• Post author:
  • Post category:Dogs
  • Post last modified:August 21, 2023
  • Reading time:30 mins read

Are Bears Closer To Dogs Or Cats? Let’s Find Out!

Are bears closer to dogs or cats? A picture of a dog, a cat, and a bear in the front view

We all loved bears when we were once a child. Only in time did we realize there was more to their cushy side. 

Commonly found in brown, black, and white, perhaps this is their only resemblance to the teddy bear. Oh yes, there are the short ears, cute snout, and all, but then, meet a bear for real, and you will immediately realize that this is far from the cute and cuddly animal that you wanted to sleep with as a child. 

Then what is it like? Are bears closer to dogs or cats? This article is going to give you facts on that. 

Are Bears Closer To Dogs Or Cats?

Bears are caniforms, which means that they are more dog-like. This can be understood by studying the biological and skeletal features of a bear. In other words, bears look more similar to dogs than cats. 

What’s more interesting is that the two animals share a genetic ancestor, slowly branching apart as time passes, becoming two distinct animals today. 

Whereas for cats, well, let’s say that you can look at this table instead to know and agree that bears share more things in common with dogs than cats. 

Taxonomic FamilyUrsidaeCanidaeFelidae
SizeLarge (up to 1500 lbs)Small to largeSmall to medium
Social BehaviorSolitarySocial (packs)Solitary
HabitatForests, mountainsVariousVarious
Hunting StyleStalk and ambushPursuitStalk and ambush
DomesticationNot domesticatedDomesticatedDomesticated
HibernationSome speciesNoNo

So, you see, bears and dogs can be large and omnivorous, and while the above table may show a lot of similarities between the bear and the cat, read on to know why the bear is more closely related to the dog. 

What Did Bears Evolve From?

Brown Bear on a Body of Water.

It all began about 50 million years ago. Hard to believe. Nevertheless, the bears we see today evolved from the now-extinct species that one can see only through the fossils available in parts of Africa. 

With heavy-set features and blunt teeth, the species had characteristics common to the dog and the bear. 

And then, you had the relatively more minor modem bears, which appeared about five million years later. These spread throughout the continents of Europe, Asia, and America, diversifying in the process into the variety that we see today. 

Must Read: Are Hyenas Closer To Dogs Or Cats?

What Family Is Bears In?

A bear is a mammal belonging to the Ursidae family (derived from the Latin Ursus), which means bear. 

This family includes the giant panda, the polar bear, and the brown bear. And then, you have the lesser-known spectacled bear, sloth bear, sun bear, the American black bear, and the Asiatic black bear. 

These dog-like carnivores share similar characteristics: large bodies, stocky legs, short tails, plantigrade paws, non-retractable claws, shaggy hair, long snouts, and small rounded ears. 

Most of them are omnivorous (apart from the panda, which is a carnivorous, and polar bear which is herbivorous), which means they feed on plants and other animals. 

Despite their large bodies, they have a good sense of smell and can quickly run, swim and climb trees. 

Why Do Bears Look Like Dogs?

American Black Bear in Close Up Shot

Both bears and dogs belong to the group called California, so you see a bear and dog common ancestor here. 

Raccoons, skunks, and seals are a few other animals that also share this ancestry, which is why you see similar traits among all of them. 

But of these, the most common are the ones between the dog and the bear. 

In other words, if you are a bear lover, you would agree that if they were not so scary, they would be just another version of the dog, equally cute but much more prominent and perhaps funnier. 

Bears Vs. Dogs: Similarities & Differences

Bears are similar to dogs, and yet at the same time, bears are a lot different from dogs. Read on to know the whys and hows of both. 


  • Animal Order: We’ve seen enough of this till now. Both bears and dogs belong to the Carnivora family, with powerful jaws and teeth made for eating flesh.
  • Musculoskeletal Structure: You don’t need to observe a bear and a dog to realize they come with four legs. Look closer and see that both have four toes on each, with thin claws meant for gripping.
  • Eyes: Dogs can have scary eyes, too, just like a bear. These forward-facing eyes are made to give them the deep perception they need for hunting. In other words, both are predators at heart (no matter how cute your doggie is).
  • Strength: Both dogs and bears possess extraordinary strength to protect their families and loved ones. 
  • Sound: If you have heard a bear growl, you would agree it resembles a dog’s. A dog barks, and a bear growls, yet they both sound identical. 


  • Size: You know that, don’t you? Bears are significantly larger than dogs in both height and weight.
  • Ears: A bear’s ears are flatter, sticking to the skull, unlike the pointy cute ears that stick out from a dog’s head. 
  • Fur: In general, bears have thicker and denser fur compared to most dog breeds.
  • Claws: And then bears have large, sharp claws, which are used for digging, climbing, and hunting. Dogs have smaller, duller claws usually adapted for running, gripping, and scratching. 
  • Social Life – Bears, unlike dogs, are more solitary creatures. So, while a dog will wag his tail and yelp at the sight of a human, a cat, or almost any other living animal, this is not the same with bears. In other words, a bear can live alone but not a dog.
  • The Bark: While a bear growls, this sound is much lower than that of a dog’s bark, which is often louder with a pitch that is often higher. 
  • Hibernating – The term hibernating is a process where an animal enjoys a deep sleep for a matter of hours and even days on end to restore the energy they need in the cold months of winter. 

