Have you ever stumbled on a giant, fuzzy dog and mistaken it for a bear? Your heart skips a beat, and you freeze, or your instinct takes over, only to realize it is a giant fur baby. Your fear is instantly replaced with relief and feel-good emotions.
Some dog breeds would pass for bears thanks to their uncanny resemblance. If anything, several dog owners have reared bears at home, thinking they were dogs. Of course, these pups aren’t the outcome of a love affair between Winnie the Pooh and Scooby Doo, but they have a neat resemblance to grizzlies.
No doubt Fido’s ultimate origin is wolves but have you ever been curious about bears and dogs? Although stark differences set the bear apart from the dog, several cases of mix-ups suggest they go deep in evolution. But does this mean that bears are genetically related to dogs?
By cracking Fido and grizzlies’ genomes, scientists reveal if man’s best friend was domesticated from the bear.
Here’s the scientific scoop!
Are Dogs And Bears Related?
Sorry to disappoint you. Dogs and bears are not directly related. These are two different species evolving from unique biological families. Dogs come from the Canidae family, which includes coyotes, foxes, wolves, and dingoes, while bears come from the Ursidae family. But looking back at how these species evolved, we realize that these two species have some shared history.
Meet the first carnivorous creatures 55 million years ago: tiny and weasel-like mammals. About 47 million years ago, the Carnivora order evolved into two suborders: the Caniformia and Feliformia.
Animals in the Caniformia group have long jaws and snouts, non-retractable claws, and less-specialized teeth. They are dog-like and include foxes, wolves, seals, raccoons, skunks, otters, bears, and dogs. Meanwhile, the California group includes cat-like creatures with retractable claws and shorter snouts, including lions, housecats, and tigers.
So what caused the evolution? Animals in both suborders had distinct “feeding niches,” meaning they were exposed to different foods in their surroundings. This made all the difference in creating unique traits between the two groups.
The California family are “obligate carnivores,” meaning they only consume meat. In contrast, the Caniformia family are “facultative carnivores,” meaning their diet is diverse, and they will eat even plants and fruits.
Do Dogs And Bears Share A Similar Ancestor?
Though they belong to the same suborders, dogs and bears come from diverse families. Dogs, along with foxes and wolves, belong to the Canidae family, while bears and pandas belong to the Ursidae family.
So given that these two species are entirely different, why do some certain dog breeds resemble bears? Although they both have common traits, they likely share an ancestor. Their ancestor is a Miacid or land otter from the miacidae family.
Miacids were small creatures with carnassial teeth, long tails, and bodies. They resembled weasels and martens and lived on the ground or in trees. They became extinct about 28 million years ago.
Another somewhat related extinct species was known as the bear dog. Though not considered a direct ancestor of the dog or bear, this animal shared characteristics of dogs (long snouts and legs) and bears (giant frames). They were, however, neither members of the Ursidae family nor the Canidae family.
Can A Dog Mate with A Bear?
No. These two species are entirely different creatures and don’t have a similar number of chromosomes. Dogs have 78 chromosomes, while bears have 74 chromosomes. So creating a hybrid from genetically diverse animals- such as a dog and a bear- is impossible.
Which Dog Breeds Resemble Bears?
Some dog breeds resemble fuzzy, giant, wild bears. They have bulky builds and thick coats, and bear-like facial features. Here’s a rundown of the most fluffy and puffy bear-looking dogs.
One of the oldest dog breeds, the Chow Chow has a fluffy, thick mane, sturdy build, deep-set eyes, and a broad head, giving it a bear-like appearance. Their rough, thick, fluffy coat shoots out of their body like a parka, and beneath it is a soft fuzzy undercoat.
Despite their ill-tempered or mean look, this ancient breed isn’t aggressive.
The Chow stands at about 20 inches and weighs between 40 and 70 pounds. They are independent, aloof, and don’t crave attention, so if you’re looking for a cuddly bear to snuggle, this isn’t the dog for you. However, they are fiercely loyal with a strong guarding instinct.
Thick mane? Check. Girth? Check. Bear-like features? Check. The Tibetan mastiff is not only a bear-looking dog, but this breed also resembles lions. Moreover, it is the biggest canine on this list weighing around 200 pounds or more at 26 inches tall.
