Bear

Bear

Overview
Bears are mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms
Caniformia
Caniformia, or Canoidea , is a suborder within the order Carnivora. They typically possess a long snout and non-retractile claws . The Pinnipedia evolved from caniform ancestors and are accordingly assigned to this group...

, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinniped
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

s being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s throughout the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and partially in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

. Bears are found in the continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

s of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, plantigrade
Plantigrade
right|151px|thumb|Human skeleton, showing plantigrade habitIn terrestrial animals, plantigrade locomotion means walking with the podials and metatarsals flat on the ground. It is one of three forms of locomotion adopted by mammals...

 paws with five nonretractile claws, and a short tail.
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Encyclopedia
Bears are mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms
Caniformia
Caniformia, or Canoidea , is a suborder within the order Carnivora. They typically possess a long snout and non-retractile claws . The Pinnipedia evolved from caniform ancestors and are accordingly assigned to this group...

, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinniped
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

s being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s throughout the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and partially in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

. Bears are found in the continent
Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, with seven regions commonly regarded as continents—they are : Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Plate tectonics is...

s of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, plantigrade
Plantigrade
right|151px|thumb|Human skeleton, showing plantigrade habitIn terrestrial animals, plantigrade locomotion means walking with the podials and metatarsals flat on the ground. It is one of three forms of locomotion adopted by mammals...

 paws with five nonretractile claws, and a short tail. While the polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

 is mostly carnivorous and the giant panda
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

 feeds almost entirely on bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

, the remaining six species are omnivorous, with largely varied diets including both plants and animals.

With the exceptions of courting
Mating
In biology, mating is the pairing of opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms for copulation. In social animals, it also includes the raising of their offspring. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization...

 individuals and mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals. They are generally diurnal, but may be active during the night (nocturnal) or twilight (crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

), particularly around humans. Bears are aided by an excellent sense of smell
Olfaction
Olfaction is the sense of smell. This sense is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, and, by analogy, sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates...

, and despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they can run quickly and are adept climbers and swimmers. In autumn some bear species forage large amounts of fermented fruits which affects their behaviour. Bears use shelters such as caves and burrows as their dens, which are occupied by most species during the winter for a long period of sleep similar to hibernation
Hibernation
Hibernation is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in animals, characterized by lower body temperature, slower breathing, and lower metabolic rate. Hibernating animals conserve food, especially during winter when food supplies are limited, tapping energy reserves, body fat, at a slow rate...

.

Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. To this day, they play a prominent role in the arts
The arts
The arts are a vast subdivision of culture, composed of many creative endeavors and disciplines. It is a broader term than "art", which as a description of a field usually means only the visual arts. The arts encompass visual arts, literary arts and the performing arts – music, theatre, dance and...

, mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, and other cultural aspects of various human societies. In modern times, the bear's existence has been pressured through the encroachment on its habitats and the illegal trade of bears and bear parts, including the Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n bile bear
Bile bear
Bile bear, or battery bear, refers to Asiatic black bears kept in captivity in China and Vietnam to harvest bile, a digestive juice produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. When extracted, the bears’ bile is a valuable commodity for sale as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine...

 market. The IUCN
World Conservation Union
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is an international organization dedicated to finding "pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges." The organization publishes the IUCN Red List, compiling information from a network of...

 lists six bear species as vulnerable
Vulnerable species
On 30 January 2010, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 9694 Vulnerable species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and sub-populations.-References:...

 or endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

, and even least concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 species such as the brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

 are at risk of extirpation
Local extinction
Local extinction, also known as extirpation, is the condition of a species which ceases to exist in the chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere...

 in certain countries. The poaching and international trade of these most threatened populations are prohibited, but still ongoing.

Etymology


The English word "bear" comes from Old English bera and belongs to a family of names for the bear in Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, in origin from an adjective meaning "brown".
In Scandinavia the word for bear is björn
Bjorn
Bjorn , Björn , Bjørn , Beorn or, rarely, Bjôrn, Biorn, or Latinized Biornus, is a Nordic male given name, or less often a surname, meaning "bear"...

(or bjørn), and is a relatively common given name for males. The use of this name is ancient and has been found mentioned in several runestone inscriptions. In Germanic culture, the bear was a symbol of the warrior, as evident from the Old English term beorn
Beorn
Beorn is a fictional character created by J. R. R. Tolkien. He appears in The Hobbit as a shape-shifter , a man who could assume the appearance of a great black bear.-Literature:...

which can take the meaning of both "bear" and "warrior".

The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 name of the bear is *h₂ŕ̥tḱos, whence Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 r̥kṣa, Avestan arša, Greek ἄρκτος (arktos), Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 ursus, Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 arth (whence perhaps "Arthur
Arthur
Arthur is a common masculine given name. Its etymology is disputed, but its popularity derives from its being the name of the legendary hero King Arthur....

"), Albanian ari, Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

 arj. Also compared is Hittite ḫartagga-, the name of a monster or predator.
In the binomial name of the brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

, Ursus arctos, Linné
Carolus Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

 simply combined the Latin and Greek names.

The Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 word for bear, *h₂ŕ̥tḱos seems to have been subject to taboo deformation or replacement in some languages (as was the word for wolf, wlkwos), resulting in the use of numerous unrelated words with meanings like "brown one" (English bruin) and "honey-eater" (Slavic medved). Thus some Indo-European language groups do not share the same PIE root. The theory of the bear taboo is taught to almost all beginning students of Indo-European and historical linguistics; the putative original PIE word for bear is itself descriptive, because a cognate word in Sanskrit is rakṣas, meaning "harm, injury".

Evolutionary history


The family Ursidae is one of nine families in the suborder Caniformia
Caniformia
Caniformia, or Canoidea , is a suborder within the order Carnivora. They typically possess a long snout and non-retractile claws . The Pinnipedia evolved from caniform ancestors and are accordingly assigned to this group...

, or "doglike" carnivores, within the order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 Carnivora
Carnivora
The diverse order Carnivora |Latin]] carō "flesh", + vorāre "to devour") includes over 260 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, while the word "carnivore" can refer to any meat-eating animal...

. Bears' closest living relatives are the pinniped
Pinniped
Pinnipeds or fin-footed mammals are a widely distributed and diverse group of semiaquatic marine mammals comprising the families Odobenidae , Otariidae , and Phocidae .-Overview: Pinnipeds are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped...

s and musteloid
Musteloidea
Musteloidea is a superfamily of carnivoran mammals united by shared characters of the skull and teeth. Musteloids share a common ancestor with the pinnipeds, the group which includes seals....

s.

The following synapomorphic
Synapomorphy
In cladistics, a synapomorphy or synapomorphic character is a trait that is shared by two or more taxa and their most recent common ancestor, whose ancestor in turn does not possess the trait. A synapomorphy is thus an apomorphy visible in multiple taxa, where the trait in question originates in...

 (derived) traits set bears apart from related families:
  • presence of an alisphenoid canal
  • paroccipital processes that are large and not fused to the auditory bullae
  • auditory bullae are not enlarged
  • lacrimal bone
    Lacrimal bone
    The lacrimal bone, the smallest and most fragile bone of the face, is situated at the front part of the medial wall of the orbit. It has two surfaces and four borders.-Lateral or orbital surface:...

     is vestigial
  • cheek teeth are bunodont and hence indicative of a broad, hypocarnivorous (non-strictly meat-eating) diet (although hypercarnivorous
    Hypercarnivore
    A hypercarnivore is an animal which has a diet that is more than 70% meat, with the balance consisting of non-animal foods such as fungi, fruits or other plant material. Some examples include the big cats, dolphins, eagles, snakes, marlin, most sharks, and such invertebrates as octopuses and sea...

     (strictly meat-eating) taxa are known from the fossil record)
  • carnassials are flattened

Additionally, members of this family possess posteriorly oriented M2 postprotocrista molars
Molar (tooth)
Molars are the rearmost and most complicated kind of tooth in most mammals. In many mammals they grind food; hence the Latin name mola, "millstone"....