Bears do that, not dogs. Dogs are active throughout the year, and unlike the bear in this regard, they are available for mating too. The bear, on the other hand, needs to sleep.

What Animals Are Bears Related To?

While this little article has convinced you of how bears are so closely related to dogs, there are a few other animals that bear are closely related to and of which you would want to look. 

  • Seals (Pinnipeds):
Common Seal on Shore

Some studies suggest that seals evolved from bears, while others argue that they evolved from otters. Though living in the water, these animals are more similar to the bear than to the whales and dolphins they are known to live with.

  • Weasels (Mustelids):
Close up shot of a Weasel.

This is one small and slender carnivore found in thickets, roadsides, and farmlands. What’s fascinating is that even though it is small in size, this creature still shares some similarities with bears. Known for its exceptional adaptability, this carnivore has survived and thrived in diverse habitats, ranging from dense thickets to open roadsides and even farmlands.

  • Dogs (Canids):
Two Long-coated Brown and Black Dogs

We spoke about dogs and their resemblance to bears, but now we will include all candids, which are all members of the dog family, from the lesser-known coyotes and dingoes to wolves, jackals, and foxes. All of these bear a resemblance to bears. 

  • Raccoons (Procyonids):
Brown and Black Raccoon Photo

A look at this mammal, and you will agree to its place here on the list. With its ringed tail and fox-like face, this one bears some resemblance to the bear. Like the bear, this one, too, is omnivorous. It can eat plants and feast on insects, frogs, rodents, and other creatures.

  • Skunks (Mephitidae):
Brown and white stripe skunk.

However, unlike the big bear, these are small and don’t grow more than 20 inches. But, like the bear, they possess an undeniable charm and grace, displaying their black or white hues for all to admire. And then again, like bears, they, too, can stink.

  • Walruses (Odobenidae):  
Walrus on Sea Shore

With a size that is twice that of the bear, long tusks, and mustaches, they may look fearsome but, interestingly, are the victim of the bear’s attacks. These marine animals are found in the Arctic and like to swim in groups.

  • Sea Lions (Otariidae):
Seal Lion on the Wooden Dock

And then, finally, you have sea lions. These are seals, but they are significant. Their ability to walk on all fours makes them look like bears. Added to that is that they, too, are predators, but since they spend a lot of time in the water, their prey consists of creatures in the sea, like clams, squid, and other fish. 

Recommended Reading: Are Foxes Closer to Dogs or Cats?

How Many Species Of Bears Are There In The World?

Okay, so reading so far has got you all interested. To answer your question, you have eight species of bears, most of which you have already read about above, but here is a brief closer look at each. 

1. North American Black Bear: Commonly found in the forests and mountains of North America, these are the most common bears worldwide and the most versatile, with sixteen subspecies. Like most bears, this one is omnivorous and feeds more on plants than other living creatures. 

2. Polar Bears: A favorite of many, this one is found in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. Their skin is black, but their fur is white. They are the tallest of all bears and can grow to eight feet. Since they live in water, they mainly feed on seals. A typical polar bear weighs an overall of a thousand pounds.

3. Brown Bear: This one, too, is mainly found in cold regions like Alaska and Canada, with some of them even found in parts of Europe and Russia. Though they are known as brown bears, they are also found in shades of black and golden. Their size varies depending on their food and location, though the large ones among them can even overtake that of the polar bear. 

4. Panda: These are a favorite of many, with their black and white bodies and even cuter black patches on the eyes. Most of them are herbivorous and feed on bamboo. This is one bear that does not hibernate. Instead, it migrates as and when the climate changes.

5. Spectacled Bear: These bears are found in South America, with their habitat being in the shrubland, grasslands, and forests of the famous Andes mountains. These are typical bears that like to live in isolation and, most importantly, in small groups. Most of them prefer to stay up in the trees as they believe it keeps them safe. 

6. Sun Bear: These bears are more common in the tropical forests of Asia. They get their name from the golden patch often found on their chest. Like typical cartoon bears, they mainly feed on honey but eat meat too. Their long tongues, flexible snouts, long claws, and canine teeth are not for nothing. 

7. Asiatic Black Bear: Like the sun bear, this one, too, comes with a white patch on the chest, but a crescent-shaped one, like the moon. As their name suggests, these bears come with black fur, which is exceptionally long around their shoulders, throat, and ears. 

8. Sloth Bear: These are more common in India, known for their habit of climbing and staying on trees. Their shaggy hair gives them the appearance of a grumpy older man, and yes, they are moody, too, attacking anyone who seems to be a threat to their territory, humans too. They are scary, too, with curved claws and massive canines that wouldn’t want to make you approach them. 

