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The type genus, Barbourofelis, was originally described by Schultz et al. (1970) and assigned to a new tribe, Barbourofelini, within the felid subfamily Machairodontinae, along with the other sabre-toothed cats. Subsequently, the tribe was reassigned to the Nimravidae by Tedford (1978) and raised subfamily by Bryant (1991). However, a number of studies in the early 2000s identified a closer affinity of the barbourofelines to the Felidae than to the Nimravidae and they were reranked as a distinct family by Morlo et al. (2004) Since then the prevailing view has the barbourofelids as the sister group to the Felidae, although this has recently by challenged following the description of the middle Miocene genus Oriensmilus from northern China, which provided evidence, mainly based on basicranial morphology, that barbourofelids may be more closely related to nimravids than to felids.
^Morales, J.; Salesa, M.J.; et al. (July 2007). "A new tribe, new genus and two new species of Barbourofelinae (Felidae, Carnivora, Mammalia) from the Early Miocene of East Africa and Spain". Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 92 (1): 97-102. doi:10.1017/S0263593300000067.
^Josep M. Robles , David M. Alba , Josep Fortuny , Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno , Cheyenn Rotgers , Jordi Balaguer , Raül Carmona , Jordi Galindo , Sergio Almécija , Juan V. Bertó & Salvador Moyà-Solà , Journal of Systematic Palaeontology (2013): New craniodental remains of the barbourofelid Albanosmilus jourdani (Filhol, ) from the Miocene of the Vallès-Penedès Basin (NE Iberian Peninsula) and the phylogeny of the Barbourofelini, Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, DOI:10.1080/14772019.2012.724090