, elongated m2 molars, and a reduction of the premolars.

Modern bears comprise eight species in three subfamilies: Ailuropodinae (monotypic with the giant panda
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

), Tremarctinae
Tremarctinae
Tremarctinae is a term for the subfamily of Ursidae containing one living representative, the Spectacled Bear of South America, and several extinct species from four genera: the Florida spectacled bear , the North American short-faced bears of genera Plionarctos and Arctodus Tremarctinae is a...

 (monotypic with the Spectacled Bear
Spectacled Bear
The spectacled bear , also known as the Andean bear and locally as ukuko, jukumari or ucumari, is the last remaining short-faced bear and the closest living relative to the Florida spectacled bear and short-faced bears of the Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene age.The spectacled bear is a...

), and Ursinae
Ursinae
Ursinae is a subfamily of Ursidae named by Swainson though probably named before Hunt 1998. It was assigned to Ursidae by Bjork , Hunt and Jin et al...

 (containing six species divided into one to three genera, depending upon authority).

Fossil bears


The earliest members of Ursidae belong to the extinct subfamily Amphicynodontinae, including Parictis
Parictis
Parictis is the earliest genus of bear known. It was a very small and graceful ursid with a skull only 7 cm long. Parictis first appeared in North America in the Late Eocene , but it did not arrive in Eurasia and Africa until the Miocene...

(late Eocene
Eocene
The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...

 to early middle Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

, 38–18 million years (Ma) ago) and the slightly younger Allocyon (early Oligocene
Oligocene
The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 34 million to 23 million years before the present . As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly...

, 34–30 Ma), both from North America. These animals looked very different from today's bears, being small and raccoon-like in overall appearance, and a diet perhaps more similar to that of a badger. Parictis does not appear in Eurasia and Africa until the Miocene. It is unclear whether late Eocene ursids were also present in Eurasia, although faunal exchange across the Bering land bridge
Bering land bridge
The Bering land bridge was a land bridge roughly 1,000 miles wide at its greatest extent, which joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages. Like most of Siberia and all of Manchuria, Beringia was not glaciated because snowfall was extremely light...

 may have been possible during a major sea level low stand as early as the late Eocene (~37 Ma) and continuing into the early Oligocene. European genera morphologically very similar to Allocyon, and also the much younger American Kolponomos
Kolponomos
Kolponomos is an extinct genus of marine bears which existed from the Hemingfordian age to the Aquitanian age of the Miocene epoch, about 20 million years ago. It was described in 1960 by Ruben A. Stirton, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, from a partial skull and jaw...

(~18 Ma), are known from the Oligocene, including Amphicticeps and Amphicynodon
Amphicynodon
Amphicynodon is an extinct genus of mammal of the superfamily Ursoidae, endemic to Europe and Asia during the Oligocene, living from ~33.9—28.4 Mya, existing for approximately ....

.

The raccoon-sized, dog-like Cephalogale
Cephalogale
Cephalogale is an extinct genus of bear-like hemicyonid carnivore of the late Oligocene through Miocene epochs, endemic to North America and Europe living from around 33.9—20 Ma, existing for approximately ....

is the oldest-known member of the subfamily Hemicyoninae
Hemicyoninae
Hemicyoninae is an extinct subfamily of bear-like mammals of the family Ursidae endemic to North America and Europe during Oligocene through Miocene, living from ~33.9—7.2 Ma, existing for approximately ....

which first appeared during the middle Oligocene
Oligocene
The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 34 million to 23 million years before the present . As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly...

 in Eurasia ~30 Ma ago. The subfamily also includes the younger genera Phoberocyon
Phoberocyon
Phoberocyon is a large extinct genus of carnivorous Ursidae, subfamily Hemicyonidae, endemic to what would be North America during the Miocene living from 20.6—16.3 mya, existing for approximately .-Taxonomy:Phoberocyon was named by Ginsburg...

(~ 20–15 Ma), and Plithocyon
Plithocyon
Plithocyon is an extinct genus of bear-like hemicyonid carnivore of the Miocene epoch, endemic to North America and Europe living from ~15.97—7.25 Ma, existing for approximately .-Taxonomy:Plithocyon was named by Ginsburg...

(~ 15–7 Ma).

A Cephalogale-like species gave rise to the genus Ursavus
Ursavus
Ursavus is an extinct genus of mammals of the family Ursidae that existed in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia during the Miocene, living from ~23—5.3 Ma, existing for approximately . It apparently dispersed from Asia into North America about 20 Ma, becoming the earliest member of the...

during the early Oligocene (30–28 Ma); this genus proliferated into many species in Asia and is ancestral to all living bears. Species of Ursavus subsequently entered North America together with Amphicynodon and Cephalogale during the early Miocene (21–18 Ma).

Members of living lineages of bears diverged from Ursavus ~20 Ma ago, likely via the species Ursavus elmensis. Based on genetic and morphological data, the subfamily Ailuropodinae (pandas) was the first to diverge from other living bears ~19 Ma ago, although no fossils of this group have been found pre-dating about 5 Ma.

The New World short-faced bears (Tremarctinae
Tremarctinae
Tremarctinae is a term for the subfamily of Ursidae containing one living representative, the Spectacled Bear of South America, and several extinct species from four genera: the Florida spectacled bear , the North American short-faced bears of genera Plionarctos and Arctodus Tremarctinae is a...

) differentiated from Ursinae
Ursinae
Ursinae is a subfamily of Ursidae named by Swainson though probably named before Hunt 1998. It was assigned to Ursidae by Bjork , Hunt and Jin et al...

 following a dispersal event into North America during the mid Miocene (~13 Ma). They invaded South America
Great American Interchange
The Great American Interchange was an important paleozoogeographic event in which land and freshwater fauna migrated from North America via Central America to South America and vice versa, as the volcanic Isthmus of Panama rose up from the sea floor and bridged the formerly separated continents...

 (~1 Ma) following formation of the Isthmus of Panama
Isthmus of Panama
The Isthmus of Panama, also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien, is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, linking North and South America. It contains the country of Panama and the Panama Canal...

. Their earliest fossil representative is Plionarctos
Plionarctos
Plionarctos is an extinct genus of mammals of the family Ursidae endemic to North America and Europe during Miocene through Pleistocene, living from ~10.3—3.3 Ma, existing for approximately ....

in North America (~ 10–2 Ma). This genus is probably the direct ancestor to the North American short-faced bears
Arctodus
Arctodus — known as the short-faced bear or bulldog bear — is an extinct genus of bear endemic to North America during the Pleistocene ~3.0 Ma.—11,000 years ago, existing for approximately three million years. Arctodus simus may have once been Earth's largest mammalian, terrestrial carnivore...

 (genus Arctodus), the South American short-faced bears
Arctotherium
Arctotherium is an extinct genus of South American short-faced bears within Ursidae of the late Pliocene through the end of the Pleistocene. Their ancestors migrated from North America to South America during the Great American Interchange, following the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. They...

 (Arctotherium), and the spectacled bears, Tremarctos, represented by both an extinct North American species (T. floridanus), and the lone surviving representative of the Tremarctinae, the South American spectacled bear
Spectacled Bear
The spectacled bear , also known as the Andean bear and locally as ukuko, jukumari or ucumari, is the last remaining short-faced bear and the closest living relative to the Florida spectacled bear and short-faced bears of the Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene age.The spectacled bear is a...

 (T. ornatus).