This breed has a double coat: a long, thick, rough topcoat and a soft, thin, fuzzy undercoat. A heavy mane covers the face, neck, and shoulders and comes in brown, black, blue, or gold.
Despite his massive and intimidating build, this furry companion is loyal, loving, and protective. His large size makes him a fantastic guard dog; however, he can be aloof, strong-willed, and territorial. The dog needs early socialization to tone down its aggressiveness towards strangers and other dogs.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Also known as the Russian bear dog, the caucasian shepherd not only resembles bears but is nearly the size of a small bear thanks to its muscular gait, big bones, and thick, double coat.
Tipping the scale at around 170 to 220 pounds and standing tall at 30 inches, these massive dogs were bred as dangerous, fierce, and fearless guardians of flocks and homes in the Caucasus mountains.
They are super protective, affectionate, and devoted to their household. At the same time, they stand confident and fearless against any threat and can be aggressive toward other animals and strangers.
Considering their giant size and fearless and intimidating demeanor, early training and socialization should be adopted to overcome their apprehension around other animals and people.
The Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees can be mistaken for a polar bear thanks to its huge build and weatherproof white coat. This mountain breed sports a long, thick double coat and a mane around its neck and shoulders.
Elegant and imposing, these gentle giants stand up to 32 inches and can weigh over 100 pounds, but despite their bear-like size, they are devoted and loving furry guardians. Named after their habitat – the Pyrenees mountain dog was bred as a herding dog and companion.
This breed’s characteristics of patience and affection make it well-suited for family life. However, they can be strong-willed, territorial, and protective over their family, so early training and socialization are crucial.
Coming from Leonberg, Germany, the Leonberger features a huge stature, long limbs, and a thick, rugged mane that gives it a bear-like appearance.
A cross-breed of the Great Pyrenees and the Newfoundland, this furry canine tops the chart at 170 pounds and stands at nearly 32 inches.
Social, self-assured, composed, and intelligent, Leo quickly gets along with everyone, including other dogs. But early training and socialization are necessary to tame his mischievous nature.
Despite their intimidating size, this big fluffy fur is gentle and sweet-natured. The Leonbergers make impressive watch and rescue dogs, given their incredible stature, intelligence, and strength.
Strikingly large, imposing, and fearless, the Newfoundland stands at 28 inches and weighs an intimidating 150 pounds. They were bred to hunt in the icy waters of Newfoundland. This giant pup sports a large body, webbed feet, and a thick, all-black water-repellent coat.
The Newfoundland has earned an enviable reputation as a great family companion and watchful and affectionate nanny dog for kids.
The sweet-tempered, gentle breed is equally intelligent, patient, protective, and docile, making this pup an excellent fit for any household. That said, Newfies, as they are lovingly called, are your ride-or-die kind of dog. They are loyal to boot.
Also known as vinegar dogs, bush dogs are wild animals with a slight, stocky build and somewhat squat body. Their stature and size, combined with a slightly elongated snout and thick, soft reddish-brown fur, make them easily mistaken for miniature bears.
They grow to 30 cm, weigh up to 8 kg and live in dense tropical rainforests near water bodies. Bush dogs are not well known as they are a rare sight and are often killed, mistaken for bears.
The resemblance is quite uncanny; you can panic when you bump into them. They are, however, exceptionally social and are not usually aggressive unless attacked.
The Eurasier is a medium-sized spitz-type canine breed with an adorable mane of thick wooly fur, curled bushy tail, prick ears, almond-shaped eyes, and a blue-black tongue. It’s easy to mistake this breed for a small bear. They are about 23 inches and can weigh up to 70 pounds.
Affectionate, loving, witty, and loyal, Eurasiers are well suited for family life. They are alert, watchful, and reserved around strangers, making them excellent guard dogs.
Wrapping Up: Are Dogs And Bears Related?
No. Although dogs and bears are pretty related in sub-orders and share some similar traits, there’s no direct relationship between dogs and bears. These two animals are distantly related in terms of species and very different. The two can’t breed because they don’t even share a similar number of chromosomes.
Physical similarities between both animals result from an evolutionary split in the past. If you want the best of both worlds, we recommend you get one of the adorable bear-looking fuzzy breeds above.