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Are Bears and Pigs Related? (Similarities & Differences)

Bears and pigs aren’t related. They’re different species that are part of different families. Despite not being related, bears and pigs share certain similarities such as the broad molars that they use to crush food and wallowing in mud. Moreover, both species are omnivores. 

A pig looking at the viewer

Bears are mammals from the Ursidae family and live in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. They can be as small as four feet in length and weigh around 60 pounds to as big as eight feet in length and weigh more than thousand pounds. 

On the other hand, pigs belong to the Suidae family. All of its species originate from Old World Europe, Asia, and Africa. There are also New World pigs but they’re part of a different family.

This article explores the differences and similarities between bears and pigs in an effort to increase awareness about each species. 

Similarities Between Bears & Pigs 

1. Bears and Pigs are Omnivores

Both bears and pigs are omnivores, meaning they eat a mixed variety of foods, including foods of animal and plant origin. 

Bears eat a range of foods including insects, birds, fish, mammals and different plants and grains. They also hunt for prey like deer and moose and may feed on their carcasses. 

Although all bears are omnivores, each species has its own preferences. The polar bear eats mostly seals whereas the American black bear likes berries a lot. 

Pigs are also versatile eaters. From corn in fields to garbage in streets or kitchen waste, and even seashells on beaches, this animal has quite the appetite.

Moreover, pigs are self-sufficient. If a pig were to be left alone, they’ll know how to care for themselves and fight off predators, according to National Geographic.

2. Bears and Pigs Have Similar Teeth

The bear and the pig use their molars to crush food easily. Bears have two molars on the top jaw and three on the bottom. Pigs have three molars on each side on the top and bottom jaw.

Two bears showing their teeth
Both bears and pigs have flat molars for grinding and crunching

Their molars are very similar to that of humans. They use them to crush nuts, acorns, and other vegetation that they commonly consume. 

They use the molars to crush their food quickly, and they eat a lot of food. Bears need around 20,000 calories daily just to survive, which is around 18 pounds of acorns! 

Pigs are highly focused on food and they’ll do anything for a treat. Adult pigs have tusks (canines) that grow throughout their life. 

The lower tusks stay sharp thanks to the continuous friction against the upper ones and this makes them great food weapons and the irregular molars’ surface eases this animal’s ability to crush food.

3. Bears and Pigs Like the Mud

Bears and pigs are often seen rolling in mud. Bears do it to refresh themselves in scorching summer temperatures and pigs do it for the same reason. In bears, it’s also used as a method of marking their presence. 

Since they don’t have sweat glands like dogs do, bears use numerous other ways to cool down in summer like resting in shade, lying on their belly stretched out, panting, and rolling in mud. 

With the water from the mud evaporating from the bears’ skin, it dissipates heat and reduces its temperature. Sometimes bears also wallow in mud in cooler temperatures and this is believed to be done to get rid of parasites. 

According to Live Science, mud baths help pigs regulate their body temperature, but wallowing has numerous other advantages for this animal.

The benefits range from parasite removal to sun protection. In pigs, mud baths help them lower their body temperature by up to 3.6°C . This animal has only a few sweat glands, a high percentage of body fat, and a barrel-shaped torso which tends to store heat. 

Therefore, wallowing seems more effective than sweating and it’s actually cooler for them than it would be to dip in cold water. This is because the water in mud evaporates from its body slower, which helps it cool down for longer.

Bear Taking a Mud Bath:

Happy Pigs in Mud:

Differences Between Bears & Pigs 

1. Bears are Predators, Pigs Are Prey

A major difference between bears and pigs is in their biological interaction, i.e. bears are predators that eat other animals and pigs are prey that are eaten by other animals. 

Bears are considered one of the mightiest predators in the world and they have only few predators to be afraid of like other bears, humans, scavengers, and tigers. According to National Geographic, bears eat different animals, from rodents to moose. 

They attack prey by inflicting strong bites from behind in the neck or back. But, bears are also able to kill prey with a sway of their enormous paws that can easily crack a spine. 

On the other hand, pigs are mostly prey. They’re predated by plenty of other animals, including dogs, eagles, lions, alligators, bobcats, coyotes, etc. Humans are also common predators of pigs. 

1. Pigs Are More Social Than Bears

Pigs are very social animals and they live in small, matriarchal groups called sounders whereas bears are solitary by nature. Pigs’ sounders usually consist of one to six sows and their piglets. One sounder may also contain several generations of offspring. 

This group changes with the young males leaving, females giving birth or older pigs dying. Group harmony among pigs is achieved by their stable social hierarchies. In the wild, pigs maintain close contact and often have synchronized behavior.

Bears are usually solitary, except when they’re mothers and cubs or mating partners.

Sometimes, when there’s an area with a lot of food for the bears, like farm fields or berry patches, bears are more tolerant of each other. 

However, though they can defend a food resource or their mate, bears aren’t territorial and never defend an area from other bears. The living space of a bear where there’s water, food, and cover is therefore considered a range rather than a territory.

2. Pigs are Domesticated, Bears are Feral

Unlike pigs that have been domesticated a long time ago, bears are still animals that belong to the wild.

The first efforts to domesticate the pig happened between 8,500 and 8,000 BCE in the Near East and then they were brought to Europe. 

When pigs are used as livestock, they’re mostly farmed for the purpose of consuming their flesh known as pork. Some of its other body parts are also used for different products. 

One of the reasons why pigs are easy to domesticate lies in their capacity to adapt. And, because of their scavenging nature, they can do well pretty much everywhere. 

Other factors that led to the domesticated pig are believed to be its size, meatiness, and tameness. 

When it comes to bear domestication, although there are cases of bears kept by people as pets, it’s something that must always be taken with skepticism. 

Namely, the bear’s wild nature will never allow them to see a human as a “friend” or at least not in the way that another animal or a human is able to. 

Despite a capacity to develop an affection for their carers, the risk of an attack doesn’t reduce and may happen when the bear feels moody or angry. And, they’re unable to feel remorse or regret-it’s just their instincts and their true nature. 

Three pigs in a field eating lettuce
Pigs are widely farmed by humans, bears are not

Can Bears Eat Pigs?

Despite being a rare occurrence, most bears could easily catch, attack, and eat a pig.

A scavenger by nature, a bear takes advantage when the opportunity arises. Therefore, if the bear is hungry and it spots a pig, an attack is possible.

However, according to Bill Stiver, a wildlife biologist at the Great Smoky Mountains Park, it’s not usual for bears to attack adult hogs. It might happen if the hog was injured or something else is wrong and the bear takes advantage of the situation.

Related Articles:

The video below is taken in Tennessee and shows a black bear attacking a wild hog:

Conclusion 

Bears and pigs may come from different families and may not be related, but they do share some similarities that may confuse people into thinking they’re somehow associated.

Bears and pigs share the likeness for mud baths and versatile diet and also use some of their teeth in a similar way. Still, despite these aspects, bears and pigs are unique in their own way. 

Unlike bears’ predatory status, pigs are a common prey of a long list of animals. Pigs are also highly social whereas a bear is a solitary animal. When it comes to domestication, pigs are a common domestic animal which isn’t the case with bears.

Bears are wild creatures and any attempt to keep them as pets is considered high risk.

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