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Polar Bear Vs. Grizzly Bear: Ultimate Comparison

Grizzly Bear in Canada
Grizzly Bear in Canada, Image via

Bears are truly giant animals living on this planet. Due to their colossal size and furry skin, they are equal parts frightening and equal parts cute.

Consequently, people are equal parts fascinated by them and equal parts frightened of them. In this article we’ll compare two different bears, and predict who would win in a fight: polar bear vs grizzly bear.


Polar bear
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) in the winter snowdrift at Schönbrunn Zoo. Image via Alexander Leisser, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In general, bears are usually very unlikely to be seen by humans because their habitats are in extreme regions like snowy areas or the middle of deep forests. 

Also, bears do not seem to be dangerous animals in pictures, and even their name evokes no frightening feelings. Still, these giants are dangerous as they belong to the carnivore order of Kingdom Animalia. 

Surprisingly, they have no natural enemies, but sometimes, they end up having non-friendly encounters with other bears. 

It is noteworthy that many wondrous types of bears exist on planet Earth. There is a long list of bear types. Some of these include polar bears, brown bears (i.e grizzly bears), sun bears, sloth bears, panda bears, North American black bears, and Asiatic black bears – among many others. 

Out of all these species of bears, today, we are only concerned with the two main species: polar bears and grizzly bears. 

This article will provide a detailed account of polar bears vs. grizzly bears, comparing their characteristics and traits. Finally, concluding who would win in a potential fight.

Polar Bear Vs. Grizzly Bear Quick Comparison 

Grizzly bear.

Image by Simon Hurry via Pexels.

As mentioned earlier, polar bears and grizzly bears are the two main species of the kingdom Anamalia. They are grouped into the same category of Mammalia despite many differences. 

It’s because of prominent differences in their characteristics, physical traits, and habitats worldwide.

In general, polar bears and grizzly bears are among the largest and heaviest animals. An average bear weighs approximately 770 – 990 lbs (350 – 450 kg), regardless of its type. A male bear weighs slightly more than a female bear and stands a touch taller. 

Moreover, the more precise comparison features their class, order, habitat, physical traits, and behavior. All of these will be discussed below. 

FeaturesGrizzly Bear  Polar Bear
Kingdom Animalia Animalia 
Family UrsidaeUrsidae
Average Length 6.5 ft7 ft 10 inch – 9 ft to 10 inches
Average Tail2 inches3 – 5 inches
Average height3 ft 4 in4 ft 4 in
OrderOmnivore, CarnivoraCarnivora
Most common regions USA, CanadaNewfoundland island, Norway, the United States, Greenland, Canada, Russia, Arctic
Weight 175 – 790 lbs (80-360 kg)770 – 1500 lbs (350 – 700 kg)
Scientific name Ursus maritimusUrsus arctos horribilis
TeethSharp and large incisor teethCanines are sharper, more jagged, and larger
Average life spanMales 22 years and females 26 yearsMore than 25 years
HabitatIn Alaska, close to the coast and continental USHumid continental, arctic, sub, and the arctic circle


baby polar bear
Image by Hans Jurgen via Unsplash

In general, bears live in the most extreme of habitats, either in icy areas with occasional snowfalls throughout the year or in deep tropical forests. However, bears are found worldwide in Asia, North America, South America, and Europe.

Habitat of polar bears: Polar bears are native to colder areas due to their body physiology which is adapted to lower temperatures. Polar bears inhabit Canada, Alaska, Norway, Russia, and Greenland. 

Habitat of grizzly bears: Grizzly bears are found in alpine meadows, forests, woodlands and next to rivers. 

Grizzly bears are known to exist in North America mainly. Thus they are also known as the North American species of bears.

Physical Traits

grizzly bear via unsplash
grizzly bear via unsplash

Physical traits are the most apparent distinctive faction between polar and grizzly bears. We have mentioned below the six most evident differences in their physical attributes. 

1. Mass and Height of the Bears

Image of a polar bear via pexels

Another significant difference between polar and grizzly bears’ physical traits is their mass and height. 

Polar bears: Polar bears are massive bears with an average weight of 990 lbs (450 kg) for an adult male and around 440 lbs (200 kg) for an adult female. These bears are the tallest, and their height is about 6,5 ft – 8 ft (2m – 2,5m). 

