threatened, the adorably bite-size ceratogaulus could have defended itself by simply jabbing upward and waiting for the predator to step on it, like a prehistoric carpet LEGO.
"This specimen took out dozens of sleepy cave dads alone."
#2. Deinotherium, aka the Bearded Elephant
Nature had a vision from the start: She wanted to make a giant gray beast with a long floppy nose and big ol' ears. It would be adorable from a distance and kind of terrifying up close. She would call it the elephant, and she almost nailed it right off the bat. Except for the mouth. Mouths are hard -- just look at edestus. Mouths are nature's design kryptonite, like feet to Rob Liefeld.
Or mouths to Rob Liefeld ... or anatomy ... or-
This, then, is deinotherium, which translates to "terrible beast." The name makes perfect sense: If we drew something like this in art class, our teacher would indeed immediately declare it terrible and give us the frowniest of faces for a grade. It's popularly nicknamed the bearded elephant because, well, it's got a giant flesh-and-horn Scott Ian-style goatee. Science is winning the name game for once.
Keep your chin up, buddy. Uh, figuratively and literally.
Nobody definitively knows what the deinotherium used these chin tusks for, especially since they face the elephant itself, so they likely weren't used for attacking. One older school of thought suggests that it lived in the water, since those tusks were likely too damn heavy to lug about on land. While in the water, it would use the tusks to secure itself to the shore, keeping its head above the surface as it slept. Yep: It had a face anchor.
Today's researchers largely agree that the tusks probably functioned like a built-in pick to break rocks, scrape at tree bark, or dig for food and minerals. Luckily for the elephants, evolution woke up and realized its mistake: If you've got a gun on your face, maybe you don't point it at yourself.
Seconds before he'd sadly sneeze himself to death.
#1. Chalicotherium, aka the Giant Masked Wrestling Horse
That's a horse. A giant goddamned ape horse. A giant goddamned ape horse sporting a Mexican wrestling mask. Because sometimes Nature gets bored with vanilla settings and starts installing some pretty ridiculous mods.
The chalicotherium -- a distant ancestor of the horse with a gorilla-like stride -- was absolutely enormous. Standing over 9 feet tall and weighing up to 1,000 pounds, we don't see this guy having many issues with predators. Especially since, unlike either modern-day horses or gorillas, it also had massive friggin' claws that could rip its adversaries apart.
Or defend itself from whatever the prehistoric version of bronies were.
But don't expect to see the chalicotherium as the antagonist of Jurassic Park 5: Jurassic Parker. It was strictly an herbivore. So what did they do with those oversized butcher knives strapped to their feet? Paleontologists think that the chalicotherium may have had a lifestyle similar to that of a panda, where they would use those claws to grip and pull down branches from trees, greedily munching on whatever grew there. They might also have used the claws to dig up roots from the ground, which is basically the equivalent of owning a rail gun and using it to shuck corn.
Related Reading: Think these guys are weird? Wait'll you see the giant trunk-mouthed elephant. On the flipside of things, we have prehistoric sloths- which where building-sized pain factories. Need more crazy-ass prehistoric precursors to modern critters? Click on.