The subfamily Ursinae
Ursinae
Ursinae is a subfamily of Ursidae named by Swainson though probably named before Hunt 1998. It was assigned to Ursidae by Bjork , Hunt and Jin et al...

 experienced a dramatic proliferation of taxa ~5.3-4.5 Ma ago coincident with major environmental changes, with the first members of the genus Ursus
Ursus (genus)
Ursus is a genus in the family Ursidae that includes the widely distributed brown bears, the polar bear, and black bears. The name is derived from the Latin ursus, meaning bear.-Species and subspecies of Ursus:...

also appearing around this time. The sloth bear
Sloth Bear
The sloth bear , also known as the labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution...

 is a modern survivor of one of the earliest lineages to diverge during this radiation event (~5.3 Ma); it took on its peculiar morphology related to its diet on termites and ants no later than by the early Pleistocene. By 3–4 Ma ago, the species Ursus minimus appears in the fossil record of Europe, which apart from size is nearly identical to today's Asiatic black bear
Asiatic Black Bear
The Asian black bear , also known as the moon bear or white-chested bear is a medium-sized species of bear, largely adapted for arboreal life, which occurs through much of southern Asia, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian far east and Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan...

. It is likely ancestral to all bears within Ursinae, perhaps aside from the sloth bear. Two lineages evolved from U. minimus, the black bears (including the sun bear
Sun Bear
The sun bear , sometimes known as the honey bear, is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia; North-East India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Southern China, Peninsular Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.-Description:The sun bear...

, the Asiatic black bear, and the American black bear
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

), and the brown bears. Modern brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s evolved from U. minimus via Ursus etruscus
Ursus etruscus
Ursus etruscus is an extinct species of mammal of the family Ursidae , endemic to Europe, Asia and North Africa during the Pliocene through Pleistocene, living from ~5.3 Mya—11,000 years ago, existing for approximately ....

, which itself is ancestral to both the extinct Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 cave bear
Cave Bear
The cave bear was a species of bear that lived in Europe during the Pleistocene and became extinct at the beginning of the Last Glacial Maximum about 27,500 years ago....

 and today's brown and polar bears. Species of Ursinae have migrated repeatedly into N. America from Eurasia as early as 4 Ma ago during the early Pliocene.

The fossil record of bears is exceptionally good. Direct ancestor-descendent relationships between individual species are often fairly well established, with sufficient intermediate forms known to make the precise cut-off between an ancestral and its daughter species subjective.

Other extinct bear genera include Agriarctos, Indarctos, and Agriotherium
Agriotherium
Agriotherium is an extinct genus of Ursidae of the Miocene through Pleistocene epochs, endemic to North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia living from ~13.6–2.5 Ma, existing for approximately .-Taxonomy:...

(sometimes placed within hemicyonids
Hemicyonidae
Hemicyonidae is an extinct family of so-called "dog-bears", literally "Half Dog" , bear-like carnivoran living in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia during the Oligocene through Miocene epochs 33.9—5.3 Ma, existing for approximately ....

).

Taxonomic revisions of living bear species


The giant panda
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

's taxonomy (subfamily Ailuropodinae) has long been debated. Its original classification by Armand David
Armand David
Father Armand David was a Lazarist missionary Catholic priest as well as a zoologist and a botanist.-General Biography:...

 in 1869 was within the bear genus Ursus
Ursus (genus)
Ursus is a genus in the family Ursidae that includes the widely distributed brown bears, the polar bear, and black bears. The name is derived from the Latin ursus, meaning bear.-Species and subspecies of Ursus:...

, but in 1870 it was reclassified by Alphonse Milne-Edwards
Alphonse Milne-Edwards
Alphonse Milne-Edwards was a French mammalologist, ornithologist and carcinologist. He was English in origin, the son of Henri Milne-Edwards and grandson of Bryan Edwards, a Jamaican planter who settled at Bruges .Milne-Edwards obtained a medical degree in 1859 and became assistant to his father...

 to the raccoon
Raccoon
Procyon is a genus of nocturnal mammals, comprising three species commonly known as raccoons, in the family Procyonidae. The most familiar species, the common raccoon , is often known simply as "the" raccoon, as the two other raccoon species in the genus are native only to the tropics and are...

 family. In recent studies, the majority of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 analyses suggest that the giant panda has a much closer relationship to other bears and should be considered a member of the family Ursidae. Estimates of divergence dates place the giant panda as the most ancient offshoot among living taxa within Ursidae, having split from other bears 17.9 to 22.1 Ma ago. The red panda
Red Panda
The red panda , is a small arboreal mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It is the only species of the genus Ailurus. Slightly larger than a domestic cat, it has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs...

 was included within Ursidae in the past. However, more recent research does not support such a conclusion and instead places it in its own family Ailuridae
Ailuridae
Ailuridae is a family in the mammal order Carnivora. The family includes the Red Panda and its extinct relatives.-Classification history:...

, in superfamily Musteloidea
Musteloidea
Musteloidea is a superfamily of carnivoran mammals united by shared characters of the skull and teeth. Musteloids share a common ancestor with the pinnipeds, the group which includes seals....

 along with Mustelidae
Mustelidae
Mustelidae , commonly referred to as the weasel family, are a family of carnivorous mammals. Mustelids are diverse and the largest family in the order Carnivora, at least partly because in the past it has been a catch-all category for many early or poorly differentiated taxa...

, Procyonidae
Procyonidae
Procyonidae is a New World family of the order Carnivora. It includes the raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, olingos, ringtails and cacomistles. Procyonids inhabit a wide range of environments, and are generally omnivorous.-Characteristics:...

, and Mephitidae. Multiple similarities between the two pandas, including the presence of false thumbs, are thus thought to represent an example of convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

 for feeding primarily on bamboo.

There is also evidence that, unlike their neighbors elsewhere, the brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s of Alaska's ABC islands
ABC Islands (Alaska)
The ABC Islands is the colloquial name for the Alaskan islands of Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof in the northern part of the Alexander Archipelago. The islands are known for their wilderness and wildlife, which include a clade of brown bear that is more closely related to polar bears than to...

 are more closely related to polar bears than they are to other brown bears in the world. Researchers Gerald Shields and Sandra Talbot of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 studied the DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 of several samples of the species and found that their DNA is different from that of other brown bears. The researchers discovered that their DNA was unique compared to brown bears anywhere else in the world. The discovery has shown that while all other brown bears share a brown bear as their closest relative, those of Alaska's ABC Islands differ and share their closest relation with the polar bear. There is also the very rare Tibetan blue bear, which is a type of brown bear. This animal has never been photographed.

Koala
Koala
The koala is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia, and the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae....

s are often referred to as bears due to their appearance; they are not bears, however, but marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

s.

Classification





  • Family Ursidae
    • Subfamily Ailuropodinae
      • Extinction
        In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

         Ailurarctos
        Ailurarctos
        Ailurarctos is an extinct genus of panda from the Late Miocene of China, some 8 million years ago.-References:* http://www.kepu.net.cn/english/giantpanda/giantpanda_evolution/200409230025.html...

        • † Ailurarctos lufengensis
        • † Ailurarctos yuanmouenensis
      • Ailuropoda
        Ailuropoda
        Ailuropoda is the only genus in the ursid subfamily Ailuropodinae. It contains one living and four fossil species of giant panda....

        (pandas)
        • † Ailuropoda baconi
        • † Ailuropoda fovealis
        • Ailuropoda melanoleuca, giant panda
          • Ailuropoda melanoleuca melanoleuca, giant panda
          • Ailuropoda melanoleuca qinlingensis, Qinling panda
        • † Ailuropoda microta
          Ailuropoda microta
          Ailuropoda microta, rarely called the Dwarf Panda, Dwarf Giant Panda, or Pygmy Giant Panda, is the earliest known ancestor of the Giant Panda. It measured 1 m in length; the modern Giant Panda grows to a size in excess of 1.5 m . Wear patterns on its teeth suggest it lived on a diet of...

        • † Ailuropoda wulingshanensis
    • Subfamily Tremarctinae
      Tremarctinae
      Tremarctinae is a term for the subfamily of Ursidae containing one living representative, the Spectacled Bear of South America, and several extinct species from four genera: the Florida spectacled bear , the North American short-faced bears of genera Plionarctos and Arctodus Tremarctinae is a...

