Brown bear vs grizzly bear: 4 main differences


The grizzly bear is an important part of popular mythology in the American West and the Rocky Mountain region. Named for partially white or gray hair ends, it is one of the largest land-based carnivores in the world. But many people may not know that the grizzly bear is not a separate species at all. It is actually a subspecies of the brown bear that is found all over the world. Other common subspecies include the Eurasian brown bear, the Kodiak bear, and the Syrian brown bear.

To understand the difference, you need to define exactly what a subspecies is. A subspecies is defined as a geographically distinct population, still capable of breeding with other members of that species, but unable to do so due to their different geographic locations. If you put a grizzly bear and a Eurasian brown bear together, they probably could still mate with each other. But since their different habitats prevent them from mating in the wild, there is very little gene flow between them, and they begin to develop unique physical and behavioral characteristics that are characteristic of each of them. This is the key to understanding how grizzlies differ from other brown bears.

Comparison of brown bears and grizzly bears

Here’s a quick rundown of the main similarities and differences between a grizzly bear and other brown bears.

Brown bear Grizzly bear
Length 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 m) 1.5 to 2.4 m (5 to 8 ft)
Weight 176 to 1700 lbs. (80 to 771 kg) 200 to 900 lbs. (91 to 408 kg)
Distribution North hemisphere Pacific Northwest North America
Fur color Light to dark brown Brown base color with silvery or pale tips
Body shape Muscular body, thick mane on the neck, curved claws and a large hump. Blunt face and short ears, also with a muscular body and hump.

4 main differences between brown bears and grizzly bears

The differences between grizzly bears and other brown bears are very minor. But if you know what to look for, you can tell them apart even from a safe distance.

Brown bear vs grizzly bear: location

The easiest way to tell them apart is through their physical location. While the brown bear is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere (especially in Europe, the Asian steppes and parts of the Middle East), the grizzly bear is unique to North America, although its range is currently largely limited due to hunting and habitat loss. … limited to the northwestern part of the continent. To complicate matters further, some experts recognize several North American subspecies, while others only recognize two – the grizzly bear and the Kodiak bear from southern Alaska. In any case, if you see a brown bear in the Pacific Northwest, it is almost certainly a grizzly bear. Other North American subspecies have very limited geographic ranges.

Brown bear vs grizzly bear: physical size

The grizzly bear comes in a wide range of different sizes. Its height reaches an impressive 8 feet and is around 900 pounds, but some individuals only reach about 5 feet in length and weigh several hundred pounds. Coastal grizzlies are generally much larger than domestic grizzlies, and males are much larger than females. While this size may sound impressive, it cannot match the sheer size of the Kodiak bear, widely considered the largest living land-based predator in the world, which can reach 10 feet in length and weigh an astonishing 1,700 pounds. The grizzly bear is about the same size as the Eurasian brown bear.

Brown Bear vs Grizzly Bear: Fur Color

The grizzly bear has a brown to yellowish fur (sometimes appears almost white) with silvery or light colored tips, especially around the back and shoulders. Most other brown bear species have a more standard brown appearance.

Brown bear vs grizzly bear: morphology

The grizzly bear has a prominent facial profile, long claws, short, rounded ears, and a particularly prominent shoulder hump. A convex surface essentially means that it has a concave shape; it curls strongly inward on the muzzle. Many other brown bear species have a flatter face profile.

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Brown bear vs grizzly bear: 4 main FAQ differences (faqs)

What is the difference between a brown bear and a grizzly bear?

A grizzly bear can be distinguished by its medium to large convex (concave) muzzle, as well as by the silvery or pale tips of its fur. It is one of the few recognized subspecies of brown bears, other than the Kodiak bear, found in North America.

Which is more dangerous, a grizzly bear or other brown bears?

Despite their huge size, none of them is unlikely to attack a person if he does not feel any threat. When attacks do occur, they are often the result of the mother protecting her young. Many people may not be aware that brown bears, despite being carnivorous in nature, mostly like to eat plant-based foods. Long claws and a muscular body help them dig up roots and bulbs. When they eat meat, it is usually fish. However, if you encounter a bear in the wild, you shouldn’t bother him.

What is the difference between a grizzly bear and a Kodiak bear?

The Kodiak bear is another subspecies of the brown bear. It is endemic to the Kodiak Archipelago in southern Alaska and generally does not overlap too much with grizzly bears. Even if you didn’t know where they were, you could still tell them apart from their sheer size. Weighing up to 1,700 pounds, the Kodiak bear is considered the largest land-based predator on the planet.

Why are coastal brown bears larger than domestic bears?

Experts believe this is due to the high salmon diet. At one point, people considered the coastal grizzly to be a separate subspecies from the domestic “real” grizzly. Due to the large size difference, it is easy to make mistakes. But this difference in size between coastal and hinterland is actually seen across the world in all species of brown bears. It doesn’t appear to be due to genetic factors.

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