While the above are some of the most common of all species of bears, you also have some lesser-known ones like the short-faced bear and the Malayan sun bear, which we will discuss in our other article, for you already have a long list. 

7 Dogs That Look Like Bears

If you are a dog lover, you would agree that these come in a variety of appearances. There are those that are small and cute and those that are large and as powerful as the bear. 

It is this latter category that you are going to see here. That said, here is a list of dogs that look like bears. 

1. Chow Chow

This is one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world, beginning with a noble origin and ending up as an ordinary dog you would even find on a farm today. 

They are incredibly furry like the bear, making them fluffy and similar to the classic teddy bear. Added to that is their short nose and aloof and wary nature. These little bears will need a lot of obedience training, and it is best that you introduce them to your home when they are kids. Ooop.. pups. 

2. Tibetan Mastiff

Vast and fluffy, this bear-like dog is only too happy to play with and protect you. 

Like the bear, they are muscular, massive, and powerful, weighing over a hundred pounds, but the resemblance to the bear ends there, for despite their size, these dogs are calm and mellow, and in other words, another gentle giant on this list for you. 

3. Caucasian Shepherd

Also known as the Causacian Ovcharka, the Causacian Shepherd dog, like the bear, is a fierce guardian of flocks. So, as a dog, he will be a bit overprotective over you, like your big papa bear, always there to stand by you. 

Like the bear, this one, too, is enormous, standing up to a total height of 30 inches and weighing about 170 pounds. He can be aggressive too, but that is only with strangers and other animals, especially those that he thinks are more of a threat to you. 

4. Newfoundland

What gives this breed a place on the list is its bear-like face, with a tongue that is always sticking out. And then, there is the fact that he is huge and is going to take up a lot of space in the house. 

He is fearless and loves the water, which makes him known for his life-saving abilities. These dogs look like bears, but deep down inside, they are as sweet and gentle as they are massive, a good friend of kids (which has often given them the title nanny dog), and loyal guardians.

5. Great Pyrenees

At a glance, these dogs appear like polar bears, standing up to a whole 32 inches. But here again, here is a breed of gentle giants who are game for a walk with you any day. 

They bark a lot, but that is only because they are active and like to play. This, along with the fact that they are smart and affectionate, makes these little bears great companions around kids. 

6. Alaskan Malamute

Known for its strength and endurance, this heavy-duty dog bears a lot of resemblance to the bear. He weighs about 85 pounds and is heavy-boned with a deep chest and powerful shoulders. Completing this is a dense, weatherproof coat. 

Now you find him similar to the bear, don’t you? But come closer to him, and you will find an affectionate, friendly creature that loves to play with you. 

7. Samoyed

Like the polar bear, this one, too, comes with abilities to withstand some of the coldest temperatures. They are also sweet and loving, making them an excellent addition to your family, provided you have an air-conditioned home, especially during the summer, so he can live comfortably with you. 

But the similarities end there, for unlike the bear that likes being aloof, this one loves the company of humans and can be very friendly with you.

The Verdict: Are Bears Closer To Dogs Or Cats?

They are similar and different, but in the end, you can confidently say that bears are more similar to cats than dogs. 

After all, the two animals come from the same ancestry and share a common origin. 

And yet, you can’t get a bear in your home as these features are not as social and domestic as dogs. So, please leave them in the habitats where they are meant to be, and adopt a dog instead. 

The bears, on the other hand, you can admire on TV. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Are bears and pigs related?

Ans: No, bears and pigs are not related. They belong to different families of mammals and have distinct physical and behavioral characteristics.

Q2. Are bears related to seals?

Ans: Seals are marine mammals, while bears are land mammals. They belong to different orders and have different body structures and adaptations. Hence, bears are not related to seals.

Q3. Is a bear a cat?

Ans: No, a bear is not a cat. It belongs to the family Ursidae, while cats belong to the family Felidae. They have different physical and behavioral characteristics.

Q4. Are Bears Big Dogs? 

Ans: No, bears are not big dogs. They have different anatomical structures, behaviors, and ecological roles.

Q5. Are Bears Scared Of Dogs?

Ans: It depends on the situation and the individual animals involved. In some cases, bears may be scared of dogs and avoid them, while in other cases, they may be aggressive and attack dogs to protect their territory or cubs.

Q6. How closely related are bears and dogs?

Ans: Bears and dogs are not closely related. They belong to different families within the order Carnivora. However, they do share a common ancestor that lived around 50 million years ago. While they are not directly related, they are relatively closely related based on their sub-orders.


Hey there, pet lovers! I'm Pratik, a lifelong animal lover, and pet care expert. My passion for animals began at a young age and has only grown stronger over the years. Through my blog, I hope to share my knowledge and expertise with other pet owners and provide them with valuable information on pets.