Though it may seem odd at first, the question actually makes sense. Dogs and bears kind of look similar. Do people know more about their relationship than they do? Well, thankfully, science has some excellent explanations for the origins and classification of many of the animal species found on Earth. Don’t you think a bear resembles a big, thick dog? Let’s find out for sure, then. Do bears have a relationship with dogs? Let’s examine bears and dogs.
Table of Contents
- Are Bears Related to Dogs?
- How Do We Know If Something is Related?
- What is Taxonomic Classification?
- How Closely Related Are Dogs and Bears?
- What is the Most Recent Shared Ancestor Between Bears and Dogs?
- Could You Mate a Dog and a Bear?
- 9 – Dog Breeds That Look Like Bears
- Are Dogs Related to Bears? Final Thoughts
Are Bears Related to Dogs?
The evolution of dogs and bears is the main topic of discussion here. When we ask if something is “related,” we are asking if two animal species share a close genetic relative of one another.
Bears are not directly related to dogs, to put it briefly. They do, however, share a common ancestor with both species. The second point is that everything that lives is connected, which is equally important if not more so. Humans share a genetic ancestor with jellyfish as well as fungi, but those relations are significantly more distant than the relationship we share with chimps. How closely and distantly (temporally) are species related is the real question, and it is probably the one that is more helpful.
You’ll soon learn that dogs and bears share a 62–32 million-year evolutionary history. Although they both belong to the mammal family, today’s animals have diverged from this ancestor. Let’s delve deeper into this relationship’s specifics!
How Do We Know If Something is Related?
All questions involving if a species is “related” to another species hinges on evolutionary history. Essentially, what people are asking is, “how far back do these two species share a common ancestor.” Through a variety of techniques, evolutionary study enables us to look back in time and piece together puzzles, providing us with a clearer picture of the genetic heritage that all living things share. All living things share an ancestor if you look back far enough.
Humans have investigated the relationships between various species in a number of different ways. The most well-known (in the eyes of the general public) is probably fossil evidence. Bones or fossil impressions that are clearly identifiable as belonging to a quasi-species, from which two current (extant) species likely descended, are frequently found in the earth. A common ancestor is the two species’ most recent kin.
DNA analysis is the second and most significant way we can examine our shared evolutionary past. We can look back in time and determine how closely things are related with some degree of certainty thanks to DNA evidence. It is likely that two species are closely related and had a recent common ancestor if their DNA is remarkably similar.
What is Taxonomic Classification?
Although somewhat tedious, it’s crucial to comprehend how scientists categorize organisms. We cannot determine if something is related if we are not familiar with classifications! An introduction to classification can be found here.
In order to understand “relatedness” on an evolutionary scale, it’s important to understand the grouping system that humans utilize in order to make sense of things. Simply put, taxonomy is the science of giving names to living things and classifying them into similar groups.
Think of taxonomy as a pyramid, with the broadest, most inclusive definitions at the top and the narrowest, most granular definitions near the bottom. For instance, plants, fungi, animals, and more are included in the six kingdoms (the second most broad category). Polar bears, grizzly bears, and black bears are among the closely related animals that fall under the most specific classification, species.
How Closely Related Are Dogs and Bears?
How closely related are dogs and bears, then, to our main question? We established earlier that while they’re not directly related, there are taxonomic classifications that can reveal just how close a relationship is. Now, other sources you may have read claim that they are not closely related. However, both animals are really quite related to one another!
The suborder Caniformia, which means “carnivorans resembling dogs,” includes both dogs and bears. Dogs, bears, wolves, foxes, raccoons, and mustelids all fall under this taxonomy. Within this order, many species (the most precise way to identify an animal) have non-retractable claws and are typically omnivorous.
This suborder diverged from the ancestor of lions, cats, and other felines, the Feliformia (carnivorans with cat-like characteristics). Nine families currently exist within the Caniformia sub-order. The family Canidae includes dogs, wolves, and bears; the Ursidae includes tethered animals like shrews and otters.
Therefore, if you compare bears and dogs based on their sub-orders, you will find that they are closely related. Although they come from different families, they share the same sub-order, so in terms of their families, they are somewhat related. They are also distantly related to one another in terms of species.
Bears and dogs belong to the same sub-order, but they come from different families and species. In general, dogs, wolves, and bears are related by their sub-order and have a relatively recent common ancestor.
What is the Most Recent Shared Ancestor Between Bears and Dogs?
Let’s examine the most recent common ancestor that bears and dogs share now that we have a basic understanding of evolutionary relatedness. Bears AND wolves/dogs, as well as a few other families, all descended from this ancestor, keep in mind.
Miacids are the most recent common ancestor of bears and dogs. Between 62 and 32 million years ago, there were miacids, which are now extinct. They were fairly successful, living for at least 28 million years. It is thought that these extinct mammals served as the foundation for the order Carnivora, from which the suborders Caniformia and Feliformia diverged. Since some of them inhabited the trees and others the ground, they most likely resembled martens and weasels.
All modern carnivores descended from miacids, which probably preyed on anything smaller than themselves. These Miacids started to become experts in their ecological niches as they multiplied. Felines likely evolved into the superpredators known as lions and leopards in Africa, where they first appeared due to the continent’s profusion of meat and herd animals. As a result of the need for a more varied diet, omnivorous animals such as bears, dogs, and otters proliferated in North America and Europe.
