Dogs are considered by many to be closely related to bears. The two animals have a lot in common in terms of appearance and behavior. Some bear species, like the black bear, have a striking resemblance with dogs. At a distance, one can easily mistake them for a dog.
Both dogs and bears have thick fur coats covering their bodies. They all feed on meat and have incredibly sharp teeth as well as non-retractable claws.
From a physical point, it is almost certain that the two are related.
But are bears related to dogs?
This might sound controversial, but bears are not related to dogs. Even though the two share a common ancestry, their genetic makeup sets them apart.
Bears belong to the family Ursidae while dogs are members of the Canidae family. The two animals also have a varying number of chromosomes. Dogs have 78 chromosomes, while bears have 74.
Ancestral Origin Of Dogs And Bears
Even though there is no direct relation between bears and dogs, the two are believed to have shared an evolutionary connection.
Scientists believe that dogs and bears evolved from the same ancestor. It is believed that the ancestor creature lived about 42 million years ago. The ancestral animal was categorized under the miacidae family.
The creature is believed to have a small body with a long tail and resided on trees. These assumptions are backed by fossil evidence.
The fossils also indicated that the creature had smaller canine teeth since the creature solely fed on meat. DNA extracted from the fossil proved that this creature was the ancestor dogs, tigers, bears, and lions.
Taxonomic Classification Of Bears And Dogs
It is mainly because of these reasons that both bears and dogs are classified under the Carnivora order. This order consists of animals whose diet comprises meat.
Even before their domestication, dogs have been known to thrive on animal protein diets. Wild dogs are known to be predators working in gangs to take down prey. This is also true with bears. These large thick furred animals relish the taste of meat.
Bears are known to be aggressive hunters and heavy feeders. Their heavy feeding habit is an adaptation feature that allows them to fatten in preparation for hibernation.
The two are further categorized under the Facultative subgroup. This subgroup consists of animals that prefer meat but can feed on vegetative material in the absence of meat.
Domesticated dogs are rarely fed fresh meat but instead processed meat and vegetative products. Most of their diets are dependent on their owner’s capability to provide. On the other hand, bears also supplement their diets with roots and berries.
The Carnivora order is further divided into feliformia and the Carniformia suborders. The former comprises cat-like animals. These animals are what evolved to give the feline animals that we know of.
The Carniformia subgroup consisted of animals that evolved into canines. Both dogs and bears fall under this category. The two animals have adapted over time to become what they are today.
Some noticeable adaptations include developing sharp claws and teeth for hunting and tearing flesh and pointed snouts to boost the sense of smell and longer limbs for faster movement while hunting.
Can Dogs Mate With Bears?
Bears and dogs cannot mate naturally. However, there are reports of an intentional breeding between the two by scientists.
In 2018, there were reports of an ostensible bear-dog in a Russian city. The dog bear crossbreed whose parentage remains a mystery was brought to an animal shelter in Chelyabinsk for safekeeping.
Many scientists, however, strongly suggest that the bear-dog was a crossbreed product of a dog and a brown bear native to that region of Russia.
Difference Between Dogs And Bears
Even though bears and dogs have many traits in common, the two animals are not related. They might have shared a common ancestry, but they eventually evolved into different creatures.
There are several distinct differences between dogs and bears. For instance,
- Bears are solitary animals. Each individual exists as a unit and is left to look after themselves.
- Bears only socialize when it’s a mating season or whenever a mother has cubs. Wild dogs are social animals and are known to live in packs. They use their numbers for hunting down prey to ensure their survival.
- Another difference between the two is that even though bears hunt, they rely primarily on roots, berries, and insects for their food. Dogs rarely feed on vegetation but rather hunt for game.
- Unlike dogs, bears hibernate during winter. Most bears sleep through winter. They feed heavily during autumn to pack on fat to burn to get the energy to take them through winter.
Dog Breeds That Look Like Bears
Have you ever confused a dog for a bear? You are walking down the street; then you notice a massive creature appearing on the corner of your vision.
Your heart starts to race as instinct takes over in anticipation of a bear attack. However, when you turn your head over, you realize it’s not a bear but rather a friendly dog eager to play!
This is a common occurrence as we live in a world with dog breeds that closely resemble bears. What are some of the dog breeds that resemble bears?
The Caucasian Shepard
The Caucasian shepherd dog originates from the Caucasian mountains. This is the documented place of breeding. The dog is said to have been bred to work as a shepherd dog.
A thick coat of varying colors characterizes the dog. This coat helps in keeping warm, considering how cold the place is. Their sheer size and thick coats are what make them resemble a bear. Though rare, grown males can attain the weight of about 220 pounds.
Farmers also use the dog to protect their grazing livestock from predators like bears and foxes. Like most shepherd dogs, the Caucasian shepherd dog is extremely loyal and intelligent.
Because of its limited exposure to the world of herding, they still maintain a strong territorial tendency and are protective of land they consider theirs.
The Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetans still used this massive dog to protect animals from predators, including tigers and bears. These dogs are utterly huge and will scare away even the most dangerous predators.
Without a clear line of sight, you cannot differentiate them from a bear.
Since they were bred for years to protect flocks, they have somewhat nocturnal tendencies like bears. They enjoy napping and resting throughout the day but can become more active at night.
The Newfoundland Dog
This dog breed has the bear’s body size with a thick coat of fur to supplement its looks. Their coats have different colors, with the typical variation being black, grey, and dark brown colors resembling bears.
Their puppies have a closer resemblance to bears. This is because they possess bear-like features without a canine body. It’s difficult to tell them apart from bear pups.
They are known to be incredibly sweet, especially with young kids.
This makes them excellent therapy dogs. Just like grizzly bears, Newfoundland bears are excellent swimmers.
The Chow Chow dog
This is perhaps the “bear dog.” The chow dog has a close resemblance to bears. These dogs have thick coats to help them keep warm. Their thick and coarse coats surround them layer upon layer of fluff.
Their fluffy coat gives them a distinct bear appearance. These dogs are known to be overall well behaved.
The Samoyed dog
Samoyed puppies have rounder features that are more reminiscent of a bear. Adults have sharper features and appear bulkier and therefore bear-like because of their thick coats.
There is a stunning resemblance between a Samoyed puppy and a polar bear cub. They both have white fur, dark eyes, and a nose, which make them almost indistinguishable.
The keeshond is a medium to large size dog with large feet and a thick coat. Mainly because of its thick skin, the keeshond resembles a bear. Some people claim that Keeshonds are a crossbreed between bears and a fox.
The Leonberger is a massive German dog breed weighing up to 170 pounds. They usually have a brown coat with a black mask that makes them look like tiny brown bears. They are some of the fluffiest brown dogs and are known to be fantastic companion dogs.
The similarity between bears and dogs is limited mainly to their physical appearance. The two have different genetic makeups as they belong to other taxonomic units.
They also don’t have the same number of chromosomes. Dogs are known to have 78, while bears have 74.
These differences in their genetic composition prevent them from natural mating. Even if intentionally bred, the crossbreed between them will be a mule.
Unlike dogs, bears heavily feed on vegetation to supplement their diets. Bears are also solitary creatures and do not live in packs as we see with dogs.
They hunt and forage as individuals only to socialize during mating and nursing their cubs.