      • Tremarctos
        Tremarctos
        Tremarctos is a genus of the family Ursidae, subfamily Tremarctinae endemic to Americas from the Pliocene to recent. The northern species, the Florida short-faced bear was extinct 11 000 years ago...

        (Spectacled bears)
        • Tremarctos ornatus, spectacled bear
        • † Tremarctos floridanus
      • † Arctodus
        Arctodus
        Arctodus — known as the short-faced bear or bulldog bear — is an extinct genus of bear endemic to North America during the Pleistocene ~3.0 Ma.—11,000 years ago, existing for approximately three million years. Arctodus simus may have once been Earth's largest mammalian, terrestrial carnivore...

        • † Arctodus simus
        • † Arctodus pristinus
      • † Arctotherium
        Arctotherium
        Arctotherium is an extinct genus of South American short-faced bears within Ursidae of the late Pliocene through the end of the Pleistocene. Their ancestors migrated from North America to South America during the Great American Interchange, following the formation of the Isthmus of Panama. They...

        • † Arctotherium angustidens
        • † Arctotherium bonariense
        • † Arctotherium brasilense
        • † Arctotherium latidens
        • † Arctotherium tarijense
        • † Arctotherium vetustum
        • † Arctotherium wingei
      • † Plionarctos
        Plionarctos
        Plionarctos is an extinct genus of mammals of the family Ursidae endemic to North America and Europe during Miocene through Pleistocene, living from ~10.3—3.3 Ma, existing for approximately ....

        • † Plionarctos edensis
        • † Plionarctos harroldorum
    • Subfamily Ursinae
      Ursinae
      Ursinae is a subfamily of Ursidae named by Swainson though probably named before Hunt 1998. It was assigned to Ursidae by Bjork , Hunt and Jin et al...

      • † Agriotherium
        Agriotherium
        Agriotherium is an extinct genus of Ursidae of the Miocene through Pleistocene epochs, endemic to North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia living from ~13.6–2.5 Ma, existing for approximately .-Taxonomy:...

        • † Agriotherium inexpetans
        • † Agriotherium schneideri
        • † Agriotherium sivalensis
      • Helarctos
        • Helarctos malayanus, Sun bear
          • Helarctos malayanus malayanus
          • Helarctos malayanus euryspilus, Borneo sun bear
      • † Indarctos
        Indarctos
        Indarctos is a genus of mammals of the family Ursidae endemic to North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia during the Miocene, living from ~11.1—5.3 Ma, existing for approximately ....

        • † Indarctos anthraciti
        • † Indarctos arctoides
        • † Indarctos atticus
        • † Indarctos nevadensis
        • † Indarctos oregonensis
        • † Indarctos salmontanus
        • † Indarctos vireti
        • † Indarctos zdanskyi
      • Melursus
        • Melursus ursinus, sloth bear
          • Melursus ursinus inornatus, Sri Lankan sloth bear
          • Melursus ursinus ursinus, Indian sloth bear
      • † Ursavus
        Ursavus
        Ursavus is an extinct genus of mammals of the family Ursidae that existed in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia during the Miocene, living from ~23—5.3 Ma, existing for approximately . It apparently dispersed from Asia into North America about 20 Ma, becoming the earliest member of the...

        • † Ursavus brevirhinus
        • † Ursavus depereti
        • † Ursavus elmensis
        • † Ursavus pawniensis
        • † Ursavus primaevus
      • Ursus
        Ursus (genus)
        Ursus is a genus in the family Ursidae that includes the widely distributed brown bears, the polar bear, and black bears. The name is derived from the Latin ursus, meaning bear.-Species and subspecies of Ursus:...

        • † Ursus abstrusus
        • Ursus americanus, American black bear
          • Ursus americanus altifrontalis, Olympic black bear
          • Ursus americanus amblyceps, New Mexico black bear
          • Ursus americanus americanus, Eastern black bear
          • Ursus americanus californiensis, California black bear
          • Ursus americanus carlottae
            Ursus americanus carlottae
            The Haida Gwaii black bear is a morphologically distinct subspecies of the American Black Bear. The most significant morphological differences are its large size, massive cranium, and large molars...

            , Haida Gwaii black bear or Queen Charlotte black bear
          • Ursus americanus cinnamomum, cinnamon bear
          • Ursus americanus emmonsii, Glacier bear
          • Ursus americanus eremicus, Mexican black bear
          • Ursus americanus floridanus, Florida black bear
          • Ursus americanus hamiltoni
            Ursus americanus hamiltoni
            The Newfoundland black bear is a morphologically distinct subspecies of the American Black Bear which is endemic to the island of Newfoundland in Atlantic Canada. The Newfoundland black bear is generally larger than its mainland relatives, ranging in size from and averaging...

            , Newfoundland black bear
          • Ursus americanus kermodei, Kermode bear or spirit bear
          • Ursus americanus luteolus, Louisiana black bear
          • Ursus americanus machetes, West Mexico black bear
          • Ursus americanus perniger, Kenai black bear
          • Ursus americanus pugnax, Dall black bear
          • Ursus americanus vancouveri, Vancouver Island black bear
        • Ursus arctos, brown bear
          • Ursus arctos arctos, Eurasian brown bear
          • Ursus arctos alascensis
          • Ursus arctos beringianus, Kamchatka brown bear or Far Eastern brown bear
          • † Ursus arctos californicus, California golden bear
          • † Ursus arctos crowtheri, Atlas bear
          • † Ursus arctos dalli
          • Ursus arctos gobiensis, Gobi bear (very rare)
          • Ursus arctos horribilis, grizzly bear
          • Ursus arctos isabellinus, Himalayan brown bear or Himalayan red bear
          • Ursus arctos lasiotus, Ussuri brown bear or black grizzly
          • Ursus arctos middendorffi, Kodiak bear
          • † Ursus arctos nelsoni, Mexican grizzly bear
          • Ursus arctos piscator, Bergman's bear (extinct?)
          • Ursus arctos pruinosus, Tibetan blue bear or Tibetan bear or Himalayan blue bear
          • Ursus arctos sitkensis
          • Ursus arctos syriacus Syrian (brown) bear
        • † Ursus deningeri
          Ursus deningeri
          Ursus deningeri is an extinct species of mammal of the family Ursidae , endemic to Europe during the Pleistocene, living from ~1.8 Mya—100,000 years ago, existing for approximately ....

        • † Ursus etruscus
          Ursus etruscus
          Ursus etruscus is an extinct species of mammal of the family Ursidae , endemic to Europe, Asia and North Africa during the Pliocene through Pleistocene, living from ~5.3 Mya—11,000 years ago, existing for approximately ....

        • † Ursus inopinatus, MacFarlane's bear (cryptid
          Cryptid
          In cryptozoology and sometimes in cryptobotany, a cryptid is a creature or plant whose existence has been suggested but is unrecognized by scientific consensus and often regarded as highly unlikely. Famous examples include the Yeti in the Himalayas and the Loch Ness Monster in...

          ; if an authentic species, extinct)
        • † Ursus minimus
          Ursus minimus
          Ursus minimus is an extinct species of bear, endemic to Europe during the Pliocene, living from ~5.3—1.8 Mya, existing for approximately ....

        • Ursus maritimus, polar bear
          • Ursus maritimus maritimus
          • † Ursus maritimus tyrannus
            Ursus maritimus tyrannus
            Ursus maritimus tyrannus was a very large fossil subspecies of polar bear, descended from an Arctic population of brown bears. Its name in Latin means tyrant sea bear. The species is mentioned by Björn Kurtén, who assigned it to a Polar bear subspecies, U. m. tyrannus. Its bones have been found in...

        • † Ursus rossicus
        • † Ursus sackdillingensis
        • † Ursus spelaeus, cave bear
        • Ursus thibetanus, Asian black bear
          • Ursus thibetanus formosanus, Formosan black bear
          • Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus
          • Ursus thibetanus japonicus
          • Ursus thibetanus laniger
          • Ursus thibetanus mupinensis
          • Ursus thibetanus thibetanus
          • Ursus thibetanus ussuricus
    • † Kolponomos
      Kolponomos
      Kolponomos is an extinct genus of marine bears which existed from the Hemingfordian age to the Aquitanian age of the Miocene epoch, about 20 million years ago. It was described in 1960 by Ruben A. Stirton, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, from a partial skull and jaw...

