Which Bears Have The Biggest Claws? The Surprising Ranking

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: May 19, 2022
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Bears are some of the most amazing creatures in the world. They have so many characteristics that make them lovable and attractive animals. Revealed to be one of the most intelligent land creatures, bears display a relatively high intelligence comparable to that of higher primates. 

With its many mighty and outstanding attributes, a lot can be said about this adorable mammal. But today, we are turning our focus on a particular detail about the bears: their claws.

We will discuss the claws of the different kinds of bears and create a ranking from the biggest claws to the smallest. Who knows what surprises await us? Let’s find out.

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How Many Species of Bears are There? 

We have only eight bear species in the world. Unfortunately, the famous koala bear is not one of them. The eight bear species that exist are scattered across four continents of the world.

The polar bear and the brown bear are native to North America, Europe, and Asia. The American black bear is only found in North America. The spectacled bear is native to South America and is the only bear species found in that part of the world.

Asia seems to be bear land as it hosts a range of bear species that are only found there, including the panda bear, the sun bear, the Asiatic black bear, and the sloth bear.

Do All Species of Bears Have Claws? 

Black bears

Black bears


Yes, all bear species have claws because it is an essential part of their bodies, and they hunt for prey and need their claws for this. Bears are omnivorous, which means that they survive on both plant and animal diets. Even the panda bear, whose diet is 90-98 percent bamboo, still needs claws; however, this is not to say that bear claws are exclusively used for hunting prey. They have other uses, including digging, climbing, griping, etc. In essence, all bears do have claws, which are essential for their survival.

What’s The Difference Between Bear Claws and Bear Paws? 

Sometimes, people get confused about bears and their digits. Some people assume they have just claws, while others believe it’s just paws. Well, both parties are not exactly wrong.

Bears have both paws and claws. What then is the difference between the paws and the claws? The paws are the legs of the bear, while the claws grow out from the toes on the paws. So the bear has its claws fixed on its paws. 

How Many Claws Do Bears Have? 

Almost all bears have five claws. Bears grow five toes on each paw, and each toe has a claw. There is, however, a singular exception to this rule: the six-clawed bear. As its name suggests, this subspecies of bears has six claws. Asides from this, all other bears have five claws on each of their paws.

Are Bear Claws Sharp?

Bears have claws that are sharp enough to do what they need them, including hunting, digging, gripping, and climbing. However, bear claws are not as sharp as TV shows portray them. One of the reasons for this could be that the claws are not retractable, which means they cannot pull back their claws when they are not in use. Like lions and most cats, other animals can reveal and retract their claws at will, but bears cannot. This constant exposure to the claws and the frequent usage are the likely reasons their claws are not razor sharp. Their claws can wear out and grow back, but they aren’t retractable.

How Deadly Are Bear Claws? 

Bear claws are deadly enough to inflict severe injury and damage. There have been cases where people were attacked by bears and mauled to death. While the claws may not be as sharp as animals like the cats, they are sharp enough to be deadly.

Which Bears Have The Biggest Claws? The Ranking 

Of all 8 species of bears, which ones have the biggest claws? Starting from the top, let’s look at bears with the biggest claws. 

Sun Bear (4 inches)

Sun bears has a claw length of 4 inches long, the longest of all bear species.

©Ryan E. Poplin / Creative Commons – License

The sun bear, also known as the honey bear, is the most miniature bear among all the species. A fully grown sun bear is about 5 feet long and weighs about 130 pounds, and it is just half the size of the American black bear. However, the claws of the sun bear can grow up to 4 inches in length. With its long claws, it can open trees and termite nests. Amazingly, the sun bear also has the most extended tongue with which it uses to extract honey from bee nests.

Brown Bear (3-5 inches) 

Kamchatka Brown Bear

Brown bears can grow up to 8 feet and weigh 700 pounds.

©Marie Dirgova/Shutterstock.com

The brown bear comes next in line. This bear can grow up to 8 feet and weigh up to 700 pounds. This species is a top predator, and it has incredible speed capacity when you consider its size.

The claws of the brown bear are usually around 3 – 5 inches in length. These claws come in handy when it’s time to dig for food and hunt prey. They are strong and long and perfectly suited to this purpose. 

Polar Bear (3.75 inches)

Biggest Animals Ever to Walk the Earth: Polar Bear

Polar bears have slightly webbed paws which host 3.75 inches long claws.

©Louise Ekeblad/Shutterstock.com

Living in the coldest and most watery parts of the world, the polar bear is the champion swimmer in the family. It grows up to 8 feet in length and up to 1300 pounds. This bear is almost entirely a carnivore. Its basic meal is the seal. Its paws are slightly webbed, making it easy to find its way in the water. Its strong claws, which are helpful for hunting, are around 3.75 inches. 

Giant Panda (3.5 inches) 

Panda bears can weigh up to 250 pounds.

©Jeff Kubina – Public Domain

The giant panda, also known as the panda bear, is perhaps the most amazing of the lot, and it spends half the day eating and the other half sleeping and defecating. Its primary food is bamboo. Panda bears can weigh up to 250 pounds and grow up to 6 feet. Its claws, growing up to 3.5 inches long, are strong and sturdy. While they may not be as long as those of the bears mentioned above, they are good enough to get the bamboo that the panda needs to survive.

Sloth Bear (3 inches)

Sloth bears can grow up to 6 feet long.


This recluse and unkempt bear is the nocturnal loner of the Asian forest. It can grow up to 6 feet in length and weigh up to 300 pounds. It usually moves at night searching for insects and fresh fruits, its basic diet. Its insect adventure requires some good claws for digging, and the sloth bear has claws sufficient for this purpose. Its strong and lengthy claws are usually 3 inches in length. These claws are curved and an excellent asset for ripping hard rock termite nests open. 

American Black Bear (Less than 2 inches) 

American black bears are solitary bears with 2 inches long claws.

©Diane Krauss (DianeAnna), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The American black bear is a typical tree climber that can weigh between 90 to 551 pounds and grow up to 6 feet in length. These solitary bears are known to be opportunistic in their diet. They eat whatever they can find that appeals to them. They can be found eating human leftovers. They also eat insects, roots, fruits, etc. Their claws, 2 inches long, are curved and short, great for climbing and digging.

Spectacled Bear (Less than 2 inches) 

Spectacled Bear sitting in cave entrance

Spectacled bears claws have claws that less than 2 inches long.

©birdphotos.com / Creative Commons

The spectacled bear is a shy bear that prefers the coziness and loneliness of the forest. It would, however, come into the open in search of food. This bear weighs around 340 pounds and grows up to 6 feet in length. Its claws are not up to 2 inches but are perfect enough for daily living. 

Moon Bear (1.2 – 1.7 inches) 

The bear with the shortest claws is the moon bear.

©TB studio/Shutterstock.com

The moon bear (Asiatic black bear) is the bear with the shortest claws. It can grow between 4.5-5.4 feet in height and up to 440 pounds in size. Its claws can grow up to 1.7 inches in length. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Falade Adewale/Shutterstock.com

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