Recognized by their blackish fur, black bears are beautiful yet dangerous creatures. There are two black bear species found in North America and Eastern Asia, respectively. The Asian black bear is slightly smaller than the American species but still large enough to kill humans. That said, how strong are black bears actually?
Black bears have a bite force up to 800 PSI and a swipe force of about 560 pounds. They are about five times stronger than humans and up to two times stronger than lions. While they are weaker than grizzly or polar bears, black bears could still kill you with a single swipe.
Black bear strength facts overview:
- Black bear bite force: 800 PSI
- Adult black bear teeth size: 2.5 inches
- Black bear paw swipe force: 4,290 to 18,000 lb.-ft./s
- Adult black bear paw size: approximately 5 x 6 inches
- Adult black bear weight: 100 to 600 pounds
How Strong Are Black Bears?
Only slightly smaller in size than brown bears, black bears are powerful creatures – about five times stronger than the average human. However, they are rather weak compared to other bears, including grizzly and polar bears.
The actual strength of a black bear depends on its size and subspecies.
There are two black bear subspecies. The American black bear can be found in Canada, the USA, and even in the northern parts of Mexico. These bears grow up to six feet in length and weigh up to 600 pounds – although some American black bears are larger and can reach up to 900 pounds of weight.
The Asian black bear is lighter and weaker than the American black bear. These bears can also grow up to six feet long, but the average male weighs about 440 pounds.
For all black bear subspecies, the females are smaller than the males, but they are still larger and stronger than humans.
What they don’t have in size and weight, black bears have in speed and agility. They normally run at speeds up to 30 miles an hour but can reach a sprint velocity of about 35 miles per hour for shorter distances. Black bears can also climb trees – something grizzly bears struggle to do, and polar bears can’t do at all.
How Much Can A Black Bear Lift?
Black bears may be weaker than grizzly bears, but they have an impressive physical force. Not only are they able to flip flat-shaped rocks weighing 325 pounds with a single paw, but black bears are also very dexterous. They are notorious for manipulating door latches and are even capable of opening screw-top jars.
High physical strength means that black bears also have a strong swipe force.
The swipe force is dependent on the bear’s weight and speed at the moment of the impact, but you can still expect their strike to be much stronger than the punch force of the average human.
The table below compares the paw swipe force of the American vs. Asian black bear:
|Characteristic||American black bear||Asian black bear|
|Weight||250 - 600 lbs.||100 - 400 lbs.||220 - 440 lbs.||110 - 275 lbs.|
|Paw swipe force||14,875 lb.-ft./s||8,750 lb.-ft./s||11,550 lb.-ft./s||6,737 lb.-ft./s|
|Paw force||462 lbs.||271 lbs.||358 lbs.||209 lbs.|
Note: The paw swipe force above is calculated based on the average black bear weight and considering the top speed of 35 miles per hour. Larger black bears are much stronger than this, their hitting force exceeding 900 pounds.
As the table shows, even the weakest black bears have a hitting force of over 200 pounds. To put things into perspective, the average human hitting force is about 120 to 170 pounds of force – the average American black bear male is about four times stronger than the average human.
However, when considering the average power of the largest black bears, they are at least five times stronger than an untrained person. Compared to other bears, black bears are about 1.5 times weaker than grizzly bears and even weaker than polar bears.
Swipe force aside, black bears also have other weapons they can employ to kill prey or defend themselves – strong and sharp claws.
While their claws are shorter than those of a grizzly bear – about 1.5 to 2 inches in length – they are sharper. Thus, they can pierce easily through the skin and rip the flesh off the bones.
How Strong Is A Black Bear’s Bite?
Like most bears, black bears have powerful jaws and a strong bite. The actual bite force varies between American and Asian black bears, the former featuring stronger jaws.
American black bears have a bite force of around 800 PSI. Their bite is slightly weaker than that of a grizzly bear (975 PSI) but about two times stronger than the bite force of a mountain lion.