      • † Kolponomos clallamensis
      • † Kolponomos newportensis


The genera Melursus and Helarctos are sometimes also included in Ursus. The Asiatic black bear and the polar bear used to be placed in their own genera, Selenarctos and Thalarctos which are now placed at subgenus
Subgenus
In biology, a subgenus is a taxonomic rank directly below genus.In zoology, a subgeneric name can be used independently or included in a species name, in parentheses, placed between the generic name and the specific epithet: e.g. the Tiger Cowry of the Indo-Pacific, Cypraea tigris Linnaeus, which...

 rank.

A number of hybrids have been bred between American black, brown, and polar bears (see Ursid hybrids).

Morphology




Bears are generally bulky and robust animals with relatively short legs. Bears are sexually dimorphic
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

 with regard to size, with the males being larger. Larger species tend to show increased levels of sexual dimorphism in comparison to smaller species, and where a species varies in size across its distribution individuals from larger sized areas tend also to vary more. Bears are the most massive terrestrial members of the order Carnivora, with some Polar Bears and Brown Bears weighing over 750 kilograms (1,653.5 lb). As to which species is the largest may depend on whether the assessment is based on which species has the largest individuals (brown bears) or on the largest average size (polar bears). The smallest bears are the Sun Bear
Sun Bear
The sun bear , sometimes known as the honey bear, is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia; North-East India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Southern China, Peninsular Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.-Description:The sun bear...

s of Asia, which weigh an average of 65 kilograms (143.3 lb) for the males and 45 kilograms (99.2 lb) for the females.

Unlike other land carnivorans, bears are plantigrade
Plantigrade
right|151px|thumb|Human skeleton, showing plantigrade habitIn terrestrial animals, plantigrade locomotion means walking with the podials and metatarsals flat on the ground. It is one of three forms of locomotion adopted by mammals...

. They distribute their weight toward the hind feet which makes them look lumbering when they walk. They are still quite fast with the brown bear reaching 30 miles per hour (13.4 m/s) although they are still slower than felines
Felinae
Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae which includes the genera and species listed below. Most are small to medium-sized cats, although the group does include some larger animals, such as the Cougar and Cheetah....

 and canines
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

. Bears can stand on their hind feet and sit up straight with remarkable balance. Bears have non-retractable claws which are used for digging, climbing, tearing and catching prey. Their ears are rounded.

Bears have an excellent sense of smell
Olfaction
Olfaction is the sense of smell. This sense is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, and, by analogy, sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates...

, a better sense of smell than the dogs
Canidae
Canidae is the biological family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals that includes wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, and domestic dogs. A member of this family is called a canid . The Canidae family is divided into two tribes: Canini and Vulpini...

 (Canidae), or possibly any other mammal. This sense of smell is used for signalling between bears (either to warn off rivals or detect mates) and for finding food. Smell is the principal sense used by bears to find most of their diet.

Dentition


Unlike most other members of the Carnivora
Carnivora
The diverse order Carnivora |Latin]] carō "flesh", + vorāre "to devour") includes over 260 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, while the word "carnivore" can refer to any meat-eating animal...

, bears have relatively undeveloped carnassial
Carnassial
Carnassials are large teeth found in many carnivorous mammals, used for shearing flesh and bone in a scissor- or shear-like way. In the Carnivora, the carnassials are the modified last upper premolar and the first molar, but in the prehistoric creodonts, the carnassials were further back in the...

 teeth, and their teeth are adapted for a diet that includes a significant amount of vegetable matter. The canine teeth
Canine tooth
In mammalian oral anatomy, the canine teeth, also called cuspids, dogteeth, fangs, or eye teeth, are relatively long, pointed teeth...

 are large, and the molar
Molar (tooth)
Molars are the rearmost and most complicated kind of tooth in most mammals. In many mammals they grind food; hence the Latin name mola, "millstone"....

 teeth flat and crushing. There is considerable variation in dental formula
Dentition
Dentition pertains to the development of teeth and their arrangement in the mouth. In particular, the characteristic arrangement, kind, and number of teeth in a given species at a given age...

 even within a given species. It has been suggested that this indicates bears are still in the process of evolving from a carnivorous to a predominantly herbivorous diet. Polar bears appear to have secondarily re-evolved fully functional carnassials, as their diet has switched back towards carnivory. The dental formula for living bears is:

Distribution and habitat


The bears are mostly found in the northern hemisphere, with a single species, the spectacled bear
Spectacled Bear
The spectacled bear , also known as the Andean bear and locally as ukuko, jukumari or ucumari, is the last remaining short-faced bear and the closest living relative to the Florida spectacled bear and short-faced bears of the Middle Pleistocene to Late Pleistocene age.The spectacled bear is a...

, occurring in South America. The Atlas Bear
Atlas Bear
The Atlas Bear is an extinct subspecies of the Brown Bear, which is sometimes classified as a distinct species.-Range and description:...

, a subspecies of the Brown Bear, was the only bear native to Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. It was distributed in North Africa from Morocco to Libya, but has been extinct since around the 1870s. All the other species are found in North America, Asia and Europe. The most widespread species is the Brown Bear, which occurs from Western Europe eastwards through Asia to the western areas of North America. The American Black Bear is restricted to North America, and the Polar bear is restricted to the Arctic Sea. All the remaining species are Asian.

With the exception of the Polar Bear the bears are mostly forest species. Some species, particularly the Brown Bear, may inhabit or seasonally use other areas such as alpine scrub or tundra.

Behaviour


While many people think that bears are nocturnal, they are in fact generally diurnal, active for the most part during the day. The belief that they are nocturnal apparently comes from the habits of bears that live near humans which engage in some nocturnal activities, such as raiding trash cans or crops while avoiding humans. The sloth bear of Asia is the most nocturnal of the bears, but this varies by individual and females with cubs are often diurnal in order to avoid competition with males and nocturnal predators. Bears are overwhelmingly solitary and are considered to be the most asocial of all the Carnivora. Liaisons between breeding bears are brief, and the only times bears are encountered in small groups are mothers with young or occasional seasonal bounties of rich food (such as salmon runs).

Vocalizations


Bears produce a variety of vocalizations such as:
  • Moaning: produced mostly as mild warnings to potential threats or in fear.
  • Barking: produced during times of alarm, excitement or to give away the animal's position.
  • Huffing: made during courtship or between mother and cubs to warn of danger.
  • Growling: produced as strong warnings to potential threats or in anger.
  • Roaring: used much for the same reasons as growls and also to proclaim territory and for intimidation.

Diet and interspecific interactions



Their carnivorous reputation non-withstanding, most bears have adopted a diet of more plant than animal matter and are completely opportunistic omnivores. Some bears will climb trees in order to obtain mast
Mast (botany)
Mast is the "fruit of forest trees like acorns and other nuts". It is also defined as "the fruit of trees such as beech, and other forms of Cupuliferae". Alternatively, it can also refer to "a heap of nuts"....

 (edible vegatative or reproductive parts such as acorns); smaller species which are more able to climb include a greater amount of this in their diet. Such masts can be very important to the diet of these species, and mast failures may result in long range movements by bears looking for alternative sources of food. One exception is the polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

, which has adopted a diet mainly of marine mammal
Marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...

s to survive in the Arctic. The other exception is the giant panda
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

 which has adopted a diet mainly of bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

. Stable isotope analysis
Isotope analysis
Isotope analysis is the identification of isotopic signature, the distribution of certain stable isotopes and chemical elements within chemical compounds. This can be applied to a food web to make it possible to draw direct inferences regarding diet, trophic level, and subsistence...

 of the extinct
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 giant short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) shows that it was also an exclusive meat eater, probably a scavenger
Scavenger
Scavenging is both a carnivorous and herbivorous feeding behavior in which individual scavengers search out dead animal and dead plant biomass on which to feed. The eating of carrion from the same species is referred to as cannibalism. Scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem by...

