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Bear vs. Tiger: Who Will Win in a Fight?

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key point:
  • Bears and tigers are two of nature's most feared predators.
  • Both are known for their deadly sharp claws and devastatingly powerful bite.
  • Bears and tigers don't have to face off in the wild very often, but on the rare occasions when they do, they have an incredible fight.

A bear was wandering through the woods when suddenly a tiger jumped out from behind a nearby bush. The two animals form a square, and neither side backs down nor backs down. Tigers are here for a reason, to hunt bears and turn them into dinner. However, since the tiger has made a move, the bear does not intend to turn over and die. Both of these top predators will fight to their last breath. Things have come to this, bear vs tiger, who will win?

Our first task is to decide which bear and tiger species will compete in this battle. After that, we need to consider several factors and set some ground rules for the encounter. Next, we'll compare each animal's seven key attributes that will come into play during encounters. Based on this information, we'll determine the bear vs. tiger winner after playing out scenarios that could tip the fight in favor of either animal.

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Comparing Bears and Tigers

Bears come in all shapes and sizes, from small sun bears in Southeast Asia to giant polar bears in the Arctic. Since this is a hypothetical battle of the strongest members of each species, we can ignore factors like geographic range. With this restriction lifted, polar bears will represent eight living species of ursoids in this battle. It is the largest bear species and also the most predatory, so it was a natural choice for this thought experiment.

At the same time, we must also choose one of the five existing tiger species. Of these species, the Siberian tiger is clearly the best candidate to represent its feline counterpart. Also known as the Siberian tiger, the Siberian tiger is the largest tiger species in the world. It is most capable of going head-to-head with bears and is one of the greatest stealth hunters on the planet. With our fighters selected, it's time to see how they compare to each other. We'll compare seven key offensive and defensive attributes that together help us determine the outcome of a bear versus tiger battle.

polar bear Siberian tiger
size 7 feet 10 inches to 9 feet 10 inches long
770 to 1,500 lbs
5'3" to 6'6" long
397 to 675 lbs
speed 25 mph 40 mph
bite force 1,200 psi 1,050 psi
teeth 42 teeth up to 1.96 inches long 30 teeth canines 2.5 to 3 inches long
paw Paws 3.5 to 3.75 inches long up to 4 inches
endurance Often swim 30 miles at a time and run 1.25 miles non-stop Can only run 300 feet at top speed
predatory instinct Ambush animals under ice move less mobile prey on land Stalk and ambush prey from their blind spots to kill with a hard bite to the neck or throat

7 Key Factors in Polar Bear vs. Siberian Tiger Fight

Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Size

Based on their size, polar bears surpass Siberian tigers in both length and mass. The average male polar bear stands between 7'10" and 9'10" and weighs between 770 and 1,500 pounds. However, particularly large polar bears can reach 11 feet tall and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Meanwhile, most male Siberian tigers stand between 5'3" and 6'6" (without tail) and weigh between 397 and 650 pounds. While large specimens can be as long as 10 feet and weigh nearly 900 pounds, that means even the largest Siberian tiger is no bigger than the smallest polar bear. Based on this information, polar bears have advantages in strength and size. Advantage: polar bear

12 Christmas Animals Polar Bears from Around the World
Compared with the Siberian tiger, the polar bear is huge in size and more than twice the weight of the Siberian tiger.

©Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.com

Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Speed

While a polar bear can beat a Siberian tiger in the realm of brute force, it can't match a tiger's sheer speed or agility (at least on land). At top speed, polar bears can run nearly 25 miles per hour. However, its top speed pales in comparison to the Siberian tiger, which can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. That said, if the fight took place at sea, the polar bear easily beats the tiger at its top swimming speed of 6+ mph. Unfortunately for the polar bears, this battle will be fought on land, meaning the tigers gain a clear advantage with their lighter frame and quicker reflexes. Advantage: Siberian Tiger

Siberian tiger chasing birds
For its size, the Siberian tiger is surprisingly fast.

© Andrey Gudkov/Shutterstock.com

Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Bite Force

Both polar bears and Siberian tigers possess powerful bites that can inflict severe damage to flesh and bone. With its massive skull, a polar bear can generate over 1,200 psi of pressure with each bite, enough to smash a whale's skull. The Siberian tiger is second only to the polar bear in strength. It provides a maximum bite force of around 1,050 psi. While tigers have the strongest bite force of any cat, polar bears narrowly retain the edge in this category. Advantage: polar bear

polar bear teeth
A polar bear's jaws can cause serious damage to anything within its range.


Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Teeth

As carnivores, both polar bears and Siberian tigers have sharp teeth that can tear through flesh. However, the number of teeth and tooth length vary from animal to animal. Like most canids, polar bears have 42 teeth in their mouths. These teeth vary in size and can be as long as 1.96 inches. They are designed to bite through the thick blubber and blubber of whales and seals. While the Siberian tiger has only 30 teeth in its mouth, its fangs dwarf those of a polar bear. Its canines are 2.5 to 3 inches long and are ideal for piercing through thick flesh. In short, polar bear bites create more impact points, while Siberian tiger bites are deeper. Considering the tiger can inflict deeper, more menacing wounds, it gains a slight advantage. Advantage: Siberian Tiger

Siberian tiger sticking out tongue
The teeth of the Siberian tiger are powerful enough to inflict fatal injuries with a single bite.