Could You Mate a Dog and a Bear?
No, you cannot cross the two species of animal. They are entirely distinct beings, and they don’t even share the same number of chromosomes. Dogs only have 39 chromosomes compared to the 74 found in bears, but all dogs are still very cute.
Please refrain from attempting to create a bear dog at home because you would probably end up with a fat bear and a dog skeleton.
9 – Dog Breeds That Look Like Bears
Why dogs and bears resemble each other so much can be understood by considering their respective evolutionary histories. Naturally, both animals have undergone numerous changes that have given them their unique characteristics. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still notice similarities between some breeds.
The following list includes dog breeds that most closely resemble bears.
#1. Tibetan Mastiff
One of the most intimidating dogs on the planet is the Tibetan Mastiff. They can reach a height of 29 inches at the withers, making them absolutely enormous.
These dogs can weigh up to 160 pounds when they are fully grown.
As if that weren’t enough to create a bear-like appearance, The thick, flowing coat of the Tibetan Mastiff is covered in fur. Around their necks, the fur gets the thickest. This causes a thick mane of hair to grow around the face.
The good news is that these dogs rarely display the aggression that bears do. They like to spend the day relaxing and are usually quite aloof.
#2. Chow Chow
Another breed that looks a lot like a bear is the Chow Chow. The Siberian region of China is where this breed originated.
So that they can stay warm, they have a thick coat of fur. Even today, the luscious coat that gave these dogs their distinctive bear-like appearance is still present.
Due to their massive size, Chow Chows, like the Tibetan Mastiff, can be extremely intimidating. The size of Chow Chows in comparison to Tibetan Mastiffs and bears is one notable distinction. As adults, they are only about 60 to 70 pounds.
Bears and newfoundlands have very similar coat colors. These dogs can be identified by their dense coats of dark brown, black, or gray fur.
Their long, puffy fur also doesn’t help.
Puppies hold an even closer resemblance to bears. It’s simple to mistake them for bear pups because they haven’t yet begun to develop the canine body.
These dogs have a lot of power. They were initially bred to work as working dogs that guarded and herded sheep. On farms all over the world, you can still discover them.
#4. Great Pyrenese
Many people would be forced to pause if a picture of a polar bear was placed next to one of a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.
Their striking white fur gives them an arctic bear-like appearance, and it is very soft.
The Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog is enormous in size. Females can weigh up to 90 pounds. Males can bulk up until they weigh 120 pounds, though!
On the internet, akita dogs are known for being adorable teddy bear dogs. That is undoubtedly true when they are young puppies.
They look ready to cuddle because of their fluffy fur and pointy ears. But as they age, that teddy bear appearance disappears.
Most people are unaware of the size that Akitas can reach. Adults can stand 26 inches tall at the withers and weigh up to 86 pounds. It makes sense why people mistake these dogs for bears.
#6. Bush Dog
Uncanny similarities exist between Brown Bears and Bush Dogs. Bush Dogs, also referred to as Savannahs, have a thick, shaggy coat of brown fur.
They also differ from most dogs in having pointy ears and a slightly wider snout. Unfortunately, the breed hasn’t benefited from having bear-like physical characteristics.
They’re often killed because they are mistaken for vicious bears. They are actually quite timid and reserved. Currently, the breed is considered to be endangered.
Even designer cross-bred dogs can look like bears. In recent years, the popularity of the Goldendoodle has increased. The canines are amiable, devoted, and adorable.
Their thick covering of curly hypoallergenic hair is what distinguishes them. Because they don’t shed as much as other breeds, they make excellent family dogs.
To emphasize the similarities, some breeders followed the teddy bear craze and developed particular crossbreeds. The most bear-like Goldendoodles have Standard Doodle and English Cream Retriever as parents.
#8. Maremma Sheep Dog
The Maremma Sheepdog is a less popular breed. Maremma Sheepdogs are frequently identified as Great Pyrenees Mountain Dogs in addition to being mistaken for polar bears.
This is due to the fact that they both have thick double coats of white fur with black accents.
Maremma Sheepdogs are devoted to work and defense, much like mountain dogs. They make wonderful family pets and adore showing their owners affection.
#9. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Russian is the birthplace of Caucasian Shepherd Dogs. These dogs have a thick coat of fur to stay warm because of their prehistoric climate. Several hues and designs are available for that coat.
These dogs are enormous, which is the main factor in their bear-like appearance.
One of the largest puppies in the entire world is a Caucasian Shepherd Dog. Despite being uncommon, adult males can weigh up to 220 pounds. Even at its lightest, the breed weighs on average about 110 pounds.
Are Dogs Related to Bears? Final Thoughts
Dogs are not related to bears, nor are bears to dogs. Also no, despite some surface similarities, bears and dogs are very different from one another. Even though they are distantly related, let’s just say that they won’t get along at the family reunion.
Are Bears Smarter Than Dogs?
Zookeepers and animal trainers consider bears to be smarter than dogs. When it comes to protecting itself from hunters and poachers, the cunning of the bear is legendary. Almost with the appearance of forethought, the animal’s amazing ability to avoid human hunters during hunting season.
Are Bears Closer to Cats Or Dogs?
Since then, they have split into two groups: caniforms, which is a more diverse category that includes raccoons, walruses, and cats in addition to dogs, and feliforms, which includes cats, hyenas, and mongooses. Bears are caniforms too, and are more closely related to dogs than cats are.