. The sloth bear
Sloth Bear
The sloth bear , also known as the labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution...

, though not as specialized as the previous two species, has lost several front teeth usually seen in bears and developed a long, suctioning tongue in order to feed on the ant
Ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...

s, termite
Termite
Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera , but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea...

s and other burrowing insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s that they favour. At certain times of the year these insects can make up 90% of their diet. All bears will feed on any food source that becomes available, and the nature of that varies seasonally. A study of Asiatic black bears in Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 found that they would consume large numbers of acorns when they were most common, and switch to ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s in other times of the year.

When taking warm-blooded animals, bears will typically take small or young animals, as they are easier to catch. Although (besides polar bears) both species of black bear and the brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

 can sometimes take large prey, such as ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s. Often, bears will feed on other large animals when they encounter a carcass, whether or not the carcass is claimed by or is the kill of another predator. This competition is the main source of interspecies conflict. Bears are typically the apex predators in their range due to their size and power, and can defend a carcass against nearly all comers. Mother bears also can usually defend their cubs against other predators. The tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

 is the only known predator known to regularly prey on adult bears, including sloth bear
Sloth Bear
The sloth bear , also known as the labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution...

s, Asiatic black bear
Asiatic Black Bear
The Asian black bear , also known as the moon bear or white-chested bear is a medium-sized species of bear, largely adapted for arboreal life, which occurs through much of southern Asia, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian far east and Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan...

s, giant panda
Giant Panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...

s, sun bear
Sun Bear
The sun bear , sometimes known as the honey bear, is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia; North-East India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Southern China, Peninsular Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.-Description:The sun bear...

s and small brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s.

Breeding



The age at which bears reach sexual maturity
Sexual maturity
Sexual maturity is the age or stage when an organism can reproduce. It is sometimes considered synonymous with adulthood, though the two are distinct...

 is highly variable, both between and within species. Sexual maturity is dependent on body condition, which is in turn dependent upon the food supply available to the growing individual. In the females of smaller species may have young in as little as two years, whereas the larger species may not rear young until they are four or even nine years old. First breeding may be even later in males, where competition for mates may leave younger males without access to females.

The bear's courtship period is very brief. Bears in northern climates reproduce seasonally, usually after a period of inactivity similar to hibernation, although tropical species breed all year round. Cubs are born toothless, blind, and bald. The cubs of brown bears, usually born in litters
Litter (animal)
A litter is the offspring at one birth of animals from the same mother and usually from one set of parents. The word is most often used for the offspring of mammals, but can be used for any animal that gives birth to multiple young. In comparison, a group of eggs and the offspring that hatch from...

 of 1–3, will typically stay with the mother for two full seasons. They feed on their mother's milk through the duration of their relationship with their mother, although as the cubs continue to grow, nursing becomes less frequent and cubs learn to begin hunting with the mother. They will remain with the mother for approximately three years, until she enters the next cycle of estrus and drives the cubs off. Bears will reach sexual maturity in five to seven years. Male bears, especially Polar and Brown Bears, will kill and sometimes devour cubs born to another father in order to induce a female to breed again. Female bears are often successful in driving off males in protection of their cubs, despite being rather smaller.

Winter dormancy



Many bears of northern regions are assumed to hibernate
Hibernation
Hibernation is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in animals, characterized by lower body temperature, slower breathing, and lower metabolic rate. Hibernating animals conserve food, especially during winter when food supplies are limited, tapping energy reserves, body fat, at a slow rate...

 in the winter. While many bear species do go into a physiological state often colloquially called "hibernation" or "winter sleep", it is not true hibernation. In true hibernators, body temperatures drop to near ambient and heart rate slows drastically, but the animals periodically rouse themselves to urinate or defecate and to eat from stored food. The body temperature of bears, on the other hand, drops only a few degrees from normal and heart rate slows only slightly. They normally do not wake during this "hibernation", and therefore do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate the entire period. Higher body heat and being easily roused may be adaptations, because females give birth to their cubs during this winter sleep.

Relationship with humans



Some species, such as the polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

, American black bear
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

, sloth bear
Sloth Bear
The sloth bear , also known as the labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution...

 and the brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

, are dangerous to humans, especially in areas where they have become used to people. All bears are physically powerful and are likely capable of fatally attacking a person, but they, for the most part, are shy, are easily frightened and will avoid humans. Injuries caused by bears are rare, but are often widely reported. The danger that bears pose is often vastly exaggerated, in part by the human imagination. However, when a mother feels her cubs are threatened, she will behave ferociously. It is recommended to give all bears a wide berth because they are behaviorally unpredictable.

Bears may also come into conflict with humans where they raid crops or attack livestock. These problems may be the work of only a few bears but create a climate of conflict as farmers and ranchers may perceive all losses as due to bears and advocate the preventive removal of all bears. Mitigation methods may be used to reduce bear damage to crops, and reduce local antipathy towards bears.
Laws have been passed in many areas of the world to protect bears from hunters' habitat destruction
Habitat destruction
Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity mainly for the purpose of...

. Public perception of bears is often very positive, as people identify with bears due to their omnivorous diet, ability to stand on two legs, and symbolic importance, and there is widespread support for bear protection, at least in more affluent societies. In more rural and poorer regions attitudes may be more shaped by the dangers posed by bears and the economic costs that they incur to farmers and ranchers. Some populated areas with bear populations have also outlawed the feeding of bears, including allowing them access to garbage or other food waste. Bears in captivity have been trained to dance, box, or ride bicycle
Bicycle
A bicycle, also known as a bike, pushbike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or bicyclist....

s; however, this use of the animals became controversial in the late 20th century. Bears were kept for baiting
Bear-baiting
Bear-baiting is a blood sport involving the worrying or tormenting of bears.-Bear-baiting in England:Bear-baiting was popular in England until the nineteenth century. From the sixteenth century, many herds of bears were maintained for baiting...

 in Europe at least since the 16th century.

Bears as food and medicine


Many people enjoy hunting bears and eating them. Their meat is dark and stringy, like a tough cut of beef. In Cantonese cuisine
Cantonese cuisine
Cantonese cuisine comes from Guangdong Province in southern China and is one of 8 superdivisions of Chinese cuisine. Its prominence outside China is due to the great numbers of early emigrants from Guangdong. Cantonese chefs are highly sought after throughout the country...

, bear paws are considered a delicacy. The peoples of China, Japan, and Korea use bears' body parts and secretions (notably their gallbladders and bile) as part of traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed more than 12,000 bile bear
Bile bear
Bile bear, or battery bear, refers to Asiatic black bears kept in captivity in China and Vietnam to harvest bile, a digestive juice produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder. When extracted, the bears’ bile is a valuable commodity for sale as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine...

s are kept on farms, farmed for their bile, in China, Vietnam and South Korea. Bear meat must be cooked thoroughly as it can often be infected with Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis is a nematode parasite, occurring in rats, pigs, bears and humans, and is responsible for the disease trichinosis. It is sometimes referred to as the "pork worm" due to it being found commonly in undercooked pork products...

, which can cause trichinosis
Trichinosis
Trichinosis, also called trichinellosis, or trichiniasis, is a parasitic disease caused by eating raw or undercooked pork or wild game infected with the larvae of a species of roundworm Trichinella spiralis, commonly called the trichina worm. There are eight Trichinella species; five are...

.

Names


The female first name "Ursula", originally derived from a Christian saint's name and common in English- and German-speaking countries, means "little she-bear" (diminutive of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 ursa). In Switzerland the male first name "Urs" is especially popular, while the name of the canton and city of Bern is derived from Bär, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 for bear.

