Bears don’t actively hunt horses, although they can attack horses if they appear out of nowhere. On the other hand, bears often prey on cattle of all ages and sheep.
Although bears attacking living and healthy horses is a rarer occurrence than bears attacking cows and sheep, there are plenty of reports of black bears and grizzlies attacking horses and their riders throughout the US.
This is believed to be a result of bear presence in most ecosystems throughout the country.
Moreover, being opportunistic feeders and hunters, bears will attack and eat cattle and sheep (especially young ones) when livestock management is poor and they have easier access.
Unfortunately, livestock depredation is a common problem for farms in bear country. According to some research, bears mostly attack cattle in the spring and sheep in autumn. It’s also common for injured or ill bears to prey on livestock year-round.
Do Bears Attack Horses?
Interactions between bears and horses are unpredictable. Sometimes, a bear may just pass by the horse, without harming it. In other cases, if the bear is very hungry or feels threatened, it may attack the horse.
Sometimes, black bears that encroach on farms where there are horses may prey upon the older, weaker, or smaller horses. This is because horses are usually bigger than black bears and are not an easy prey. The horse will also defend themselves furiously and may injure the bear.
Being a smaller weight bear, the black bear doesn’t commonly attack horses and usually consumes plants and carcasses instead.
Read More: Do Bears Eat Plants?
When it comes to grizzlies, whose weight can go up to 600 pounds, the story is different. They weigh more than horses and are strong and aggressive. They’re also known to tackle moose which are huge.
Grizzlies can snatch horses and cattle if they’re motivated enough. Still, preying upon horses is very rare and not always successful.
Horses tend to be fast and may get aggressive when provoked. If the horse is injured, older, or weakened and the grizzly is very hungry, the grizzly may be able to catch it.
If there’s a horse carcass, the bear is likelier to go for it.
Read More: Are Bears Scavengers?
Do Bears Attack Cows?
It’s more common for bears to attack cattle, including cows. Grizzlies and black bears are often seen eating cows especially when they’re very hungry or need more calories prior to hibernation.
Being opportunistic feeders and hunters, bears will take upon any food source if the opportunity arises.
These two bears prey on all cattle ages, as well as on sheep and swine. However, grizzlies are bigger so they’re more efficient at attacking larger cattle like mature cows. Black bears tend to go for the calves since they’re smaller-weight bears.
Bears usually go for the livestock’s rumen or stomach contents. Bears have no problem eating raw and fresh cattle since their stomachs process it much better than humans.
Bears are omnivorous and consume a variety of plants and animals. They also scavenge and eat carcasses, which may also include dead cows.
The food sources tend to vary throughout the year and bears and there are periods when the bears are actively searching for food. They also need to consume a lot of calories in a short period of time prior to hibernation.
This video shows a grizzly bear attacking a cow on the road:
Read Also: Bear vs Wolverine
Do Bears Attack Sheep?
Bears have been known to attack sheep and lambs. As opportunistic feeders, bears will eat almost any food source if the opportunity arises.
Black bears which are usually smaller than the brown bears may go for the smaller sheep whereas a grizzly can easily go after an adult sheep.
Related Article: Do Bears Get Stung by Bees?
Sheep are among the easiest prey for bears since they’re small and vulnerable. Their only defense is their instinct for flocking. Sheep depredation of calves is frequent because they’re an easy prey due to their small size.
As noted on Applied Behavior, sheep are the majority of livestock killed by bears in almost any country where bears and sheep coexist.
Most sheep in the Himalayan mountains are killed in autumn when bears have a strong urge to gain weight prior to hibernating.
Autumn is also when these sheep are moved to higher elevation alpine meadows where bears also live. And, without any human presence, the sheep are an easy food for the bears.
This video shows how a sheepdog protects its flock from a brown bear:
Bears attack horses, cows, and sheep, but the frequency differs. Livestock is considered an easily accessible food for bears. This is why when they come into contact with it, they tend to kill more animals than they are able to eat and leave behind their carcasses.
They attack sheep very often considering they’re an easier and smaller prey. Cattle is also one of their more common preys.
The brown bear has no problem attacking and killing an adult cow whereas black bears tend to go for the calves as they’re smaller in weight.
Horse attacks by bears are less common, but they’re not impossible, especially if the horse is older or injured. Horses tend to be quite aggressive when attacked so the bear may not always succeed.
Bears are opportunistic feeders which will eat anything they come across if they’re motivated enough; for example, before hibernation when they’re looking to fatten up and get as many as calories on the daily as possible. They may also attack sheep, cows, and horses when other food sources are scarce.
Bears are also scavengers so they also eat carcasses, regardless of whether it’s of horse, sheep, or cattle.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.