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8 Types of Bear: Fun Facts, Bear Species and Habitats

There are eight types of bears in the Ursidae family, all of which are large carnivorous mammals. Due to their remarkable size, some species are considered the largest terrestrial predators on Earth. Despite their fearsome appearance, these giants are not territorial. However, some species are more aggressive than others.

From the terrifying brown bears to the adorable pandas, read on to explore the eight types of bears and some notable subspecies under them.

Related read: Bear Facts.

8 Major Types of Bear

Bears represent a group of large mammals found in a wide range of habitats across the globe. The bear family comprises eight distinct species. While these eight species are widely recognized, numerous subspecies exist within each species, further adding to the rich diversity and complexity of the bear family. Read on as we explore the differences and unique adaptations of the eight species alongside featuring some of the more notable subspecies.

1. Brown Bears (Ursus arctos)

brown bear
Photo by Anna Tremewan on Unsplash

The majestic brown bear roams across vast regions in Russia, Central Asia, North America, and Europe, with a population close to 200,000. They are second only to the polar bear in size and have a hump of muscle on their shoulders (which sets them apart from other bear species). 

Solitary in nature, they primarily consume a diet of fruits, nuts, insects, fish, and mammals. And contrary to myths, bear attacks on humans are rare and often a result of feeling threatened.

There are 13 brown bear subspecies, and here are some of them:

Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi)

kodiak bear
Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY SA-3.0 (Cropped from original)

Kodiak Bears living in Alaska's Kodiak Archipelago are massive. Males can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and stand over 10 feet tall. Their unique hump signifies strength, and their varied fur colors, from blonde to dark brown, provide warmth in the cold Alaskan winters.

Despite their size, these bears are often solitary except during the May and June mating season. Their diet is diverse - plants, berries, small mammals, and their favorite: salmon.

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)

grizzly bear
Photo by Jean Beaufort on Public Domain Pictures

Grizzly Bears live in the vast wilds of Alaska and North America. The term 'grizzly' is a nod to their iconic grizzled fur, which showcases a medley of colors, from light cream to deep black, though it commonly settles in various shades of brown.

Their incredible sense of smell surpasses even hound dogs, alerting them to various scents from miles away. Despite their size, they are excellent swimmers and fast runners (they can sprint up to 35 mph).

These bears are versatile eaters, relishing berries, roots, fish, and mammals. Some grizzlies are entirely vegetarian in some ecosystems and can eat 200 plant species3. Similarly, coastal bears (often called the Alaskan grizzly bear) tend to be larger and have a more seafood-based diet than their inland counterparts.

Renowned as iconic symbols of North American wilderness, Grizzly bears are often depicted as powerful and solitary creatures in countless books, movies, and logos. They are also known for catching salmon. 

Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus)

himalayan brown bear
Photo by Niazulkhan on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original)

Himalayan Brown Bears, also known as Isabelline bears, are skilled climbers mastering steep slopes and cliffs with their strong limbs and sharp claws. Inhabiting the southern Asian region, these bears sport distinctive reddish-brown coats.

They eat varied diets, from grasses and roots to fruits and berries. However, their foraging in crops and orchards can lead to human encounters. They occasionally hunt insects and mammals as well.

Marsican Brown Bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus)

marsican brown bear
Photo by Marco Tersigni on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

The Marsican Brown Bear, an extremely rare species of bear, is facing a severe threat due to the actions of humans. With less than 60 bears remaining in the central Apennine Mountains of Italy, their survival is uncertain.

Human activities such as development, road accidents, and illegal hunting threatened their existence. 

Kamchatka Brown Bear (Ursus arctos beringianus)

kamchatka brown bear
Photo by Velecot on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY SA-4.0 (Cropped from original)

The Kamchatka Brown Bear, or the Far Eastern Brown Bear, lives in Russia's frosty Kamchatka Peninsula. They have colorful coats of deep, dark brown to a rare, ethereal blond. These bears are gentle towards people despite their size. They also prefer a varied diet of berries, nuts, grasses, roots, and salmon from the local rivers.

Eurasian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos)

eurasian brown bear
Photo by Charles J. Sharp on Sharp Photography licensed under CC BY SA-4.0 (Cropped from original)

Eurasian Brown Bear lives in the landscapes of northern Eurasia. Their fur ranges from yellowish-brown to rich dark brown with a touch of grey. Despite their formidable appearance, Eurasian Brown Bears are adaptable omnivores. They enjoy fresh vegetation in spring, summer insects, and autumn berries and nuts.

You can spot them from frosty Russia to the rugged Caucasus mountains, living solitary lives in various environments.

Siberian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos collaris)

The Siberian Brown Bear resides in eastern Siberia. Their dense fur, ranging from dark brown to deep black, suits the harsh winters. They eat berries, roots, insects, fish, small mammals, and larger prey like elk and deer when food is scarce. Their intelligence shines through as they use tools to reach food.