In Scandinavia, the male personal names Björn
Bjorn
Bjorn , Björn , Bjørn , Beorn or, rarely, Bjôrn, Biorn, or Latinized Biornus, is a Nordic male given name, or less often a surname, meaning "bear"...

 (Sweden, Iceland) and Bjørn (Norway, Denmark) meaning "bear" are relatively common. In Finland, male personal name Otso
Otso
In Finnish mythology Otso, Ohto, Kontio, metsän kuningas , and mesikämmen are some of the many rarely uttered circumlocutory epithets for the spirit that was never directly named...

 is a old poetic name for bear, similar to Kontio
Kontio
Kontio is a Finnish circumlocutory epithet for bear, similar to Otso.*It is the name of a Finnish icebreaker Kontio*It is the name of the most famous rubber boot model by Nokian Footwear*It is the name of a truck model KONTIO-SISU...

.

In Russian and other Slavic languages
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

, the word for bear, "Medved
Medved
Medved is the Slavic term for "bear", literally translating into "one who knows honey." It may also refer to:People:* Aleksandr Medved, Soviet-Belarussian wrestler* David Medved, physicist and father of Michael Medved...

" (медведь), and variants or derivatives such as Medvedev, are common surnames.

The Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 family name "McMahon" means "Son of Bear" in Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

.

In East European Jewish communities, the name "Ber" (בער) — Yiddish cognate of "Bear" — has been attested as a common male first name, at least since the 18th century, and was among others the name of several prominent Rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s. The Yiddish "Ber" is still in use among Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel, the US and other countries. With the transition from Yiddish to Hebrew under the influence of zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

, the Hebrew word for "bear", "Dov" (דב), was taken up in contemporary Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and is at present among the commonly used male first names in that country.

"Ten Bears
Ten Bears
Chief Ten Bears - born Paruasemana , became the paraivo or chief of the Ketahto local group of Native Americans, and later the Principal Chief of the northern Yamparika or "Root Eater" division of the Numunuu Comanche, ca. 1850-60...

" (Paruasemana) was the name of a well-known 19th century chieftain among the Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

. Also among other Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 tribes, bear-related names are attested.

Myth and legend






There is evidence of prehistoric bear worship
Bear worship
Bear worship is the religious practice of the worshiping of bears found in many North American and North Eurasian ethnic circumpolar religions such as the Sami, Nivkh, Ainu, and pre-Christian Finns...

. Anthropologists such as Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell
Joseph John Campbell was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience...

 have regarded this as a common feature in most of the fishing
Fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

 and hunting
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

-tribe
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

s. The prehistoric Finns, along with most Siberian peoples, considered the bear as the spirit of one's forefathers. This is why the bear (karhu) was a greatly respected animal, with several euphemistic names (such as otso, mesikämmen and kontio). The bear is the national animal of Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

.

This kind of attitude is reflected in the traditional Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n fairy tale
Fairy tale
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

 "Morozko", whose arrogant protagonist Ivan tries to kill a mother bear and her cubs — and is punished and humbled by having his own head turned magically into a bear's head and being subsequently shunned by human society.

"The Brown Bear of Norway
The Brown Bear of Norway
The Brown Bear of Norway is a Scottish fairy tale collected by Fitzroy MacLean in West Highland Tales. Andrew Lang included it in The Lilac Fairy Book.It is Aarne-Thompson type 425A, the search for the lost husband...

" is a Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 fairy tale
Fairy tale
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

 telling the adventures of a girl who married a prince magically turned into a bear, and who managed to get him back into a human form by the force of her love and after many trials and difficulties. In the 1970s this story was adapted into the East German fantasy film
Fantasy film
Fantasy films are films with fantastic themes, usually involving magic, supernatural events, make-believe creatures, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered to be distinct from science fiction film and horror film, although the genres do overlap...

 The Singing Ringing Tree
The Singing Ringing Tree
The Singing Ringing Tree was a children's film made by East German studio DEFA in 1957 and shown in the form of a television series by the BBC...

 and broadcast on British television.

There has been evidence about early bear worship in China and among the Ainu
Ainu people
The , also called Aynu, Aino , and in historical texts Ezo , are indigenous people or groups in Japan and Russia. Historically they spoke the Ainu language and related varieties and lived in Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin...

 culture as well (see Iomante
Iomante
is the name of an Ainu ceremony. The word literally means "to send something/someone off", and generally refers to the Ainu brown bear sacrifice. However, in some Ainu villages, it is a Blakiston's Fish Owl, rather than a bear, that is sacrificed. In Japanese, the ceremony is known as or,...

). Korean people
Korean people
The Korean people are an ethnic group originating in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. Koreans are one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous groups in the world.-Names:...

 in their mythology
Korean mythology
Korean mythology consists of national legends and folk-tales which come from all over the Korean Peninsula. Even within the same ethnic group, myths tend to have slightly different variations...

 identify the bear as their ancestor and symbolic animal. According to the Korean legend, a god imposed a difficult test on a she-bear, and when she passed it the god turned her into a woman and married her.


Legends of saints taming bears are common in the Alpine zone. In the arms of the bishopric of Freising
Freising
Freising is a town in Bavaria, Germany, and capital of the district Freising. Total population 48,500.The city is located north of Munich at the Isar river, near the Munich International Airport...

 (see illustration) the bear is the dangerous totem animal tamed by St. Corbinian
Corbinian
Saint Corbinian was a Frankish bishop. His feast day is September 8. The commemoration of the translation of his relics is November 20.-Life:...

 and made to carry his civilised baggage over the mountains.
A bear also features prominently in the legend of St. Romedius
Romedius
Saint Romedius was a son of the Tyrolese count of Thaur . Though the son of a nobleman, as a young man he withdrew to a rock cave in order to meditate...

, who is also said to have tamed one of these animals and had the same bear carry him from his hermitage in the mountains to the city of Trento
Trento
Trento is an Italian city located in the Adige River valley in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. It is the capital of Trentino...

.
Similar stories are told of Saint Gall
Saint Gall
Saint Gall, Gallen, or Gallus was an Irish disciple and one of the traditionally twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to the continent. Saint Deicolus is called an older brother of Gall.-Biography:...

 and Saint Columbanus.
This recurrent motif was used by the Church as a symbol of the victory of Christianity over Paganism. In the Norse settlements of northern England during the tenth century a type of "hogback" grave cover of a long narrow block of stone with a shaped apex like the roof beam of a long house, is carved with a muzzled, thus Christianised, bear clasping each gable end. Though the best collection of these is in the church at Brompton, North Yorkshire
Brompton, Hambleton
Brompton is a village and civil parish in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, England, about two miles north of Northallerton. According to the 2001 UK census, Brompton parish had a population of 1,912.-History:...

, their distribution ranges across northern England and southern Scotland, with a scattered few in the north Midlands and single survivals in Wales, Cornwall and Ireland; a late group is found in the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

.


Bears are a popular feature of many children's stories including Goldilocks and The Story of the Three Bears, the Berenstein Bears, and Winnie the Pooh.

Symbolic use


The Russian bear
Russian Bear
The Russian Bear is a national personification for Russia, used in cartoons, articles and dramatic plays at least since the 17th century, and relating alike to Tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union and the present-day Russian Federation....

 is a common national personification
National personification
A national personification is an anthropomorphization of a nation or its people; it can appear in both editorial cartoons and propaganda.Some early personifications in the Western world tended to be national manifestations of the majestic wisdom and war goddess Minerva/Athena, and often took the...

 for Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 (as well as the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

). The brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

 is also Germany's and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

's national animal.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the black bear
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

 is the state animal of Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, and West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

; the grizzly bear
Grizzly Bear
The grizzly bear , also known as the silvertip bear, the grizzly, or the North American brown bear, is a subspecies of brown bear that generally lives in the uplands of western North America...

 is the state animal of both Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 and California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

.

In the UK, the bear and staff has long featured on the heraldic arms of Warwickshire
Warwickshire
Warwickshire is a landlocked non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, although the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare...

 county.