© Thorsten Spoerlein/Shutterstock.com

Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Claws

Most bears wield large, relatively blunt claws. Unlike other bears, polar bears have very sharp claws. They can reach a length of 3.5 to 3.75 inches. In addition to helping them catch and hold prey, their claws provide traction, which helps them maintain their balance while running across icy terrain. However, the Amur tiger's claws belong to another class of sharpness. Their retractable claws can grow up to 4 inches long and are ridiculously sharp. They possess a sinister curve that allows the tiger to grab its prey and prevent any possible or escape. Considering their size, sharpness and shape, Amur tiger claws are more menacing. Advantage: Siberian Tiger

tiger lying on log
This Siberian tiger rests its head on its paws, revealing a glimpse of the deadly claws hidden inside.

© iStock.com/Katherine Andy

Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Stamina

It's fair to compare polar bears to the superathletes of the ursid family. They can swim up to 30 miles at a time, with some reports estimating that they can swim up to 200 miles without rest. Plus, younger, leaner polar bears can run up to 1.25 miles at top speed, which only further cements their incredible stamina. Siberian tigers, on the other hand, can only run about 300 feet at maximum speed. They are designed to perform short, explosive movements, not conserve energy for protracted conflict. As a result, in a war of attrition, the polar bears have the decisive advantage. Advantage: polar bear

do bears have tails
Polar bears have adapted incredible traits to help them survive the harsh cold of the tundra.

© Mario_Hoppmann/Shutterstock.com

Polar Bear vs. Siberian Tiger: Predation Instinct

Both polar bears and Siberian tigers prefer to ambush their prey rather than attack them head-on. Polar bears tend to wait on ice floes until an unsuspecting seal swims by, while Siberian tigers prefer to stalk their prey and attack from behind. In land warfare, the Siberian Tiger has a clear advantage. However, on an open field, without obstacles and any unexpected factors, the Siberian tiger's advantage will disappear. Polar bears regularly step on large prey, including walruses, so they know how to attack their enemies in a straightforward fight. That's not the Siberian tiger's strong suit, so the polar bear's predatory instincts give it the edge in fights that don't startle. Advantage: polar bear

Final tally: Polar Bear (4), Siberian Tiger (3)

Polar bear, white bear is the center frame. looking at camera. The bear's head is on the left side of the frame, standing on ice/snow, and the blue water of the swimming pool can be seen in the background.
With unparalleled stamina and overwhelming size, polar bears can easily defeat Siberian tigers.

© iStock.com/Alexey_Seafarer

Who will win in a battle between a polar bear and a Siberian tiger?

If a Siberian tiger can grab a young female polar bear unknowingly, it's likely to fight. Their sharp claws, long teeth, and quick reflexes make them excellent ambush hunters. If a tiger can bite into a bear's jugular vein or spinal cord, it can quickly take down a smaller polar bear. However, a polar bear would likely win in a head-to-head encounter between two adult males. Their greater mass, stronger bite and greater stamina would allow them to outlive smaller, weaker tigers. Eventually, the tiger tires out, allowing the polar bear to use its considerable size to work. All it takes is a lucky tap or two with its massive claws to bring the tiger to its knees, and a few bites to finish it off.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bears and Tigers

Do tigers eat bears?

Tigers will eat any large prey they can catch and kill, including bears. In most cases, the bears eaten by the larger tigers were young female Himalayan bears. Even so, a cub can fight back, so when a tiger decides to go after a bear, it has to be extra careful.

Do bears eat tigers?

Research has shown that bears occasionally follow tigers in the hope of stealing their prey and getting a quick meal. Such reckless behavior can lead to conflict between the two species. In some cases, the fight ended with bears gaining the upper hand, in which case they ate the tiger, although they don't usually consider tigers as prey.

How long can a bear live?

Most species of bear live about one to twenty years in the wild. Cubs mature to full adult size around the age of eight. Mother bears stay with their cubs for the first 16-18 months of life.

The oldest bear ever lived was a polar bear named Debbie who lived to be 42 years old. She spent most of her life at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. She was born in the Soviet Union in 1966 and was orphaned as a child. From the age of 1 until her death in 2008, Debbie lived a comfortable life in her Canadian zoo.

female polar bear
Compared to other polar bears, Debbie is known to be shy and gentle.

© GTW/Shutterstock.com

How long can a tiger live?

As adults, tigers typically live about 8-10 years in the wild. Sadly, about half of tiger cubs don't live past their two years of age. This is especially important to conservationists given how endangered many tiger species are.

The oldest known wild tiger is a Bengal tigress named Machali. She greatly exceeded her life expectancy, living to the age of 20, and contributed greatly to tiger breeding in her hometown of Sawai Madhopur, India. Malachi is a local hero and legend, performing incredible feats such as defeating a 12-foot crocodile in battle.


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