Bear Size Comparison: How Big are Different Bears?

Written by Megan Martin
Published: November 8, 2021
Image Credit Volodymyr Burdiak/Shutterstock.com
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bear size comparison black bear polar bear panda bear grizzly bear
Bears can come in a range of sizes!

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There are eight species of bear in the world, each one coming in a different size, color, and even shape. In fact, just a quick bear size comparison will show just how different each species of bear can be.

However, while you can see the differences in a picture, it can be difficult to wrap your head around just how big a polar bear is compared to a panda bear or how you would measure up to a grizzly bear. This complete bear size comparison will tell you everything you need to know about the size of different bears – and more!

Human Vs. Bear Size Comparison

bear size comparison to human polar bear black bear grizzly bear panda bear
While most bears aren’t larger than humans when on all fours, they can be much taller when they stand up!

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Imagine this.

You’re in the forest, and you stumble across a bear. Would you see eye to eye?

No matter the species, if they’re on all fours, you probably don’t have to worry about any prolonged eye contact with a bear. However, when it comes to standing on their hind legs, you may find that certain species pose more of a risk than others.

Take the American black bear for example. When they’re on the ground, their shoulder height tends to max out at around 41 inches. For reference, that’s just a bit shoulder than your average 5-year-old. However, once they stand on their hind legs, you might find yourself staring into their soul, as a black bear’s height ranges from 5 to 7 feet tall. At that height, they could even be taller than you – and they’re the smallest bear in North America!

For polar bears, though, they don’t need to stand on their hind legs to prove their height. As the largest bear in the world (followed closely by brown bears), their shoulder height can be as much as 5 feet. Add in the additional inches for their head, and that’s more than tall enough to see eye to eye with most humans. On their hind legs, however, they can be as tall as 10 feet!

When it comes to weight, most bears easily outmatch the average human. However, with a maximum weight of around 250 pounds, panda bears often balance the scale with humans.

Polar Bear Size vs Bears

polar bear with cubs
Polar bears are the largest bear on Earth!

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Born weighing only around a pound, it may be hard to believe these tiny polar bear cubs can grow to be the largest bears on Earth. Even just their paws can grow up to 10 inches in diameter!

At a full-standing height of 10 feet tall, you may already know that polar bears aren’t a force to be reckoned with when it comes to height. After all, few bears can proclaim the title of “largest bear in the world”. However, you may be surprised to learn that their height isn’t the best representation of their weight.

The largest polar bear ever recorded was found in Alaska. At 12-feet tall, it boasted a weight of over 2,000 pounds. Yet, this is an outlier when it comes to how much polar bears weigh. On average, adult females weigh less than 600 pounds. Males weigh only a little more than 1,500 pounds.

While this may seem like a lot – after all, 1,500 pounds weighs the same as one and a half grand pianos! – it isn’t the heaviest that bears can be. In fact, some of the bears in this bear size comparison guide weigh more than a polar bear, though they aren’t as tall.

Grizzly Bear Size vs. Other Bears

Large grizzly bear eating a salmon
Grizzly bears’ large mouths allow them to easily catch and eat salmon.

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While polar bears may be considered the largest of the bear species, it wasn’t a win by a landslide. In fact, when it comes to size, polar bears and grizzly bears are neck at neck. Not literally, though, as where polar bears stand at around 5 feet at the shoulders, grizzly bears are just a little more than 3 feet.

However, when it comes to weight, the grizzly bear can tip the scale on polar bears. In fact, the largest brown bear subspecies can reach nearly 1,700 pounds – that’s nearly a refrigerator heavier than a polar bear! Grizzly bears also have larger paws, with many males sporting mittens up to 15 inches in diameter.

That’s not including their claws, however, which can be over 4 inches long. Polar bears tend not to grow claws over 2 inches, though they’re known for sharper points.

Black Bear Size vs. Bears

black bear
Black bears are one of the smallest bears in North America

The American black bear is the smallest bear in North America, though it isn’t exactly a top contender for the smallest bear in the entire world – for reasons you’ll soon learn.

Black bears can grow up to 75 inches from snout to rump and can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds in exceptional cases. For reference, that’s around the same weight as a baby grand piano. However, females can weigh as little as 90 pounds and as long as only 50 inches, which is one reason this species of bear is considered the smallest in North America.

Compared to other bear species, it would take around two black bears stacked to equal the same height of a polar bear on its hind legs, and nearly three to balance the scale with a grizzly bear. Not to mention that their paws, at 5 inches long, aren’t much bigger than a human’s hand.

Panda Bear Size vs. Bears and Humans

panda bear
Despite being a “giant”, giant pandas are smaller than black bears!

While panda bears aren’t the smallest bear in the world (no, that award goes to the sun bear!), they are the smallest on this list. In fact, it would take nearly 7 pandas to weigh the same as a grizzly bear. With a maximum length of 74 inches, pandas are almost equal to black bears, though it’s more likely to find them from 46 inches and up.

How does this compare to the polar bear? When it comes to height, you may need to stack three pandas together before you can meet the polar bear’s 10-foot height. Pandas also weigh about half of that a full-grown female polar bear. In fact, if you were to place them side by side, you would hardly be able to tell they were related!

One of the main reasons for this size difference is diet. Hypercarnivores like polar bears are able to build more mass and size, allowing them to easily tower over smaller omnivores such as pandas.

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