Bears appear in the canting arms
Canting arms
Canting arms are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name in a visual pun or rebus. The term cant came into the English language from Anglo-Norman cant, meaning song or singing, from Latin cantāre, and English cognates include canticle, chant, accent, incantation and recant.Canting arms –...

 of Bern and Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

.

Also, "bear", "bruin
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

", or specific types of bears are popular nickname
Nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

s or mascot
Mascot
The term mascot – defined as a term for any person, animal, or object thought to bring luck – colloquially includes anything used to represent a group with a common public identity, such as a school, professional sports team, society, military unit, or brand name...

s, for example, for sports teams (Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League...

, California Golden Bears
California Golden Bears
The California Golden Bears is the nickname used for 29 varsity athletic programs and various club teams of the University of California, Berkeley...

, UCLA Bruins
UCLA Bruins
The UCLA Bruins are the sports teams for University of California, Los Angeles . The Bruin men's and women's teams participate in NCAA Division I as part of the Pacific-12 Conference and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation . For football, they are in the Football Bowl Subdivision of Division I...

, Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are a professional ice hockey team based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. They are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League . The team has been in existence since 1924, and is the league's third-oldest team and its oldest in the...

); and a bear cub called Misha
Misha
Misha , also known as Mishka or The Olympic Mishka is the name of the Russian Bear, the mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games . He was designed by children's books illustrator Victor Chizhikov....

 was mascot
Mascot
The term mascot – defined as a term for any person, animal, or object thought to bring luck – colloquially includes anything used to represent a group with a common public identity, such as a school, professional sports team, society, military unit, or brand name...

 of the 1980 Summer Olympics
1980 Summer Olympics
The 1980 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event celebrated in Moscow in the Soviet Union. In addition, the yachting events were held in Tallinn, and some of the preliminary matches and the quarter-finals of the football tournament...

 in Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

, USSR.


Smokey Bear
Smokey Bear
Smokey Bear is a mascot of the United States Forest Service created to educate the public about the dangers of forest fires. An advertising campaign featuring Smokey was created in 1944 with the slogan, "Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires". Smokey Bear's later slogan,...

 has become a part of American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 culture since his introduction in 1944. Known to almost all Americans, he and his message, "Only you can prevent forest fires" (updated in 2001 to "Only you can prevent wildfires"), have been a symbol of preserving woodlands. Smokey wears a hat
Campaign hat
A campaign cover is a broad-brimmed felt or straw hat, with a high crown, pinched symmetrically at the four corners .It is associated with the New Zealand Army, the Royal Canadian...

 similar to one worn by U.S. Forest Service rangers; state police officers in some states wear a similar style, giving rise to the CB slang
CB slang
CB slang is the distinctive anti-language, argot or cant which developed amongst users of citizens' band radio , especially truck drivers in the USA during the 1970s and early-1980s....

 "bear" or "Smokey" for the highway patrol
Highway patrol
A highway patrol is either a police unit created primarily for the purpose of overseeing and enforcing traffic safety compliance on roads and highways, or a detail within an existing local or regional police agency that is primarily concerned with such duties.Duties of highway patrols or traffic...

.

The name Beowulf
Beowulf
Beowulf , but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.It survives in a single...

 has been hypothesized to mean "bee-wolf", a kenning
Kenning
A kenning is a type of literary trope, specifically circumlocution, in the form of a compound that employs figurative language in place of a more concrete single-word noun. Kennings are strongly associated with Old Norse and later Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon poetry...

 for "bear".

Figures of speech


The physical attributes and behaviours of bears are commonly used in figures of speech in English.
  • In the stock market
    Stock market
    A stock market or equity market is a public entity for the trading of company stock and derivatives at an agreed price; these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.The size of the world stock market was estimated at about $36.6 trillion...

    , a bear market is a period of declining prices. Pessimistic forecasting or negative activity is said to be bearish (due to the stereotypical posture of bears looking downwards), and one who expresses bearish sentiment is a bear. Its opposite is a bull market, and bullish sentiment from bulls.
  • In gay slang
    Gay slang
    LGBT slang, LGBT speak or gay slang is a set of slang used predominantly among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It has been used in various languages, including English and Japanese since the early 1900s as a means by members of the LGBT community as a group to self-advertise as a...

    , the term "bear
    Bear community
    "Bear" is a LGBT slang term that refers to members of a subculture in the homosexual and bisexual male communities and to an emerging subset of LGBT communities with events, codes, and a culture-specific identity...

    " refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and commonly facial hair.
  • A bear hug
    Bear hug
    In wrestling, a bear hug, also known as a bodylock, is a grappling clinch hold and stand-up grappling position where the arms are wrapped around the opponent, either around the opponent's chest, midsection, or thighs; sometimes with one or both of the opponents arms pinned to the opponent's body...

    is typically a tight hug
    Hug
    A hug is a form of physical intimacy, that usually involves closing or holding the arms around the neck, back, or waist of another person; if more than two persons are involved, this is referred to as a group hug. A hug, sometimes in association with a kiss, eye contact or other gestures, is a...

     that involves wrapping one's arms around another person, often leaving that person's arms immobile. It was used in the Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Reagan
    Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

     political ad "Bear in the woods
    Bear in the woods
    "There is a bear in the woods" was the opening line of a television commercial for the 1984 U.S. presidential campaign of Republican Party candidate Ronald Reagan. Before the ad was created, the public seemed more comfortable with the way Walter Mondale described how he would negotiate than they...

    ".
  • Bear tracking – in the old Western states of the U.S. and, to this day, in the former Dakota Territory
    Dakota Territory
    The Territory of Dakota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final extent of the reduced territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.The Dakota Territory consisted of...

    , the expression "you ain't just a bear trackin'" is used to mean "you ain't lying" or "that's for sure". This expression evolved as an outgrowth of the experience pioneer hunters and mountainmen had when tracking bear. Bears often lay down false tracks and are notorious for doubling back on anything tracking them. If you are not following bear tracks, you are not following false trails or leads in your thoughts, words or deeds.
  • In Korean culture a person is referred to as being "like a bear" when they are stubborn or not sensitive to what is happening around their surroundings. Used as a phrase to call a person "stubborn bear".
  • The Bible
    Bible
    The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

     compares King David's "bitter warriors", who fight with such fury that they could overcome many times their number of opponents, with "a bear robbed of her whelps in the field" (2 Samuel 17:8 s:Bible (King James)/2 Samuel#Chapter 17). The phrase "a bereaved bear" (דב שכול), derived from this Biblical source, is still used in the literary Hebrew of contemporary Israel
    Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

    .

Teddy bears



Around the world, many children have stuffed toys in the form of bears.

Organizations regarding bears


There are at least two authoritative organizations for seeking scientific information on bear species of the world. These focus on, for example, the species' natural history, management, and conservation. The International Association for Bear Research & Management is also known as the International Bear Association
International Bear Association
The International Association for Bear Research and Management , also known as the International Bear Association, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization open to professional biologists, wildlife managers and others dedicated to the conservation of the world’s eight bear species.With over 550...

 (IBA). The Bear Specialist Group
Bear Specialist Group
The Bear Specialist Group is the bear taxon expert focal group of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature...

of the Species Survival Commission is part of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

See also

  • Bear hunting
    Bear hunting
    Bear hunting is the act of hunting bears. Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. - Details :Bears are large mammals in the order Carnivora. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout...

  • List of fatal bear attacks in North America
  • List of fictional bears
  • List of non-fictional bears
  • Ursari
    Ursari
    The Ursari or Richinara are the traditionally-nomad occupational group of animal trainers among the Roma people.An endogamous category originally drawing the bulk of its income from busking performances in which they used brown bears...



Further reading

  • Bears of the World, Terry Domico, photographs by Terry Domico and Mark Newman, Facts on File, Inc, 1988, hardcover, ISBN 978-0-8160-1536-8.
  • The Bear by William Faulkner
    William Faulkner
    William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

    .
  • Brunner, Bernd: Bears — A Brief History. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007.

External links