When Did Bear Dogs Go Extinct?

Written by Volia Schubiger
Updated: November 9, 2022
© Roman Uchytel / public domain – License / Original
Share this post on:

The Amphicyon, also called bear dogs, are an extinct species of omnivores. It is interesting to point out that this creature is unrelated to dogs or bears despite their name. Bear dog received its name because its body resembled a bear, and its head resembled a dog. In this article, we will learn everything there is to know about them — everything from their habitat and diet to how and why bear dogs became extinct.

Read on to discover the mystery behind why and when bear dogs went extinct!

Where Did Bear Dogs Inhabit?

Bear Dog
Originally found in Eurasia, bear dogs eventually reached North America and Africa.

©Roman Uchytel / public domain – License

Despite their similarities to bears (large bodies and flat feet) and dogs (relatively long legs and a long snout), bear dogs, or Amphicyons, are not classified as either bears or dogs. In general, bear dogs could be classified into two types. Like modern wolves, some species, such as Borocyon robustum, had long limbs that were ideal for running. In contrast, others, like Amphicyon longiramus, were stocky and looked more like modern bears. Originally found in Eurasia, bear dogs eventually reached North America and Africa. This period is known as the Eocene and Oligocene epochs, the weather was extremely warm, and vegetation flourished.

What Did The Bear Dog Look Like?

Although the name speaks for itself, the level of detail in the appearance of these creatures truly made them stand out. It had the size of a bear with an incredibly robust body, but its tail was incredibly heavy and long. The necks of these creatures were incredibly large and thick, and their heads were akin to dogs with jaws capable of crushing bones. Because of their bulk, bear dogs had thick long legs. However, they weren’t very fast since their size slowed them down.

How Big Was The Bear Dog?

Bear dogs had incredibly unique looks that set them apart from other animals. According to the Florida Museum, bear dogs were quite small during the early stages of evolution. As they evolved, they became the incredibly large beasts scientists find fascinating the most. The bear dog was capable of growing up to 8 feet in length and weighing over a thousand pounds. Eventually, as they grew up, they began to look more like sturdy bears than small wolves due to their large bodies. While the shape of their heads changed throughout evolution, the dog-like appearance of their heads remained consistent throughout time.

How Did The Bear Dog Hunt?

It is assumed that bear dogs did not hunt in packs like wolves, preferring to find their next meal on their own. To grapple and capture their prey, bear dogs had exceptionally strong and powerful legs. 

In choosing to hunt on its own, the bear dog had less competition from other bear dogs when it came to locating and striking its prey, making them much more effective hunters. It used a similar hunting strategy as bears, choosing to ambush prey after a short pursuit and puncturing the neck of the prey after a successful capture.

What Did The Bear Dog Eat?

Due to the size of their teeth, it is believed that bear dogs followed an omnivorous diet to survive. Because bear dogs ranged in size from relatively small to extremely large, it is believed that smaller bear dogs ate smaller prey such as rodents. On the other hand, larger bear dogs could take down larger prey, including prey such as wild boars and possibly even early rhinoceros. There was more to their diet than meat, however. Since bear dogs were omnivores, there is a possibility that they would have consumed leaves and berries for consumption as well, in addition to meat.

When Did They Go Extinct?

Bear dogs became extinct 5 million to 10 million years ago. Throughout the evolution of the bear dog, the species experienced many changes as it ventured through North America’s lands. In the beginning, they looked like small dog-like creatures. However, 2.5 million years ago, they evolved into amazing megafauna that eventually went extinct. Through the study of fossils from bear dogs, researchers have been able to gain a deeper understanding of the amazing changes that this creature had gone through before sadly becoming extinct.

Why Did They Become Extinct?

Amphicyon ingens the bear-dog
Bear dogs’ extinction was believed to have been caused primarily by competition with modern carnivores such as wolves and big cats.

©Ghedoghedo / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

As apex predators, bear dogs played an important role in the history of the northern continents. Unfortunately, what made this creature so unique eventually contributed to the bear dog becoming extinct. As the climate changed over time, so did the number of animals, which led to more competition and less food as the population of animals increased.

As the weather got drier, so did the plains around it. Eventually, there was a reduction in hiding spots for the bear dog to use its ambush hunting skills to catch meals. It is important to understand that since the bear dog was so large, it needed to consume a large amount of food to maintain its survival and mass. Without the abundance of food, it would not be able to sustain itself. It was also evident that competition was arising. One of them is the evolution of saber-tooth cats, a species that destroyed the bear dog’s chance of becoming and remaining an apex predator.

Up Next:

More from A-Z Animals

The Featured Image

Bear Dog
© Roman Uchytel / public domain – License / Original

Share this post on:
About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.