Sloth Bear vs. Polar Bear

Sloth bears are said to drive tigers away and to maul people when they feel crowded. Recently I came across a reference to an encounter that could only happen in captivity, and once again the mid-sized sloth bear proved surprisingly dangerous.

During the winter of 1897-98 an encounter took place between a polar bear and an Indian sloth bear at Sanger’s Circus, in which the latter came off an easy victor. It seems at first sight remarkable that such a powerful animal as a polar bear should have been so easily vanquished, but it was the cruelly long claws of the Indian that doubtless did the business, while the length and shagginess of his coat would protect him from the teeth and shorter talons of his northern antagonist.

--Richard Lydekker

The Game Animals of India, Burma, Malaya and Tibet (1907) 


  1. I never thought a sloth bear was capable of killing a polar bear, one of the most formidable predators on Earth. Even "an easy victory"!

    1. It's hard to be sure with Lydekker's overblown prose, but I believe he means the polar bear retreated after a skirmish, not died.

    2. If that's what's happened (and I think you're right), I'm happy for the polar bear :-).
      I'm always shocked when a seemingly weaker animal manages to kill a larger or stronger opponent. For example, I was very surprised when - more tha twenty years ago - I saw the National Geographic documentary "Tarantula, king of spiders" by the famous Canadian arachnologist Rick West, in which a Goliath Birdeater (Theraphosa sp.) kills and devours a deadly Common Lancehead (Bothrops atrox). Years later, in a e-mail exchange, West said to me that young venomous snakes, as the Lancehead of his film, are common preys of large tarantulas. He also said to me the Goliath Birdeater took 24 hours to devour the reptile.

    3. One that surprised me was a fishing cat killing a leopard. I believe it was Hodari Nundu who first told me about that here on the blog. Here's a passage I wrote about it for an abandoned project: "All members of the cat family are aggressive carnivores, but the fishing cat stands out among them for its aggression—and its power. For example, a single fishing cat can chase off an entire pack of dogs by wounding several of them before they have a chance to bite it. In a bizarre incident at a zoo, a fishing cat broke into a neighboring cage that held a leopard. Though the leopard was a female of modest size (the females being smaller than the males), it was still twice the weight of the fishing cat. Nonetheless, the fishing cat killed it. In defensive attacks, fishing cats have severely mauled humans. There are reports of them snatching children in Southeast Asia."

  2. I didn't know the fishing cat was so aggressive, powerful and dangerous.


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