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Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly Bear: Who Will Win The Fight?

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key point:

  • There are many similarities between the silverback gorilla and the grizzly bear, both considered powerful and dangerous animals.
  • Although these animals may share some of the same characteristics, they are very different.
  • Both animals tend to avoid humans, but will attack if agitated enough.

Can you imagine a fight between a silverback gorilla and a grizzly bear? Before we get started, let's clarify which animals we're actually talking about.

Although many people know them or call them "silverbacks," the term "silverback" is actually reserved for the adult males known as mountain gorillas ( Gorilla beringei beringei ). They are called silverbacks because of the silvery sheen that develops on the hair on their backs once they are adults. Therefore, it can be assumed that all references to "silverback gorillas" are with respect to adult males of each species.

If there was a fight between a grizzly bear ( Ursus arctos horribilis ) and a silverback gorilla, there would likely be a clear winner, but let's get to that later.

While silverbacks and grizzlies may share some similarities, silverbacks and grizzlies are very different animals that live in very different habitats, eat very different diets and look very different .

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Although the silverback is very fast, very strong and has a longer wingspan, it is unlikely that the silverback can beat the bigger and faster grizzly bear in a fair fight. One advantage the Silverback may have is the enormous strength of its muscles. While grizzlies are very strong, gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys have far greater muscle strength than other animals of similar size. This increased strength coupled with their long arm reach could even level the playing field in a fight between a grizzly and a silverback.

Comparing Silverbacks and Grizzlies

roaring blazing teeth
Grizzlies are very aggressive animals and can put humans in great danger if encountered in the wild.

©Falade Adewale/Shutterstock.com

In general, silverbacks are considered peaceful creatures. They will not attack humans except in rare cases. However, they will defend themselves and their families. On the other hand, the Grizzlies can be very aggressive.

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Grizzlies mostly avoid humans as much as possible, but sometimes they stumble into a campsite, or an errant hiker gets caught between a mother and her cubs. In this case, these bears pose a serious threat to humans, and our larger primate relatives may not fare much better. The grizzly's paws alone can be as long as four inches, giving it a significant advantage in a dispute with the silverback. Let's really compare the grizzly and the silverback to see how much the grizzly has an advantage over the silverback.

Silverbacks and grizzlies share some things in common, such as their strength and ability to stand upright or walk on all fours, but really, the similarities end there. They are both classified as omnivores, but silverbacks don't eat anything but insects, while grizzlies eat a lot of fish and other small animals.

The most obvious differences between the two animals include:

silverback gorilla grizzly bear
size 6 feet (rear), 485 lbs 8 feet (rear feet), 800 lbs
Habitat Mountain forest at an altitude of about 10,000 feet Woodlands, forests, alpine meadows, grasslands
life >40 years old 20-25 years old
species gorilla beringei beringei Ursus
speed 20 mph 35 mph
temperament mostly docile Moderately aggressive
foot 2 hands, 2 feet and 4 opposing thumbs 4 feet, 20 toes, 20 claws
silverback menacing its own reflection
Silverbacks live almost twice as long as grizzlies.

©Andreas Rose/Shutterstock.com

5 Key Differences Between Silverback Gorilla and Grizzly Bear

1. Silverback vs. Grizzly: Head and Face

Grizzlies have a large, round head with an almost canine nose. The silverback has a flatter nose, imprints as distinctive as human fingerprints, and a more pointed head.

2. Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly: Ears

Silverback gorilla ears are indistinguishable from human ears and have a similar head position. Grizzlies have small, round, furry ears that grow on top of their heads.

3. Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly: Hair

Grizzlies have thick, dark brown fur. Except for the palms, chest, face and soles of the feet, the silverback gorilla is covered in soft, springy hair.

4. Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly: Size (Height and Weight)

On average, silverbacks are about two feet shorter than grizzlies when they all stand on their hind feet. Silverback gorillas can weigh nearly 500 pounds, about half the weight of the largest grizzly bears.

