Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Published: December 22, 2021
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A black bear vs brown bear fight might seem like an even match at first glance. They’re both bears, furry masses of claws and teeth. However, the truth is that these large mammals have some startling differences that could make a battle between them more one-sided. To be clear, we’re looking at the North American variety for both bears.

This battle is not just theoretical, either. Several documented encounters exist between black and brown bears, especially subspecies of the brown bear— the grizzly and Kodiak bears. The bears have overlapping territories throughout North America, primarily in Canada and Alaska.

We’re going to explore the various physical and instinctual factors that would influence a battle between these two and show you how it would play out.

Comparing a Black Bear vs Brown Bear

Black bear vs brown bear
Black bears and brown bears have many similarities and a few important differences

A-Z-Animals.com

Black BearBrown Bear
SizeWeight: 220lbs – 590lbs
Height: 4.25ft – 6ft
Weight: 300lbs – 860lbs
Height: 5ft – 9.2ft
Speed and Movement Type– 30mph max speed
– Runs on all fours
– 35mph max speed
Runs on all fours
Bite Power and Teeth– 975 PSI bite power
– 42 teeth and 2.5-inch fangs
– 1200 PSI bite power
– 42 teeth and 3-inch fangs
Intelligence– Smart, adaptive animals that are communicative and curious.  High level of intelligence and awareness, covering tracks, learning tricks, etc.
-Great memory
Senses– Can smell a scent from a mile away
Good vision up to 50 yards and at night.
-Hearing is better than a human’s  
– Hearing that is twice as good as humans
– Amazing sense of smell, about 100 times that of humans
– Decent vision, especially close and at night
Offensive Capabilities– Powerful bite
– 1-inch-long claws
– Strong swatting power
– Very powerful bite
– 2-4-inch-long claws
– Devastating swatting power
Predatory Behavior– Directly attacks enemies
– Quietly creeps up to prey
– Curious but may flee from bigger predators
– Can quietly approach prey -Uses direct attacks on prey
– Not likely to flee or be driven off

Key Differences Between Brown Bears and Black Bears

Kodiak bear running through the water
Brown bears are stronger, bigger, and more aggressive than black bears.

iStock.com/Jess Bray

Brown bears are much larger than black bears and they weigh more on average. Brown bears are more aggressive and less willing to flee from a threat than black bears. Also, brown bears have a pronounced shoulder hump that black bears lack, indicating the vast strength of brown bears in digging and attacking.

In short, brown bears are bigger, stronger, and more threatening than black bears.

These are the main differences that can help a person tell these two animals apart from one another. The differences should be obvious, and a person should take measures to avoid these bears in any case.

The 7 Key Factors in a Fight Between Black Bear vs Brown Bear

Black Bear Population by State
Black bears are large, powerful creatures

iStock.com/christiannafzger

Looking at the factors between a black and brown bear, it’s clear that they share many similarities. A quick glance at the raw numbers may make this seem like a close fight.

That is why we are going to break down each of these characteristics point by point to show you which bear one will probably come out on top.  

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Size

A lot of battles in the wild are settled by a difference in size and weight. In a lot of cases, black bears are about half the weight of a brown bear, literally tipping the scales in favor of the brown bear. Their max standing size, just 6 feet for a black bear and over 9 feet for a brown bear also give the latter an edge.

In the case of size, the brown bear gets the advantage.

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Speed and Movement

The speed of a black bear and a brown bear is similar. The black bear can reach speeds of 30mph while the brown bear can charge at 35mph. They use this speed with a very similar gait to one another, running on all fours to catch prey.

In the case of a battle between the two creatures, the brown bear’s extra speed would mean one thing: it decides when the fight is over and who gets to run away, if anyone.

Brown bear gets the advantage.

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Bite Power

The biting power of a black bear is substantial enough that it could land a fatal blow on many creatures by digging its 2.5-inch fangs into a vital area. Their power is eclipsed by the brown bear, especially the sub-species Grizzly bear that has a 1200 PSI bite power, and fangs that are slightly longer at 3 inches.

The brown bear has the advantage in bite power and fang size.  

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Intelligence

Both the black and brown bears are very intelligent creatures. The difficulty is determining which of the two is more intelligent. By sheer brain size, brown bears have the edge. However, both bears are curious and know when they are fighting a losing battle. So, they knew when it’s time to run or not engage at all.

In this category, the bears are too similar, with only the brown bear’s memory standing out as superior.

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Sense

Both bears have powerful senses. The brown bear can hear twice as good as a person, roughly the same as a black bear. The brown bear can see clearer, farther, but both brown and black bears have amazing night vision capabilities that would ensure neither one gets the drop on the other. Both bears can smell a scent in the air from over a mile away.

In this case, both creatures get a tie because none of their senses would give them an advantage; they’re too similar.

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Offenses Capabilities

When it comes to fighting capabilities, black bears are well-armed. They have powerful jaws and sharp claws they can use to harm enemies. A combination of these elements is enough to kill predators, including armed human beings.

Brown bears are much more dangerous, though. Their teeth are capable of inflicting an instantly fatal blow, and their powerful swipes can slash open their prey in seconds.

The brown bears get the advantage in offensive capabilities.

Black Bear vs Brown Bear: Predatory Behavior

Black bears and brown bears are devastating predators that will kill using a similar strategy. Believe it or not, both bears stalk their prey before moving in unless they just happen across them. Their footsteps are nearly muted, meaning it’s incredibly hard to hear them coming.

They will both wait and see if their prey is interesting before moving in, and they charge to them and quickly overwhelm their defenses.

An interesting point here is that black bears that have decided to prey on something will pursue that thing and immediately kill it. Brown bears are somewhat similar. If they’re hungry, they’ll go in for the kill.

If the black bear is just assessing a threat, though, it might run away entirely, bluff charge, or stalk some more while it makes a decision. Brown bears will attack a threat until it’s not a threat, sometimes allowing a person that is playing dead to survive a mauling.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Black Bear vs Brown Bear?

Strongest animal bite – Grizzly bear
A brown bear will win in a fight against a black bear.

A brown bear would win a fight against a black bear. Evaluating the available data shows that few avenues for victory exist for the smaller, weaker black bear.

Ignoring the cases where black bears have been killed by a brown bear, let’s break down how a fight would go.

The two would certainly smell each other before the fight started, and they would know that their enemy is not backing down. If forced to fight, the two would charge at eat other, with the brown bear smashing into the black bear with several hundred pounds more weight in its favor.

The brown bear would immediately have the advantage from the initial charge. Then it would rear up on its hind legs and swipe the black bear, which might seek to attack the stomach of the brown because that’s all it could reach. After slashing with its deadly claws, the brown bear would bring its full weight onto the black bear, becoming a furious flurry of bites and clawing.

Bears kill by mauling, not by a single deadly strike like an ambush predator. The black bear would leave its mark on the brown bear, but the true fight would last mere minutes, and the brown bear would be the one leaving alive.

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About the Author

I am a freelancer specializing in SEO content writing. I write in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I've been writing full-time since 2018, so I've been doing remote work before it was cool. When I'm not working, I can be found reading, trying to catch up on my tv show backlog, playing video games, and starting stories that I'll never finish.