Large and intimidating, grizzly bears are a subspecies of brown bears.
They inhabit the Pacific Northwest region of North America and are often pictured as aggressive animals. As an omnivorous species, they don’t generally attack humans unless they are starved, provoked, or see them as a threat.
In the case of an encounter, though, what are your chances of survival? How strong are grizzly bears?
Depending on the actual size, grizzly bears are two to five times stronger than humans. Grizzly bears have a bite force of 975 PSI, stronger than a lion and only slightly weaker than a tiger. They also have a powerful swipe force and can lift up to 700 pounds effortlessly.
Here are some quick grizzly bear strength facts:
- Grizzly bear bite force: 975 PSI
- Adult grizzly bear teeth size: 3 inches
- Grizzly bear paw swipe force: 7,000 to 25,200 lb.-ft./s
- Adult grizzly bear paw size: approximately 5 x 7 inches
- Adult grizzly bear weight: 200 to 720 pounds
How Strong Are Grizzly Bears?
Grizzly bears are small compared to other bears, including polar bears and other brown bear subspecies. Yet, they are much larger and stronger than humans.
In terms of size, grizzly bears grow up to 5.5 feet in length and have a 3-foot shoulder height, on average. Their average standing height, measured from hind paws to the top of the head when standing in a bipedal position, is 6 feet and 8 inches. That’s about one foot taller than the average man but almost four feet shorter than a polar bear standing on its hind paws.
Like all bears, grizzly bears are not only large; they are also heavy. Male grizzly bears weigh between 265 and 720 pounds and are larger and heavier than females. Adult females generally weigh between 200 and 440 pounds. However, some grizzly bears are more massive, weighing up to 1,700 pounds – about the average weight of a polar bear.
Despite their size, grizzly bears are incredibly agile. They run at speeds up to 28 miles per hour, about three times faster than the average human, but can reach higher speeds – up to 35-40 miles per hour – for short distances.
How Hard Can A Grizzly Bear Hit?
The hitting force of a grizzly bear is closely linked to the animal’s size and speed at the moment of the impact. Grizzly bears can have a paw swipe force up to 25,200 lb.-ft./s (about 783 pounds of force), which is between two to five times stronger than the punch force of the average, untrained human.
Polar bears are generally considered stronger than grizzly bears – they are larger and usually run faster. However, some of the largest grizzly bears sprinting at top speed can hit harder than the average polar bear male: 2,113 pound-force grizzly vs. 1,849 pound-force polar bear.
While this is a rare occurrence, we can safely say that grizzly bears are some of the strongest bears in the world.
The table below compares the average hitting force of a grizzly bear male vs. female:
|Weight||265 – 720 lbs.||200 – 440 lbs.|
|Paw swipe force (lb.-ft./s)||19,700||12,800|
|Paw force (pound-force)||612||398|
Note: The hitting forces above are calculated based on the average weight of a grizzly bear and considering the top speed of 40 miles per hour. Comparatively, the average polar bear is about two times stronger than the average grizzly bear.
Alongside a powerful hitting force, grizzly bears also have strong claws that can reach four inches in length. They usually use the claws to dig for roots and ground squirrels or to excavate dens. However, the claws are also important weapons when fighting against other bears or attacking potential predators.
With their long claws and powerful paws, grizzly bears could crush your bones and end your life in a single swipe.
How Strong Is A Grizzly Bear’s Bite?
In addition to massive bodies and claws, grizzly bears also have sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Grizzly bears have a bite force of about 975 PSI, which is only slightly weaker than a tiger’s bite force and about six times stronger than the bite force of a human.
Polar bears have more powerful jaws, but their skull morphology makes it hard to bite at full force. Thus, grizzly bears often bite harder than polar bears.
While technically weaker than polar bears, grizzly bears’ jaws are stronger than those of American and Asiatic black bears. Other brown bear subspecies have a bite force similar to grizzly bears.
Alongside strong jaws, grizzly bears also have strong teeth with canines that can reach three inches in length. They can easily kill smaller prey and tear the flesh off bones without effort.
Why Are Grizzly Bears So Strong?
Their large size is the main reason why grizzly bears are so strong. Grizzly bears have massive frames that require powerful musculature to move them. Not only do they have denser muscles, but the muscle morphology – with long, fast-twitch fibers – gives them both endurance and enough power for explosive movements.
Environment adaptation and behavior are other reasons for the grizzly bear’s evolution into such a strong creature.
Grizzly bears are solitary yet territorial animals. They don’t live in groups, except for mothers and their cubs, so they need enough strength to hunt, move larger prey, and defend themselves.
While grizzly bears are apex predators, other brown bears and wolves represent potential threats. Mountain lions may also attack grizzly bear cubs, so grizzly bear mothers have to be strong enough to defend their young.
Related: Grizzly Bear Climbing Trees
What Animal Is Stronger Than A Grizzly Bear?
While grizzly bears are strong, they aren’t the strongest land mammals. Not only are they weaker than polar bears and other brown bear subspecies, but they are even weaker than herbivores like elephants and gorillas.
The table below shows the grizzly bear strength vs. gorilla comparison:
|Bite force||975 PSI||1,300 PSI|
|Swipe force||25,200 lb.-ft./s||12,500 lb.-ft./s|
|Lift force||700 lbs.||1,800 lbs.|
|Avg. speed||28 mph||20 mph|
|Weight||720 lbs.||500 lbs.|
Both grizzly bears and gorillas have strengths and weaknesses, but gorillas are undeniably stronger. The only advantages grizzly bears have over the great apes are the swipe force and speed.
However, gorillas have a stronger bite force and can lift more than their own body weight. Grizzly bears can only lift more or less their own body weight and have weaker jaws. That doesn’t mean gorillas would win a fight, though.
If it came to an encounter, grizzly bears would have one big advantage: they are predators.
While gorillas can be aggressive when threatened, they are essentially herbivores. These apes have long teeth, but they mostly use them to intimidate adversaries rather than bite (and most of their jaw force is concentrated on their molars anyway rather than the canines).
Grizzly bears have long fangs too, but they also have a skull morphology that enables them to exert more force on the canines when biting and tearing through flesh. They also have long claws and massive paws – characteristics gorillas lack. Grizzly bears are also heavier and faster. In a head-to-head, gorillas wouldn’t stand a chance.