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A non-aggressive bear is 2-5 times stronger than an average human. However, gorillas are 4-9 times stronger than humans. When standing, silverbacks can grow to around 5 feet 11 inches, while grizzlies can grow to around 10 feet. A gorilla has a bite force of 1300 Psi and a grizzly bear has a bite force of 1250 Psi.

5. Silverback Gorilla vs Grizzly: Claws

Grizzlies have 20 claws a few inches long, one on each toe of each of the four feet. The fingers and toes of silverback gorillas have nails like humans.

A grizzly bear stands tall on its hind legs against a background of trees.
Grizzlies will likely win the battle against the silverback gorilla.



  • The Grizzlies have size, weight and aggression.
  • Silverbacks have muscular strength and reach.
  • While the Grizzlies may emerge victorious in a fight between these formidable opponents, don't underestimate the strength and determination of the Silverback in self-defense.

Fortunately, it's unlikely that these two titans will come face-to-face, since they live in vastly different habitats with worlds in between.

Cross-river gorillas rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
Gorillas and grizzlies live in completely different parts of the world and will likely never meet.

© Kit Korzun/Shutterstock.com

gorilla habitat

Silverback gorillas are mainly found in the lowland rainforests of Central and West Africa, including countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Gabon. They inhabit a variety of habitats, from mountain forests to swamps and grasslands near rivers. Silverbacks live in small social groups led by a dominant male called an alpha silverback. These groups typically contain 5-30 adult males, a few females and their offspring. The alpha silverback is responsible for leading his pack in search of food sources and protecting them from predators such as leopards or other male rivals.

grizzly habitat

Grizzlies mainly inhabit the temperate forests, mountains, and grasslands of western North America. They are found in Canada from Alaska to Manitoba, and in parts of the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. However, they are becoming increasingly rare due to human activities such as logging and development. Grizzlies are also found in some parts of Western Europe, such as Norway and Spain. They prefer habitats with abundant food sources, such as berries or salmon streams, which allow them to fatten up for hibernation during the winter.

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silverback gorilla vs grizzly bear
Silverback vs Grizzly

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about the author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York where she lives with three dogs, four donkeys, a mule and a cat. She holds a BA in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching regenerative farming practices to nearby farmers.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the difference between a silverback gorilla and a grizzly bear?

The scientific name of the silverback gorilla is Gorilla beringei beringei while the scientific name of the grizzly bear is Ursus arctos horribilis . Gorillas are primates and grizzlies are carnivores. Grizzlies are bigger and more dangerous. Gorillas are omnivorous and eat a mostly plant-based diet. Grizzlies are also omnivores, but eat a lot of meat and plants.

Which is more dangerous, a silverback gorilla or a grizzly bear?

Grizzlies are more aggressive and therefore more dangerous, but generally, they avoid humans unless provoked or threatened. Silverbacks are mostly very docile and fortunately any human attack is very rare.

Are silverbacks or grizzlies more aggressive?

Silverbacks are much less aggressive and are generally considered peaceful unless they are defending their territory or their young. Grizzlies do not attack humans very often, but they are more likely than silverback wolves to attack humans during unexpected encounters.

Do grizzly bears and silverbacks have different feet?

Definitely they do have different feet. While both can walk on hind feet or on all fours, gorillas have two hands and two feet, closely related to the elongated human hand, including opposing thumbs, giving them a total of four opposing thumbs, but only two feet. Grizzlies have five-toed claws on all four of their feet, all of which lack the dexterity of a gorilla "hand," but each toe ends in a claw.

Are grizzlies the scariest bears?

Grizzlies are not the largest bear species. This title belongs to the polar bear. However, during an altercation between a grizzly bear and a polar bear, when the polar bear ran away, the grizzly was left behind. While polar bears are larger, grizzlies fight more aggressively for food, and they have sharper claws that can swing and deal a lot of damage.

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