Grizzly/brown bears: Grizzly bears are slightly shorter than polar bears and also weigh less. The average weight of an adult male grizzly bear reaches 550 – 620 lbs (250 – 280 kg), and an adult female weighs 330 – 440 lbs (150 – 200 kg). The height of these bears is about 3,5 ft (1 m) which is relatively short compared to polar bears. 

2. Body Colo

Polar bear with her cubs.
Polar bear with her cubs. Image by SURZet via Depositphotos

The colors of bears also vary depending on their species.

Polar Bears: This might be difficult to believe, but polar bears are not white. In fact, they have black skin with two layers of hollow fur, which appear white when sun rays reflect on it. Their outer coat perfectly camouflages with their typical environment. Accordingly, the polar bear’s fur becomes gray on cloudy days. 

Grizzly bears: Since they are found in tropical environments, they have been gifted with brown to black skin to camouflage them in that environment. Their skin color ranges from slightly brown in the front to darker and blackish around the legs.

3. Body Features

Grizzly bear in Alaska.
Grizzly bear in America. By Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith – Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ssp.), CC BY-SA 2.0,

Body features are another factor that make them different from each other. 

Polar bears: The polar bear has a long neck and a slim body. They have hollow hair covering the whole body except for their lips, nose, and the soles of their feet. Their face is narrow, with small eyes and ears. In addition, a unique feature is their thick layer of fat below the skin which acts as an insulator to protect them from the extremely cold temperatures they reside in.

Grizzly bears: Grizzly bears are known to have a hump on their shoulders, and their rumps are lower than their shoulders. These bears have small round ears and a dished appearance of the face.

4. Teeth Number & Size

polar bear via unsplash
polar bear via unsplash

Polar bears: Polar bears are heterodonts, meaning they have multiple sets of physically distinct teeth specialized for different functions. They use their teeth as defense and attacking mechanisms because of their sharp nature and length of two inches. It is noteworthy that polar bears have 12 incisors, four incisors, 16 premolars, and ten molars – which exert a biting force of a maximum of 1200 psi.

Grizzly bears: Grizzly bears have the same number of teeth as polar bears; 42. These include 12 incisors, four canines, 16 premolars, and ten molars. The distinguishing feature of their teeth is their length. Grizzly bears have teeth that measure 3 inches, which is longer than the teeth of polar bears.

5. Paw Size

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. Image by haveseen on depositphotos.
Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. Image by haveseen on depositphotos.

Polar bears: They have to walk on snow, so they require paws that balance their weight over the slippery ice and help them move comfortably. Notably, they have five-toed claws of a length of 12 inches.

Grizzly bears: Grizzly bears have smaller paws that measure about 2” – 4” long. Their characteristic feature is their long nails which help them attack their prey. In other words, their paws, pointed with long nails, serve as their defense mechanism.

6. Speed

Grizzly bear in typical landscape of tundra in Denali NP, Alaska, US.
Image by roussien on depositphotos.

Polar bears: Polar bears have an average running speed of 25 mph (40km/hr), which is slower than grizzly bears. Although 25 mph is quite a good running speed, they cannot run for longer than a few minutes because of their heavy body and considerable weight. Usually, they run for a few minutes and then slow down to a walking speed because their body heats up quickly, and they need to rest their muscles.

Grizzly bears: Grizzly bears have an average running speed faster than polar bears; they can run at speeds as high as 35 mph (56 km/hr). Due to their high speed and slimmer and shorter body, they can efficiently escape dangerous situations and use their high speeds as an attacking mechanism.

Food Preferences 

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Besides the notable difference in their physical traits, polar bears and grizzly bears also have particular food preferences. 

However, it is crucial to note that both polar and grizzly bears are Carnivores who preferably feed on meat or the flesh of animals. Here is a distinct difference in polar and grizzly bears’ food choices. 

Polar bears: Polar bears inhabit places near aquatic environments, and thus, their diet consists of animals found in those areas. Polar bears prefer seals of different types, like ringed seals and bearded seals. They usually eat small animals but sometimes also eat larger ones like whales.

