Silverback Gorillas vs Grizzly Bears: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Krishna Maxwell
Updated: September 13, 2022
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Key Points:

  • There are many similarities in the Silverback gorilla and the Grizzly Bear, both are considered powerful and dangerous animals.
  • Although these animals may share some of the same traits, they are both very different.
  • Both animals tend to shy away from humans, but will attack if agitated enough.

Can you picture a fight between a Silverback Gorilla vs a Grizzly Bear? Before we begin, let’s clarify which animals we are actually talking about.

Though many people know them or refer to them as “Silverback Gorillas,” the term “Silverback” is actually exclusive to the adult males of the species properly known as the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). They are called Silverbacks because of the the silvery sheen that develops over the hair on their backs once they reach adulthood. Because of this, it may be assumed that all references to “Silverback Gorillas” are regarding the adult males of each species.

If there were ever to be a fight between a Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) and a Silverback Gorilla, there would likely be a clear winner, but let’s get back to that in a moment.

While silverbacks and grizzlies may share a few similarities, the silverback gorilla and the grizzly bear are very different animals, who live in vastly different habitats, eat quite different diets, and grow to vastly different sizes from one another.

Although a silverback gorilla is very fast, quite strong, and has a longer arm span, it is unlikely that a silverback could defeat the much larger and faster grizzly bear in a fair fight. The one advantage that a Silverback might have is in the enormous strength of its muscles. While grizzlies are immensely strong, gorillas, chimps, and monkeys have much greater muscle strength than other animals of a similar size. This added strength coupled with their long arm reach could even the playing field in a battle between a grizzly and a silverback.

Comparing Silverback Gorillas and Grizzly Bears

In general, Silverbacks are considered peaceful creatures. They do not attack humans except in very rare circumstances. However, they will defend themselves and their families. Grizzlies, on the other hand, can be quite aggressive.

Grizzlies mostly avoid humans when they can, but sometimes they will stumble into a campsite, or an errant hiker will get between a mother and her cubs. In such cases, these bears are a grave danger to humans, and our larger primate cousins would probably not fare much better. The grizzly’s claws alone, which can be as long as four inches, would give it a significant advantage in an altercation with a silverback. Let’s really compare the grizzly bear and the silverback gorilla to see just how big an advantage the grizzly has over the silverback.

Silverbacks and grizzlies have a few things in common, such as their strength and their ability to walk either upright or on all fours, but really, that is where the similarities end. They are both classified as omnivores, but the silverback does not eat any animals aside from insects, while the grizzly eats a lot of fish and other small animals.

Some of the starkest differences between these two animals include:

Silverback GorillasGrizzly Bears
Size6 ft (hind feet), 485 lbs8 ft (hind feet), 800 lbs
HabitatMountain forest approximately 10,000 ft elevationwoodlands, forests, alpine meadows, prairies
Lifespan>40 yrs old20-25 yrs old
SpeciesGorilla beringei beringeiUrsus arctos
Speed20 mph35 mph
TemperamentMostly docileModerately aggressive
Feet2 hands, 2 feet, 4 opposable thumbs4 feet, 20 toes, 20 claws

The 5 Key Differences Between Silverback Gorillas vs Grizzly Bears

1. Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly Bear: Head and face

A Grizzly Bear has a large round head with an almost canine nose. Silverback gorillas have flatter noses, with prints as unique as human fingerprints, and pointier heads.

2.SilverbackGorilla vs Grizzly Bear: Ears

Silverback Gorilla ears are hard to distinguish from human ears and have a similar head placement. Grizzly Bears have small, round, furry ears, high on their heads.

3.SilverbackGorilla vs Grizzly Bear: Hair

Grizzly Bears have thick dark brown fur. Silverback Gorillas are covered in soft, springy hair, except on their palms, chest, faces, and the bottoms of their feet.

4.SilverbackGorilla vs Grizzly Bear: Size (Height & Weight)

On average, Silverback Gorillas are about two feet shorter than Grizzly Bears when they both stand on their hind feet. Silverback Gorillas can reach up to nearly 500lbs, which is about half the weight of the largest Grizzly Bears.

A bears strength without aggression is 2-5 times stronger than the average human. A gorilla however, is 4-9 times stronger than a human. When standing, a silver back can be around 5 foot 11 inches whereas a grizzly can reach about 10 feet tall. A gorilla’s biteforce is 1300 Psi and a grizzly bear is 1250 Psi.

5.SilverbackGorilla vs Grizzly Bear: Claws

Grizzly Bears have 20 claws, several inches in length, one on each toe of their four feet. Silverback Gorillas have nails on their fingers and toes like humans.

Summary

  • Grizzlies have size, weight, and aggression on their side.
  • Silverbacks have muscle strength and reach on their side.
  • While a grizzly would likely win in a battle between these powerful opponents, don’t discount the strength and determination of a Silverback defending itself.

Fortunately, these two titans are unlikely to ever face each other as they live in vastly different habitats with the world between them.

Next Up…

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About the Author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York which she shares with three dogs, four donkeys, one mule, and a cat. She holds a Bachelors in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching neighboring farmers about Regenerative Agriculture practices.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What's the difference between a Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly Bear?

The scientific name for the Silverback Gorilla is the Gorilla beringei beringei, and the Grizzly Bear is the Ursus arctos horribilis. Gorillas are primates and grizzlies are Carnivora. Grizzlies are larger and more dangerous. Gorillas are omnivores with a mostly plant-based diet. Grizzlies are also omnivores, but eat a lot of meat as well as plants.

Which are more dangerous, Silverback Gorillas or Grizzly Bears?

Grizzly Bears are much more aggressive, and therefore more dangerous, though usually, they avoid humans unless provoked or threatened. Silverbacks are mostly quite docile and any human attacks are thankfully very rare.

Are Silverback Gorillas or Grizzly Bears more aggressive?

Silverback Gorillas are much less aggressive and are generally considered peaceful unless they are defending their territory or their young. Grizzlies don’t attack humans often, but they are more likely to do so than a Silverback, whenever there is a surprise encounter.

Do Grizzly Bears and Silverback Gorillas have different feet?

Absolutely they do have different feet. While both can walk on their hind feet or on all fours, gorillas have two hands and two feet which are closely related to elongated human hands, including the opposable thumbs, giving them a total of four opposable thumbs, but only two feet. Grizzlies have five-toed paws on all four feet and all lack the dexterity of gorilla “hands” but have a claw at the end of each toe.

Are Grizzly Bears the most fearsome bear species?

Grizzly bears are not the largest bear species. That title goes to polar bears. Yet, in altercations between grizzly bears vs. polar bears, it’s the grizzly that’s been left standing while polar bears flee. While polar bears are larger, grizzlies more aggressively will fight for food and have sharper claws that can swipe and do large amounts of damage.

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