Ussuri Brown Bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus)

ussuri brown bear
Photo by Ozizo on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

In the vast regions of Russia, China, North Korea, and Japan, the formidable Ussuri Brown Bear, also known as the Black Grizzly, roams. Their thick, dense fur ranges from light cream to deep black, with a distinct hump on their shoulders. They owe their name to the Ussuri River flowing through their primary habitat in the Russian Far East and Northeast China.

As omnivores, Ussuri Brown Bears enjoy a diverse diet of berries, nuts, fish, and small mammals. Their strength allows them to hunt larger prey like deer and wild boar. Despite their might, they are generally shy and solitary, except during the breeding season or when caring for their young. It's a rare glimpse into the gentler side of these magnificent creatures.

2. American Black Bears (Ursus americanus)

The American Black Bear lives throughout North America, weighing around 130 to 660 pounds. They inhabit diverse environments, from Florida's humid marshlands to Alaska's icy wilderness. Although primarily a North American species, American Black Bears have been introduced into parts of Europe and Asia for hunting and zoological exhibits.

Being omnivores, American Black Bears have a mixed diet of berries, insects, fish, and small mammals. Their powerful sense of smell (even more superior to dogs) guides them to food sources miles away, sometimes leading them to urban areas where they search for unconventional food like human garbage.

Some of the 16 recognized subspecies of American black bears are:

Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei)

kermode bear
Photo by Maximilian Helm on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

Kermode Bears live in the lush forests of British Columbia, Canada. They are also called Spirit Bear or Ghost Bear for a reason. They stand out from other American Black Bears with their distinct white or cream-colored coats. This isn't a result of albinism, as one might think, but a unique recessive gene found in a select few Black bears1.

These bears have a diverse diet, enjoying everything from berries to insects. However, their white coat becomes quite handy during salmon season, as it helps them blend into the daylight while stealthily fishing for salmon. 

Cinnamon Bear (Ursus americanus cinnamomum)

cinnamon bear
Photo by Joe Giordano on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

With their reddish-brown coats, Cinnamon Bears live in North America's forests. Their nose guides their diet, sniffing anything from berries and nuts to bugs and fish. But it's not just about food - their keen sense of smell also gives them a heads-up on any danger nearby.

Glacier Bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii)

Glacier Bear, known as the 'blue bear' for its unique silvery-blue to dark grey coat, lives in the pristine wilderness of Southeastern Alaska. Despite its slightly smaller size than other bears, they thrive in the Glacier Bay region's quiet forests and rugged mountain ranges.

The next type of bear below is one of the few marine mammals.

Other American Black Bears

Here's a few more subspecies of black bear that are well known:

  • West Mexican Black Bear (Ursus americanus machetes): This subspecies resides primarily in the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mountain range in western Mexico. These bears are integral to the region's ecosystem and adapted to the rugged terrain and mixed coniferous forests.
  • East Mexican Black Bear (Ursus americanus eremicus): Inhabiting the Sierra Madre Oriental on the other side of the country, these bears have adapted to different environmental conditions.
  • Vancouver Island Black Bear (Ursus americanus vancouveri): Recognized as one of the largest types of American Black Bears, these bears inhabit the dense, temperate rainforests of Vancouver Island in Canada. Their size and adaptations are a testament to the island's rich biodiversity and abundant food sources.
  • Dall Island Black Bear (Ursus americanus emmonsii): Populating the remote Dall Island in Alaska, these bears have adapted to the region's harsh, often unforgiving climate.

3. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

polar bear drinking
Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash

Fun Fact: Polar bears have black skin, which might surprise you, considering their white fur. This feature helps them absorb and retain heat from the sun, which is vital for survival in the freezing Arctic!

The polar bears are the biggest species and the only ones living on the Arctic tundra5. These mighty beasts have strong limbs and large paddle-like paws, allowing them to swim effortlessly for up to 60 miles.

As climate change continues to melt Arctic ice rapidly, the Polar Bear is now classified as an endangered species, facing an uncertain future in a rapidly warming world.

The carnivorous polar bear primarily eats ringed and bearded seals. Unlike other bears, they don't hibernate, and the females slow down during pregnancy in a process called 'denning.'

4. Asiatic Black Bears or Moon Bears (Ursus thibetanus)

asiatic black bear
Photo by Art G. on Flickr CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

The Asiatic Black Bear, also known as the Asian Black Bear or Moon Bear, has glossy black fur and a distinctive white or cream crescent mark on its chest. They are skilled at climbing trees and using their curved claws to find insects. Asian black bears live across Asia, from cold regions like Russia to lush forests in Southeast Asian countries.

This bear species is an omnivore. Its diverse diet includes fruits, nuts, insects, small mammals, birds, carrion, and honey. At times, the bear treats itself to crops, leading to occasional clashes with humans. 

