Fans of the book His Dark Materials and the armored bear will feel slightly sad to learn that one can’t really ride bears in real life.
The primary reason why you can’t ride bears is that they’re wild animals. No matter how much you try to tame them, bears can’t be domesticated so riding a bear would be incredibly dangerous.
Furthermore, bears do not have a good build for weight-bearing. Unlike horses, they’ve got neither the strength nor stamina to carry a human a long distance.
While there is rare footage of people riding bears for very short periods, it’s not realistically feasible to ride them safely or for more than a short time.
Riding a bear in real life would require one to domesticate or completely tame it – which is both difficult to do and morally questionable.
Thanks to famous pop culture books, series, and movies, such as Winne the Pooh, His Dark Materials, and The Chronicles of Narnia, the lines between reality and fantasy can be blurred. Perhaps that’s why so many people think of bears as gentle or tame animals.
Bears and humans have coexisted but have never lived side by side. Seeing a wild bear in a dense human population isn’t something to shrug off; in fact, it alarms many people, and there’s a reason for that.
While bears are retiring and shy creatures, they can act aggressively towards humans if they feel threatened. And with bears weighing a minimum of 100 to 250 pounds, having a bite force of 975 psi, and extraordinary paw strength – a bear and human face-off can be remarkably one-sided.
No, humans can’t ride bears, and there are several reasons why bears wouldn’t make the ideal mounts. Here are some of the more important ones.
You can see various examples of humans training bears to perform tricks throughout history.
From dancing bears to bears in the circus, the species are intelligent enough to learn skills that aren’t a natural behavior component. Does that mean humans have managed to domesticate bears, like cats, dogs, or horses?
Absolutely not. Animal domestication can be divided into three categories: domestication for work, companionship, and food. A trained bear does not mean it is domesticated or safe.
Domesticated animals are genetically adapted and selectively bred to live along with humans. That’s not something one can say is true for bears. The members of the Ursidae family were and likely always will be wild.
That means you can’t be sure of your safety or anyone else’s around bears.
A Chinese proverb states, ‘he who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount,’ which is pretty accurate for bears too. If one was actually lucky enough to sit on the back of a bear without injuries, the same couldn’t be said about the dismount.
That’s not to say that bears are malicious or evil. They’re solitary creatures who like keeping to themselves. Forcing bears to behave in any way that doesn’t come naturally has a high chance of ending in disaster.
All animals used for mounts or riding purposes throughout history were domesticated. This includes horses, donkeys, camels, and yaks – and they all qualify as working animals.
When it comes to bears, riding them doesn’t make much sense for several reasons. First off, bears, unlike all other domesticated working animals, have paws with long claws.
Horses and other single-hoofed species can run at high speeds on most types of terrains because of the way their legs are structured.
Bears can’t achieve decent speeds because of their body weight, body structure (including paws), and a thick coat of fur that leads to overheating with too much running.
There are species that humans do ‘ride’ at times that aren’t precisely tame like elephants or dolphins, but the stress and abuse bears go through to be trained to allow humans to ride on their backs is rightly criticized and highlighted by wildlife activists daily.
To make riding bears a possibility, the animals would have to go through the same abuse and stress – which is unthinkable. Then there’s the fact that it’s not a good idea to force a bear (or any animal for that matter) to do anything it doesn’t want.
That’s why there are so many reports floating around the internet of bears, elephants, dolphins, whales, etc., attacking their trainers. Wild animals are created to live in a certain way and exist in a specific environment.
Taking them out of their natural habitats, forcing and abusing them to concede, can affect them psychologically. That’s what causes them to act out and attack their handlers. It’s never the animal’s fault for acting the way it’s supposed to.
Instead, humans are to blame for insisting wild animals behave in a manner that’s entirely different from their nature. What’s worse, when such attacks occur, it’s often the animal that ends up paying with its life.
Footage of People Riding Bears
It is likely that bears have been ridden in the past for entertainment purposes. However, it’s likely that this was only for a short period of time, and was very dangerous.
There is some footage online of people riding bears as well, but we’re not sure whether it’s legal or a deep fake.
For example, the famous footage of Putin riding a bear has been disputed by Putin himself.
Below is some more brief footage that seems fake to me. You be the judge!
Bears have never been domesticated throughout history and don’t have the necessary qualities of working animals that humans generally use to ride.
While bears have massive bodies and great physical strength, their body structure isn’t made to be ridden. Not to mention, the species’ paws and thick fur make it challenging for them to run long distances. As marvels of nature, it’s best to observe bears from a distance in their natural habitat instead of trying to turn them into something nature didn’t intend them to be.
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