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Question:

    Which is the largest bear on earth?

Answer:    

    The polar bear.

It is a close call, but the polar bear is generally considered the largest bear on Earth. A close second is the brown bear, specifically the Kodiak bear. The Kodiak is a subspecies of the brown bear native to Alaska.

The consensus among experts is that the polar bear is the largest, but some believe the Kodiak bear to be larger. Part of the dissension comes from the vagueness of the word "largest." The answer really depends on how "largest" is defined - Heaviest? Longest? Largest ever recorded?

The following data, taken from Gary Brown's Great Bear Almanac (New York, 1993), compares the average measurements of the polar and brown bear.

  Polar Bear Brown Bear
Average Weight of Mature Male 900-1,500 pounds 500-900 pounds
Heaviest Recorded 2,210 pounds 2,500+ pounds
Average Length of Mature Male 8-8.4 feet >7-10 feet
Source: The Great Bear Almanac by Gary Brown

 

Standard DisclaimerRelated Web Sites
  • International Association for Bear Research and Management (IBA) - The IBA "supports the scientific management of bears through research and distribution of information." Its webpage provides facts sheets on bears of the World, bear conservation, and its peer-reviewed journal Ursus. You can also find information about the work of the Bear Specialist Group (BSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Species Survival Commission (SSC) on this site .
  • Is a polar bear's fur transparent? Everyday Mysteries from the Library of Congress.
  • North American Bear Center- The mission of the North American Bear Center is to be a leader in providing understanding and appreciation of black bears, their role in the ecosystem and their relationship to humans." This site contains information about bear research, a slide show, and a kid's area. By going to the Bear Pages categories, you can get information about the black, brown and polar bear.
  • Polar Bears International - Polar Bear International is a non-profit group dedicated to the conservation of the polar bear. Web site includes bear facts, photographs, information and research.


Library of Congress Web SiteFurther Reading
  • Brown, Gary. The great bear almanac. New York, Lyons &amp; Burford, 1993. 325 p.
  • Craighead, Lance. Bears of the world. Stillwater, MN, Voyageur Press, 2000. 132 p.

SearchFor more print resources...
Search on "brown bear" or "polar bear" in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Who is Larger?

Brown bear - From the  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Nat'l Image Library.
Brown bear. Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Image Library.

Polar bear - From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Nat'l Image Library.
Polar bear. Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Image Library.

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 July 31, 2017
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