Before polar bears became our most iconic symbol of climate change, they were more often a symbol of terrifying animal strength. Anyone old enough to have played pioneering fight game Tekken 2 in the mid nineties will likely remember the polar bear, Kuma. Other characters had laser beams which blasted out of their eyes or fists which turned into balls of fire, but Kuma’s special move was actually the most satisfying – lumbering to his feet he would smash both of his enormous claws together, dropping even the strongest enemy to the floor quivering and bleeding, and very often dead.
Today we’re going to celebrate the power of the polar bear again, though for our fight game we’ll be pitching the largest mammalian carnivore on the planet against four other beast foes. But first, let’s take a quick look at the polar bear’s fighting stats.
|Height:||8 feet when standing|
|Speed:||25 miles per hour|
|Bite Force:||1235 PSI|
|Diet:||seals, walruses, whales|
|Lifespan:||20 – 30 years|
You know you are dealing with a formidable opponent when its prey includes whales, although the fact that polar bears regularly take on walruses – which are much larger than them, and boast terrifying tusks – is perhaps the real proof that the polar bear is king of the ice. But, for the first fight, let’s pitch the king of the ice against the king of the jungle. Let’s consider polar bear versus lion.
POLAR BEAR VERSUS LION
|Speed:||50 miles per hour|
|Bite Force:||650 PSI|
|Diet:||antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, young elephants, rhinos, hippos, wild hogs, crocodiles and giraffes.|
|Lifespan:||20 – 30 years|
Take a quick look at the above statistics and you might think the lion wouldn’t stand a chance, given the bear’s sheer bulk and terrifying bite. However, a lion is a very courageous hunter who will take on other animals with mighty jaws, such as crocodiles. Polar bears are more likely to sneak attack prey with considerably fewer defenses. The lion would therefore have an advantage in sheer aggression which, coupled with its superior speed, would allow it to draw first blood. Unfortunately for the big cat, the polar bear’s deep shield of blubber means that a first wound is rarely enough to kill it outright, giving it the chance to throw all of its strength into the battle.
Rather remarkably, this battle really has happened in the real world, though only in the environment of a circus. A lion called Brutus is said to have killed a polar bear in a rapid and savage assault. However, the polar bear was a small juvenile. In the wild, among two fully grown adults, it’s hard to see the lion being victorious in most circumstances. The bear’s sheer size, strength and stamina would surely end in the lion being crushed and mauled to death, though not without inflicting some serious damage in the process.
WINNER: POLAR BEAR
POLAR BEAR VERSUS TIGER
|Speed:||40 miles per hour|
|Bite Force:||1050 PSI|
|Diet:||antelopes, buffaloes, deer, wild hogs|
|Lifespan:||10 – 15 years|
If a lion would be defeated by a polar bear, what about its rival for the crown of king of the big cats, the tiger? This is where things would get more interesting. The tiger is a more cautious and sneaky hunter than the lion. It would be even less likely than a lion to risk an attack, but if it did, it would almost certainly attempt to take the bear by surprise and would, literally, go for the jugular (yes, bears have jugulars, too).
An attacking tiger would seek to leap onto the bear’s larger frame, sink its awesome teeth into the bear’s neck or skull, and would then hold on for dear life with its 4 inch, hook-like claws. If the bear survived this first assault with enough strength and presence of mind to roll on top of the tiger, it could still win by crushing it and overwhelming it. However, a tiger is strong and agile enough that it might be able to hold on long enough for blood loss to rob the bear of all its strength.
If, on the other hand, the bear attacked first, a furious blow from its claws would be enough to disable a tiger, or stun it for long enough for the bear to sink its own jaws into the tiger’s throat. Both fighters have their strengths, but the tiger’s greater agility and killing-machine ruthlessness are matched by the polar bear’s strength and stamina. We’ll call this one a draw.
POLAR BEAR VERSUS GORILLA
|Speed:||20 miles per hour|
|Bite Force:||1300 PSI|
|Predators:||in some circumstances, leopards|
|Diet:||mostly herbivorous, eating plants and grubs|
|Lifespan:||35 – 40 years|
If polar bears are known for their strength, how would they fare against another beast known for terrifying power, the silverback gorilla? Unfortunately for the gorilla, the likelihood is that this would be a very short battle.
A gorilla’s fists might be almighty clubs, but they aren’t as formidable or sharp as a bear’s claws. A gorilla does have an even more powerful bite than the bear, but it also has much smaller jaws, and would be unlikely to fasten its teeth onto enough of a bear to do serious damage before the bear could retaliate. Perhaps most importantly, the gorilla lacks the speed of the lion and tiger, and would be less able to launch a surprise attack before the bear is able to respond with a savage swipe of its claws. It’s difficult to imagine any circumstances where the gorilla doesn’t end up a mangled mess at the end of this encounter.
WINNER: POLAR BEAR
POLAR BEAR VERSUS GRIZZLY BEAR
|Speed:||35 miles per hour|
|Bite Force:||1200 PSI|
|Diet:||fish (especially salmon), rodents, carrion, and hoofed animals like moose, elk, caribou, and deer.|
|Lifespan:||20 – 25 years|
Now it’s time for the polar bear’s ultimate challenge, cousin grizzly. This death match has actually been a subject of fascination since the dawn of the Internet and probably long before. However, it’s only in recent years that it’s been a common reality-based occurrence, with global warming allowing the grizzly to range much further into the polar bear’s terrain than before. Early evidence suggests that the grizzlies might have the advantage – witnesses have watched grizzlies drive off polar rivals during fights over food, and they have also been known to kill polar bear cubs.
Many believe these victories to be a case of the grizzly’s greater aggression simply frightening the more cautious polar bear. If two full sized adult males were trapped together and forced to fight to the death, the outcome looks much less certain. The grizzly’s aggression might score it some early points with vicious claw wounds, but the bear’s blubber shield should enable it to survive and bring its much greater size into play.
If the fight turned into more of a wrestling match, with both attempting to simultaneously inflict as much damage as possible with tooth and claw, the polar bear would probably overwhelm its smaller foe. While its entirely possible that a grizzly could win in some circumstances, the two are so evenly matched in weapons and defenses that size would in most circumstances make the biggest difference – and that’s where the polar bear has the clear advantage. For that reason we are calling this fight for the almighty polar bear. The bear may be facing many existential challenges, but defeat in one-on-one combat is not one of them.
WINNER: POLAR BEAR