Grizzly bears: The diet of grizzly bears includes a large variety because of the presence of various prey in tropical areas. They love eating elks, squirrels, fish, and plants like dandelions, sedges, and spring beauty. However, the favorite fruit of grizzly bears is berries, which they thoroughly enjoy.

Reproductive System 

Bears attacking each other
The male bears normally attack each other during the mating season. Image via Aconcagua, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Polar bears: Polar bears reproduce by mating within a community of polar bears—notably, the most robust male mates with an adult female polar bear. 

Subsequently, the female polar bear reproduces once every three years. The male polar bears compete to attain dominance, and the dominant male then mates with the female. Please note that the gestational period of polar bears ranges from 195 days to 265 days.

Grizzly bears: Grizzly bears also undergo sexual reproduction. The mating season of grizzly bears begins in May and extends up to July. 

The opposite genders of grizzly bears approach each other in the mating season. Once mating occurs, they complete their gestational period in their dens and then give birth after 180-250 days. 

Hibernation Periods

Polar bear and cub
Polar bear rears her cub alone in the wildness. image via Marko Dimitrijevic, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Polar bears: Hibernation is a mechanism of safety in animals that protects them from harmful environments. In addition, it reduces their basal metabolism and conserves energy in severe conditions. 

However, female polar bears usually hibernate during their gestational time, around October, and return in March or April to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure and to save themselves from harmful conditions.

Grizzly bears: Since they live in a tropical environment and can withstand only tropical climates, they live in their habitats throughout the spring and summer. 

In autumn, they hibernate to save themselves from extremely cold temperatures. They remain hibernated for 4-6 months, and during this period, they gain energy to reencounter the environment the following summer. 

These bears’ heart rate and basal metabolic rates reduce significantly in hibernation periods, which helps them conserve energy.

Social Structures of Bears

Grizzly Bear in Canada
Grizzly Bear in Canada

Polar bears: Polar bears are the loneliest creatures as they live solitary without any social associations. The only social interaction they encounter is when the female delivers a cub. In that situation, the adult female spends time with the newborn until it matures. 

The only other interaction occurs during mating, and the two stay together for a week or so.

Grizzly bears: Grizzly bears are known to have a social structure with a hierarchy system. The most muscular male bears are at the top of the hierarchy, followed by other adults, with the cubs at the end of the hierarchy. 

The most dominant male, out of all the adult males, mates with the females for the expansion of their family.

Frequently Asked Questions 

polar bear
Polar bear; a resident of the Berlin zoo. Jed, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

Q. Who will win a fight between polar bears and grizzly bears?

Many wonders who will win a fight between polar bears and grizzly bears as both are giant carnivores. In addition, polar bears are a bit larger and possess more powerful paws and sharp teeth. All these features indicate that they would win a fight. 

But grizzly bears also have some unique features that make them competitive. For instance, they have a robust body, a more aggressive approach, and a robust bone structure that help them put up a fight against their competitors.

In addition, even though polar bears are giants, still, they are not considered as ferocious as the others. Their skull is thinner and longer. Meanwhile, grizzly bears have shorter, heavy, and thick skills. 

Due to that, they possess a comparatively more powerful and robust shoulder structure.

In a nutshell, it is hard to proclaim who will win the fight between polar bears and grizzly bears as both have distinctive qualities that make them competent competitors.

However, one thing is obvious: a battle between polar bears vs. grizzly bears would be exciting to watch.

Q. Are Polar and Grizzly Bears Endangered Species?

Both polar and grizzly bears are endangered species. They are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN. Moreover, the IUCN authorities have identified habitat loss as the primary reason for their population decrease. 

Polar bears in particular, face drastic population loss due to global warming as they need frozen sea ice to hunt their prey. However, grizzly bears are likewise becoming extinct due to human activities causing their habitat loss. 

The Final Take on Polar Bear vs Grizzly Bear

polar bear
Image via Pexels

To conclude, a fight between polar bears vs. grizzly would be a very even fight. Both possess some unique characteristics that make them distinctive. This article covers their contrasting features, characteristics, and physical traits to compare them fairly. 

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Thank you for reading this article! If you want to read about another hypothetical fight in the animal kingdom head over to read about the gorilla vs lion.

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