We examine the functional anatomy of the forelimb in the primitive sabre-toothed cat Promegantereon ogygia in comparison with that of the extant pantherins, other felids and canids. The study reveals that this early machairodontine had already developed strong forelimbs and a short and robust thumb, a combination that probably allowed P. ogygia to exert relatively greater forces than extant pantherins. These features can be clearly related to the evolution of the sabre-toothed cat hunting method, in which the rapid killing of prey was achieved with a precise canine shear-bite to the throat. In this early sabre-toothed cat from the Late Miocene, the strong forelimbs and thumb were adapted to achieve the rapid immobilization of prey, thus decreasing the risk of injury and minimizing energy expenditure. We suggest that these were the major evolutionary pressures that led to the appearance of the sabre-toothed cat model from the primitive forms of the Middle Miocene, rather than the hunting of very large prey, although these adaptations reached their highest development in the more advanced sabre-toothed cats of the Plio-Pleistocene, such as Smilodon and Homotherium. Although having very different body proportions, these later animals developed such extremely powerful forelimbs that they were probably able to capture relatively larger prey than extant pantherins.