Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” films turned raptors into legitimate Hollywood superstars during the early ’90s. National Velociraptor Awareness Day on April 18 gives us a reason to once again ponder this creature that roamed the Earth 70 million years ago.
When is National Velociraptor Awareness Day 2023?
Whether they roamed the Earth or were just movie magic, Velociraptors continue to captivate imaginations on April 18 every year.
History of National Velociraptor Awareness Day
Here’s one fact we often overlook: raptors, unlike those in the films, did not stand over seven feet tall. They were roughly 6.5 feet long and measured less than two feet high at the hip (but they did have some frightening hips.) They also had feathers and wings. In reality, they sort of resembled turkey dinosaurs. Still, the filmmakers were onto something.
That’s because production on “Jurassic Park” began before the 1991 discovery of the so-called Utahraptor skeleton, measuring 5.5 feet tall — the largest at that time. Said one film designer: “We designed it, we built it, and then they discovered it. That still boggles my mind.”
Velociraptors roamed the Earth about 85.8 million to 70.6 million years ago during the end of the Cretaceous period. The name ‘velociraptor’ was bestowed upon this dinosaur in 1924 by the then-president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn. The name has Latin origins: ‘velox,’ meaning ‘swift,’ and ‘raptor’ meaning ‘plunderer.’ Earlier in the same year, the dinosaur was referred to as Ovoraptor Djadochtari in an article but the name was never mentioned in a scientific journal, so Velociraptor became the accepted name.
The velociraptor was prominently featured in the “Jurassic Park” movies just like the Tyrannosaurus rex, but the Hollywood depiction was nothing like the actual creature in terms of appearance and size. The velociraptor was scaly and reptilian in the movies, whereas paleontologists discovered feathers and quill knobs on the fossil forearm of a velociraptor found in Mongolia in 2007. In 2008, researchers unearthed protoceratops fossils marred with marks and grooves matching raptor teeth, as well as two teeth that belonged either to a velociraptor or another dromaeosaurid.
In 2012, a large bone of a pterosaur in the bowels of a velociraptor was also discovered, indicating that velociraptors sometimes ate pterosaurs. There are two velociraptor species: V. mongoliensis and V. osmolskae. The latter was only identified in 2008.
National Velociraptor Awareness Day timeline
This is around the time that velociraptors inhabited the earth.
Peter Kaisen recovers the first velociraptor fossil: a crushed but complete skull, along with one of the second-toe claws.
Velociraptors get the star treatment thanks to their portrayal in the novel, which is later adapted into the "Jurassic Park" movie franchise.
The NBA's expansion Toronto Raptors began play with a 94–79 win over New Jersey.
Republican Senator Mike Lee, on the Senate floor, displays a picture of President Reagan firing a machine gun while riding on the back of a velociraptor to mock the Green New Deal.
By The Numbers
1,6 feet – the height of a fully-grown velociraptor.
33 lbs – the weight of a fully-grown velociraptor.
1922 – the year when the first velociraptor fossil was found in the Mongolian Gobi Desert.
73 million – the number of years ago when the velociraptor lived.
13–15 – the number of teeth in the upper jaw of the velociraptor.
14–15 – the number of teeth in the lower jaw of the velociraptor.
9.1 inches – the length of the velociraptor’s skull.
National Velociraptor Awareness Day FAQs
Are velociraptors dangerous?
Sharp teeth, paired with three-inch-long curved claws on each of the velociraptor’s hind feet made the creature quite dangerous. Paleontologists have deduced that a velociraptor stabbed its prey in the gut in surprise attacks, then withdrew to a safe distance while its victim bled to death.
Are velociraptors smart?
Velociraptors were dromaeosaurids, among the dinosaurs with the highest level of intelligence, making them truly smart.
What are the two types of velociraptors?
There are two velociraptor species, V. mongoliensis and V. osmolskae
National Velociraptor Awareness Day Activities
Host a movie marathon
What better way to celebrate these ancient, killer birds than by spending a night watching all four "Jurassic Park" films? Make sure to invite someone over who's never experienced the 'Lost World.'
Meet the Flintstones
Fred and Wilma Flintstone, model citizens of Bedrock, owned a pet raptor named, what else, Dino. Introduce your kids to this cute raptor through the wonder of 1960s animation on National Velociraptor Awareness Day.
Head to a museum
Try the Natural History Museum in New York City or the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Plan a trip to check out real fossils and the land of dinosaurs that still exists.
5 Facts About Velociraptors
Velociraptors did not have reptilian skin
Velociraptors had feathers instead, owing to their quill knobs.
A big chicken
Contrary to how they were portrayed in Hollywood, velociraptors were about the size of a very large chicken.
Velociraptors didn’t hunt in packs
All velociraptors were lone hunters.
Velociraptors weren’t speedy
Even though the Greek translation of the name velociraptor is ‘speedy thief,’ they weren’t as fast as other dinosaur species.
Velociraptors’ go-to weapons were their single, curved claws on their feet, which were used to jab, slash, and disembowel attackers or prey.
Why We Love National Velociraptor Awareness Day
We're still finding them
Velociraptor fossils have surfaced in Mongolia and China but the search continues throughout the world.
Raptors play a big role in all of the "Jurassic Park" movies. They're portrayed as cunningly smart villains.
They're terrifying — as you can well imagine
These carnivores had long, retractable claws as well as 26–28 teeth for killing and consuming prey.
National Velociraptor Awareness Day dates