Despite its name, not all of the Bears in the species are brown. Their colour ranges from black to yellow to red and even a beige colour. Sometimes Brown Bears are nearly as large as Polar Bears while in other cases they can be only half that size. Because of this difference in size and colour, people used to believe there were many species and not just the one.
The Brown Bear has long been feared, admired and acknowledged as the king of all beasts. They have achieved a special place in many stories and folk tales.
The species also includes the following subspecies:
- Grizzly Bear
- Kodiak bear
- European Brown Bear
- Siberian Brown Bear
- Atlas Bear
- Gobi bear
- Himalayan Brown Bear
- Carpathian Bear
- Marsican Bear
- Mexican Grizzly Bear
- Tibetan Blue Bear
- Syrian Brown Bear
- Hokkaido Brown Bear
Few of these Bears remain in the forests of Europe where once this was their natural habitat. Some of these Bears lived in the Alps and Pyrenees where they weighed around 90kg whereas Russian Bears weigh in at over 340kg.
Once widespread across Europe, today they survive in reasonable numbers only in the forests of Scandinavia, Romania, Russia and former Yugoslavia, while a few still live in Spain, the Pyrenees and the Abruzzi mountains of Italy.
The European brown bear is generally small, weighing between 45-125kg, and feeds on a wide range of plants and small animals. Unlike in North America, there are very few dangerous encounters between people and Brown Bears in Europe. European Bears appear to have learned to keep well away from humans.
Further east across the Pacific in the western United States, Canada and Alaska, the Brown Bear is known as the Grizzly. This is because of the white-tipped hairs of many of these Bears giving it a frosted or grizzled appearance. The adult male Grizzly can reach a weight of 400kg or more. Kodiak bears, the largest of the Bear family, can reach up to 680kg.
Brown Bears have no natural enemies and because they can easily find food on their own, they have no need for the benefits of group living. The breed has a large bump of muscles above their shoulders, which gives force to the forelimbs enabling them to dig. Their heads are large and round with a concave facial profile.
The largest populations of Brown Bear are in Russia, with 120,000 Bears, in the United States with 32,500 Bears and Canada with 21,750 Bears. There are around 14,000 Brown Bears in Europe outside of zoos, separated into ten distinct populations. Ninety five percent of the Brown Bears living in the United States are in Alaska.