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Difference Between Grizzly and Black Bears

Grizzly vs Black bears

Two types of bears that are frequently confused are grizzly and black bears. Of course, most people would probably have an idea that they are entirely different just by their names, but it becomes tricky altogether when you see photos of these animals placed side-by-side each other. It is difficult to distinguish one from the other unless one looks very closely. Moreover, their differences aren’t only in the physical appearance. They are also dissimilar in terms of behavior.

Both black and grizzly bears are native to North America. The former, with the specie name Ursus americanus, is considered as the most common kind of bear. The latter, also known as the Ursus arctos horribilis specie, has the most varied range of bear subspecies. Grizzlies are not only found in North America but also in Europe and Asia. Black bears, on the other hand, are mostly in north-western territories of the United States, Canada and sometimes in Mexico.

In terms of physical profile, grizzly bears are generally more ‘grizzled-looking’ because of their long guard hair’s lighter tip. Their color ranges from blonde brown to black. Black bears, contrary to what their name suggests, are not limited to black. Like grizzlies, they vary from light blonde to jet black. Most have lighter shades of fur on the chest area. With regard to size, grizzlies are relatively bigger than black bears. Male grizzlies weigh about 500 and pounds and female, 160. They can be as big as 800 pounds. They average 1 meter tall on their paws. Black bears can weigh only 400 pounds maximum with a height of .75 meter at the shoulder. One of the most apparent distinguishing features of grizzlies would be their shoulder hump brought about by a more muscular frame. Their claws are visibly longer at 5 to 10 centimeters than those of black bears’ which are only about 4 centimeters. Another way to tell grizzlies from black bears is through their facial profile. The former has an apparent depression in the space between the eyes and the nose-tip and possesses round, fairly short ears, while the latter has a line drawn across between the forehead and the nose-tip with ears that are pointed and larger than those of grizzlies’.

Grizzlies are solitary in nature. Black bears are more inclined to wandering in human territories in search of an easy meal. Both feed on plants and meat, particularly deer, caribou, sheep, bison, fish and elk. Grizzlies sometimes prey on black bears and black bears, on other smaller types of bears. Moreover, black bears have higher tendencies to treat humans as edible meat. Unlike other predators, both feed in seclusion and do not usually spread out the remains of their prey.

Population-wise, black bears are greater in number. They are normally able to reproduce as soon as they are 3 years old. Usually, they produce 2 cubs at a time. Grizzly bears reach their reproductive maturity at the age of 5 and can also produce up to 2 cubs at a time. However, due to environmental conditions, not a lot of cubs are likely to survive to reach adulthood.


  1. Grizzlies and black bears are found in North America. Subtypes are also found Asia and Europe.
  2. Grizzlies are bigger than their counterpart. They have a distinct shoulder hump brought about by a muscular frame.
  3. Grizzlies are solitary, while black bears tend to go out in human territories in search of food.
  4. Both feed on plants and animals. Black bears have the tendency to see humans as food.
  5. Black bears are greater in number compared to grizzlies. Both can produce 2 cubs per litter.

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