What Did the Largest Bear Ever Eat To Feed Its 3,500-Pound Body?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: January 24, 2023
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Bears are some of the largest animals that exist today, with over eight different species scattered around the world. Currently, the biggest bear species are the North American black bear, the brown bear, and the polar bear, which is the largest of the three species. Polar bears can grow as large as 1,500 pounds, sometimes even more. However, despite their incredible size, they are not the biggest bears to have ever existed.

The largest bear ever recorded was the Arctotherium angustidens, which was at least two times the size of the largest polar bear. While the diet of present-day bears depends primarily on their habitat and other conditions, what do you think the Arctotherium angustidens ate to sustain its massive body? Today, we are going to learn about the Arctotherium angustidens, and what it took to feed this enormous bear.

How Big Was the Arctotherium Angustidens?

Homo sapiens VS Arctotherium angustidens size comparison

The average-sized Arctotherium angustidens weighed just a little over 2,000 pounds.

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The large bears of this present-day pale in comparison to the Arctotherium angustidens. Currently, the biggest bear species in the world is the polar bear which weighs anywhere between 400 and 1,500 pounds, with the largest one ever recorded being 2,209 pounds. In comparison, the largest polar bear on record is the size of the average Arctotherium angustidens. The average-sized Arctotherium angustidens weighed just a little over 2,000 pounds, although these bears typically reached between 3,500 and 4,000 pounds. They also grew as tall as 11 and 14 feet.

It is believed that the Arctotherium angustidens were the predecessors of present-day short-faced bears because of their short snouts. Their immense bodies made their short faces even more pronounced and noticeable. Many short-faced bears belonged to the subfamily Tremarctinae, but all except the spectacled bear, which is native to South America, are extinct

Where Was the Arctotherium Angustidens Species Found?

The Pleistocene era lasted between 2.6 million and 11,700 years ago and had the greatest concentration of these bears in South America. By the time this period was over, they had traveled to Central America and North America. The first fossils of this bear were first found in 1935, during the construction of a hospital in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Experts believe that the Arctotherium angustidens were the world’s largest and most powerful land predators during their time. 

While hibernating in the winter, Arctotherium angustidens resided in caves and even preferred them in other seasons. Similar to modern bears, mother bears guarded their babies in their dens. For this reason, these mother bears were more aggressive than the males, and would charge at any would-be predators who strayed too close.

What Did the Arctotherium Angustiden Eat To Feed Its 3,500-Pound Body?

bear illustration

It is believed that Arctotherium ate a fair portion of deer, antelopes, and goats. 

©Evgeny Turaev/Shutterstock.com

Because of how big these bears were, it is only normal to conclude that they had to eat a lot to maintain their size and strength. Like most present-day bears, these bears were opportunistic feeders. This means that they were not necessarily picky eaters; instead, they ate almost anything they found lying around. Apart from being opportunistic feeders, these bears were also omnivores.

Although they were omnivores, experts believe their diet consisted of more meat than vegetation. Based on the analysis of their fossilized teeth, their jaws were strong enough to crush the bone of most animals, as many of them were smaller. Although these bears were huge and could take down almost any animal easily, they did not like to hunt. Instead, they preferred to chase off other predators and take their prey as food.

One of the most common parts of their diet was carrion. However, carrion was not the only form of meat these animals ate. These bears also ate smaller living animals; it is believed they ate a fair portion of deer, antelope, and goats

Like most bears today, the Arctotherium angustidens is believed to have eaten primarily soft fruits and other berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. These fruits were an important source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants. These bears also ate leaves off certain trees; like most bears, they had a digestive system that allowed them to digest plants properly. 

These bears are believed to have consumed more food than any bear that existed before or after it. The amount of food a bear eats depends on its size and habitat. Most present-day bears can eat up to 90 pounds of food daily and even more, closer to their hibernation period. The Arctotherium angustidens is believed to have eaten three to four times more food daily than the average bear to keep up its size. Like most bears today, the Arctotherium angustidens also hibernated, and because of its massive size, it needed to eat a sizable amount of food to stay alive during this period. Because they enjoyed fish, they frequently ate a lot of fish and berries in order to prepare for a protracted winter hibernation phase. 

How Did the Arctotherium Angustidens Hunt?

Arctotherium angustidens most likely hunted prey for food. Still, they also probably chased away other carnivores to steal their game that had already been slain. Like most bears, Arctotherium angustidens killed its prey by biting it in the neck or back. Their massive jaws made them able to eat as much meat as they wanted, and although the force of their bite is not accurately known, it is believed to be more than that of a polar bear which is around 1,235 pounds PSI. 

Aside from biting the prey’s neck or back, the Arctotherium angustidens was powerful enough to kill its target animal with a strike of its forepaw, which was strong enough to shatter the prey animal’s spine. Arctotherium angustidens frequently overpowered potential prey by using their enormous size. 

Not many predators could compete with these massive bears. Hence, the Arctotherium angustidens had easier access to resources and food. Just with their appearance alone, it was easy for these bears to scare off their prey or other predators that tried to engage in a fight. They were able to retain their massive size by eating meat, thanks to this.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Evgeny Turaev/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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