What Animals Are Bears Related to? (Closest Relatives Listed)

Bears are part of the Caniformia suborder of animals. Caniformia is comprised of “dog-like” carnivores. The list includes bears, raccoons, foxes, dogs, wolves, mustelids, and Pinnipedia

Bears in Mind note that bear evolution began some 30 million years ago. Their ancestors evolved into Miacids, a family of small mammals. Bears, small bears, and canines developed from this family.

The Ursidae family of bears is a distinct family in the Carnivora order. And, this family has three subfamilies, that is, the real bear (Ursinae), the spectacled bear (Tremarctinae), and the giant panda (Ailuropodinae).

The Ursidae family has eight species, all of which share certain characteristics like a strong body and strong claws. Their diet is also similar, although the polar bear is more carnivorous than the black bear which prefers plants.

What Animals Are Bears Related to

Is the Bear Related to Racoons? 

Bears and raccoons are closely related because they share a common ancestor. Bears are mammals from the Ursidae family while raccoons are also mammals, but they’re part of the Procyonidae family alongside coatis and ring-tails.

According to National Geographic, there are eight bear species of bear: Asiatic, brown, giant panda, black, polar, sloth, sun, and spectacled. 

Bears can be as small as four feet in length and weigh around 60 pounds like the sun bear to as big as eight feet in length and weight that goes over a thousand pounds like the polar bear.

The American black bear is considered the most common bear. 

On the other hand, there are seven species of raccoons that are nocturnal mammals and have bushy and ringed tails. The most common of them is the North American raccoon that lives from northern Canada and through most of the US and southward into South America. 

Although these cousins differ in size, they share a similar diet. They’re both omnivores and eat varied food consisting of both plant and animal origin.

Sciencing notes that raccoons are predators and scavengers (the bear is too!) and they easily blend in with the environment thanks to their black, brown, or grizzled grey fur. 

Read More: Are Bear Scavengers or Hunters?

Being nocturnal, they’re the most active at night. Unlike bears that have few or no predators, the raccoon has plenty, including humans, owls, hawks, and snakes. 

In this video, a black bear is seen sharing a meal with raccoons:

Is the Bear Related to Dogs?

Dogs and bears may not be directly related, however, they have a shared evolutionary connection: the same ancestor and both belong to the Caniformia suborder. Recent research also found that dogs and bears originate from Dormaalocyon latouri, a small and tree-dwelling mammal.

When this umbrella of species is further narrowed down, it’s concluded that dogs belong to the Canidae family (34 species) whereas bears are part of the Ursidae family (eight species). Bears and dogs differ in many things, but they also have some similarities. 

Certain dog breeds like the Chow Chow and Tibetan Mastiff look like a domesticated version of bears. Akitas also have a facial resemblance to bears. 

Moreover, both dogs and bears have non-retractable claws, long snouts, and an excellent sense of smell. However, that of the bear is said to be among the most potent in the world!

The average sense of smell in a dog is a hundred times better than that of humans. That of the bloodhound is 300 times better than that of humans. But, that of a bear is seven times better than that of a bloodhound or 2100 times better than the human sense of smell.

Read More: How Far can a Polar Bear Smell?

Both the bear and dog prefer animal origin food; however, they eat and are able to survive on other food sources too. The bear is a predator and scavenger whereas dogs also have predation in their genes, but they’re mostly scavengers by nature. 

Both species have very sharp teeth that enable them to chew even the hardest of foods with ease. Interestingly, in the past, carnivores built burrows by digging holes in the earth. Today, some dogs and cats still do it. The bear does it too. 

Still, the bear and dog differ in a lot of things. The bear is a wild animal whereas dogs have been domesticated a long time ago and are a common pet today. Dogs have 78 chromosomes whereas bears have 74. 

Dogs have been accustomed to human presence and the human-canine relationship started some 14,000 years ago. Today, humans often refer to them as their best friends. On the other hand, bears avoid humans  and can’t be domesticated or tamed.

This video shows a tiny dog scaring away a black bear:

Read Also: Bear vs Tiger

Is the Bear Related to Wolves?

Bears and wolves belong to the same suborder known as Caniformia. However, they’re part of different families, i.e., the bear is part of the Ursidae family while wolves belong to the Hyaenidae family along with hyenas. 

As large predators, the bear and wolf have been enemies for a long period of time, despite being distant relatives that share an ancestor. These two animals often have similar habitats and clash, particularly over food. 

Yellowstone National Park explains that the attitude of bears and wolves when they interact depends on various factors, including sex, age, food availability, reproductive status, aggressiveness, and hunger. 

Wild Explained notes that even though bears may sometimes eat small wolves, they don’t usually prey on them. However, if there was a fight between an adult bear and an adult wolf, the wolf will probably lose. 

On the other hand, if there’s a wolf pack and only one bear, the bear would probably lose. The strength of a wolf is in its pack. 

Unlike bears that live a solitary life and are seen with other bears only if it’s a mother with her cubs or a mating couple, a pack of wolves is a complex social unit comprised of alphas that are usually the breeding pair that keeps order and balance in the group.

They’re an extended family of offspring, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, etc. Bears are highly promiscuous and can have several mating partners throughout their lifespan while wolves usually mate for life.

Read More: Do Bears Mate for Life?

Unlike bears that are omnivores and eat both animal and plant foods,  wolves are carnivores and mostly consume big and hoofed animals like elk, bison, moose, and deer, but also smaller mammals like rodents and beavers. 

An adult wolf can consume 20 pounds of meat in one day while the brown bear may eat up to 90 pounds of food per day or even more before hibernation.

Bears are known to communicate by leaving their scent on trees. They do it by rubbing their back against a tree, standing on two legs. They may also bite and claw the tree. Wolves also use scent marking to communicate, but they also growl, bark, and howl. 

This video shows the interaction between a wolf pack and a bear:

Conclusion 

Bears are distant relatives with animals from the Caniformia suborder, part of the Carnivora order. These animals are raccoons, foxes, wolves, dogs, mustelids, and Pinnipedia. 

However, each of these animals belongs to different families and the bear is part of the Ursidae family that has eight species of bears. These distant relatives share certain characteristics, but also plenty of differences that make them unique.

For example, although bears and certain breeds of dogs may look alike, the bear is a wild animal that can’t be tamed or domesticated whereas dogs have been domesticated a long time ago. 

Moreover, racoons and bears may share a similar diet, but bears have a few or no predators while racoons have a lot. Wolves and bears share some similarities and habitats, but unlike the wolf which depends on its pack for survival, the bear has a solitary lifestyle.

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