Of the three kinds of bears, black bear, brown bear and polar bear, which ones do you think are the largest? If you thought it was the brown bear you would be incorrect, but close. Polar bears are actually the largest species of bear with the brown bears coming in second. Of the two most notable North American brown bear subspecies – grizzly and Kodiak – the Kodiak bears are larger.
When you compare the regions where grizzly bears (coastal and Rocky Mountain) the coastal grizzlies are the largest due to the richer diet on the coast. Black bears are still enormous animals, they weigh between 200-600lbs and are 6 feet tall standing up, but they are considered the smallest of North America’s bears. Let’s see how the largest brown bears measure up!
The Largest Brown Bear Ever
The largest brown bear ever was a 1,656 pounds Kodiak bear that was captured in Alaska in 1894. However, “official” records have changed dramatically since that time so let’s look at other contenders for the crown of largest brown bear.
Largest Brown Bear (Hunting)
The Boone and Crockett Club monitors the records of largest game including bears. Another group, the Pope and Young Club monitors the records of game killed by bow and arrow (would anyone face a ferocious bear with only a bow and arrow…on purpose? It looks like it!). This first record is from the Boone and Crockett records from a brown bear (an Alaskan Kodiak) that was killed with a 30-06 rifle and a 180-grain bullet. This is a long-standing record dating back to 1952 when a group was on a scientific expedition for the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
Roy R. Lindsley who worked on Kodiak island as a U.S. Fish and wildlife Service worker was the one who took the final shot. The records for bear are measured by a score based on the bear’s skull size. This one came in 17 15/16 inches long by 12 13/16 inches wide, giving the skull a score of 30 12/16 points. When we look at the weight range of Kodiak bears the heaviest can grow to be 1,400lbs, and by the looks of this bears skull he was probably close to that.
Largest Brown Bear (bow and arrow)
According the Pope and Young club the largest brown bear ever killed by a bow hunter was another Alaskan brown bear. This one was killed by Chris Cammack on a two-week hunting expedition with a group of friends. They were hunting on the Alaskan Peninsula where Chris got the record-breaking bear. The skull was sent on to officials in Windsor, Colorado where they confirmed the measurements and announced the new record which was just a hair larger (1/16 of an inch) than the previous record with a skull measurement of 29 4/16th inches! In a news release to Pope and Young, Chris says how honored he was to have the opportunity to hunt and thanked his wife who usually goes hunting with him but had stayed home on this trip to take care of their baby daughter. I’m sure she will enjoy her father’s bear hunting legend for years to come!
Other Largest Bear Species
There are 8 species of bears around the world that cover a variety of sizes. In addition, there are subspecies of most bears. As we’ve already noted, grizzly and Kodiak bears are a subspecies of the brown bear! Let’s take a look at some records for largest bears.
- Largest polar bear: 2,209 pounds
- Largest grizzly bear: 1,200 pounds (contested)
- Largest Kodiak bear: 1,656 pounds
- Largest black bear: 902 pounds
Like the record for brown bear, the largest weights of other bear species are often contested. For example, there’s a common story about a grizzly bear that reached 1,600 pounds and was a ferocious man-eater, however upon further analysis the reports of this large grizzly appear largely fabricated.
Fun (Teddy) Bear Fact
Technically the largest brown bear is from Mexico…well, it is not a real bear. The world record for the largest teddy bear is held by a group that constructed it; Municipio de Xonacatlán, Ideas por México and Agrupación de Productores de Peluche (all Mexico). This group broke the record with their giant teddy bear that was 63 feet 8 inches in length! The record has been unbroken since April of 2019. In honor of national children’s day in Mexico the group made the bear and displayed it in front of one of the stadiums. I imagine this created quite the photo-op!
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.