Formosan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus)

These bears are Taiwan's largest land carnivore and the only native bear species. We can easily distinguish them by their v-shaped white mark on their dark fur.

They mostly live solitary lives, except during the June to August mating season. Their diverse food choices, from plants to small mammals, occasionally lead them to human settlements.

5. Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)

sloth bear walking
Photo by Charles J. Sharp on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY SA-4.0 (Cropped from original)

The Sloth Bear has a shaggy black coat with a white or yellow "Y" or "U" shape on its chest. It possesses a remarkable ability to slurp up insects using its long snout and unique front teeth.

This bear species primarily inhabits the tropical forests of South Asia. The Sloth Bear is divided into two distinctive subspecies: the Indian Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus ursinus), inhabiting India and Nepal, and its counterpart, Melursus ursinus inornatus, found solely in Sri Lanka.

Equipped with long, curved claws, these sloth bears are adept at digging and climbing trees. It exhibits quirky behaviors, such as "pedal sucking," where it delicately suckles its paw, believed to be a self-soothing mechanism.

Sloth bear cubs are utterly adorable and enchanting, bringing joy to anyone fortunate to encounter them. They are tiny and helpless at birth, weighing only a few hundred grams. Usually born in a litter of one to three cubs, twins are the most common occurrence.

6. Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus)

sun bear
Photo by Wich'yanan L on iNaturalist licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original)

Fun Fact: The Sun Bear is the smallest bear species, weighing 60-145 pounds, about the size of a large dog. They possess the longest tongues among bears, which helps them extract honey and insects.

Sun bears have a black coat that shines in the tropical sunlight, and it's recognized by the golden or white chest patch resembling the morning sun, giving it a poetic name. Despite its size, this type of bear is skilled.

It climbs trees quickly in Southeast Asia's rainforests to find fruits and berries. Its long tongue helps it expertly extract honey from beehives high in the treetops, earning it the nickname "honey bear." They also love to stretch out and bask in the warm sun filtering through the forest canopy.

7. Spectacled Bears or Andean Bears (Tremarctos ornatus)

spectacled bear on tree
Photo by Santiago Ron on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original)

Spectacled Bears are the only bear species in South America2. It got its name from the markings resembling spectacles around its eyes. They are excellent climbers who often forage in trees.

Also called the Andean Bear are a unique bear species and the last surviving member of the short-faced bear subfamily. Interestingly, their diet is primarily vegetarian, enjoying fruits, berries, and cacti. But these short-faced bears are adaptable opportunists and won't hesitate to eat insects, rodents, or birds when available.

Florida Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos floridanus, extinct)

Fun Fact: The Florida Spectacled Bear, also known as the Andean Bear or the Florida Short-faced Bear, is the only bear species native to South America. However, these species went extinct 11,000 years ago.

This extinct species has a spectacle-like pattern around its eyes, which inspired its name. These creatures live in the isolated regions of the Andean mountains. They also have the most unique diet in the Ursidae family. Feeding primarily on plants, they only have five to seven percent of meat in their diet. 

Most unique among the types of bears, the final species below are the most distinguishable.

8. Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

giant panda
Public Domain Mark Sum Courtesy of life.nbii.gov

Fun Fact: The Giant Panda primarily eats bamboo, consuming 20 to 40 pounds daily. They have specialized wrist bone that acts like a thumb4, allowing them to grip and strip bamboo. 

Their striking black-and-white coat makes them distinguishable species. Found in the secluded landscapes of south-central China, these bears are known for their bamboo diet. However, they also occasionally eat small mammals. Like other bears, Giant Pandas are solitary animals, except during mating season when males and females mingle.

Conclusion: Types of Bears

What's your favorite type of bear? From the imposing brown bears to the snowy polar, they are undeniably key apex predators, crucial in preserving ecological balance. Their survival requires immediate conservation actions from all of us. Together, let us protect their populations, thereby ensuring the richness of our planet's biodiversity.


Hedrick, P. W., & Ritland, K. (2011). POPULATION GENETICS OF THE WHITE-PHASED “SPIRIT” BLACK BEAR OF BRITISH COLUMBIA. Evolution, 66(2), 305–313.


García-Rangel, S. (2012). Andean bear Tremarctos ornatus natural history and conservation. Mammal Review, 42(2), 85–119.


Rode, K. D., Robbins, C. T., & Shipley, L. A. (2001). Constraints on herbivory by grizzly bears. Oecologia, 128(1), 62–71.


Endo, H., Yamagiwa, D., Hayashi, Y., Koie, H., Yamaya, Y., & Kimura, J. (1999). Role of the giant panda's 'pseudo-thumb'Nature397(6717), 309–310.


Stirling, I. (2009). Polar bear: Ursus maritimus. In Encyclopedia of marine mammals (pp. 888-890). Academic Press.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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