Asian black bears have weaker jaws that can only exert a bite force of about 550 PSI. That’s about the same bite force as an English mastiff dog but still stronger than the bite force of a cougar, which is only 400 PSI. Compared to humans, Asian black bears are over three times stronger.
Jaw strength aside, black bears have sharp teeth that can grow up to 2.5 inches long. Combined with their sharp claws, the teeth and bite force make black bears powerful predators.
How Much Stronger Are Black Bears Than Humans?
Black bears are up to five times stronger than the average human. Humans have a bite force of about 162 PSI, and an untrained man can muster an average punch force of about 145 lbs. Comparatively, the average black bear male has a paw force of 462 lbs. and a bite force that’s five times stronger.
Sure, not all black bears are this strong. American black bear females are about two times stronger than the average human male. Asian bears are even closer in strength to humans. An Asian black bear female has a paw swipe force only slightly stronger than the average punch force of a man.
However, some black bears are much stronger. Some American black bears can reach up to 900 pounds in weight. This means a swipe force of about 980 pounds, which is almost seven times stronger than the average man.
Besides sheer body force, black bears also have the morphology of a predator. They have large paws that are about two times the size of a human hand, long and sharp claws, powerful jaws, and strong fangs. The skull morphology also enables the black bears to use their jaw force efficiently – or at least, more efficiently than humans.
These are just a few reasons why humans would stand no chance in a one-on-one fight. Although fatal black bear attacks on humans are rare, a starved bear or a mother bear seeing you as a threat to her cubs could kill you.
What Animals Can Kill A Black Bear?
Black bears are apex predators and have no direct predators. However, a number of animals could still kill them. These include larger bears, such as polar bears, grizzly bears, and other brown bears, wolves, and mountain lions. Tigers could also kill a black bear.
What Animal Can Kill An American Black Bear?
Adult American black bears have no predators, but they share territory with larger and stronger bear species.
All brown bears are larger and stronger than black bears. Most brown bears have a bite force between 900 and 975 PSI and a swipe force about two times stronger than a black bear. While the two species mostly coexist, brown bears could kill black bears to defend their territory or cubs.
Polar bears and black bears technically live in different habitats. However, they could find themselves sharing the same territory in the northern regions of Canada and in Alaska.
Once again, the two species will likely ignore each other. Polar bears are even known to display submissive behavior towards other bear species. However, the more massive polar bears could kill a brown bear if they were to engage in a fight.
Wolves and mountain lions are smaller and weaker than black bears; however, they could still come out victorious.
Wolves have the advantage of their social behavior. They generally live and hunt in packs. While a single wolf wouldn’t be able to fight off an adult black bear, the entire pack can easily kill an adult male.
Mountain lions are solitary animals. However, an adult cougar could scare off a black bear female and even kill and feed on black bear cubs separated from their mothers.
What Animal Can Kill An Asian Black Bear?
Asian black bears don’t share their territory with many apex predators, but they could sometimes live in the same habitat as Bengal tigers.
Bengal tigers are not only powerful predators; they are often larger than black bears. Bengal tiger males can grow to lengths of over nine feet, whereas black bear males have an average length of only six feet.
Tigers are also much faster than black bears, reaching speeds up 50 miles per hour. Moreover, Bengal tigers are often heavier than Asian black bears, meaning they can have a more powerful strike.
As far as the bite force is concerned, tigers have stronger jaws that can exert up to 1,050 PSI of force. That’s about two times the bite force of an Asian black bear. Add in the tiger’s longer and sharper claws as well as the longer teeth, and the black bear wouldn’t stand a chance.
Black bears aren’t the strongest bears in the world, but they aren’t the weakest animals either. While some animals could kill a black bear, the species is still on top of the food chain – black bears mostly coexist with other apex predators and don’t generally engage in fights with them. Black bears are also about five times stronger than humans. Thus, even though they aren’t the strongest bears, you may still want to avoid an encounter.