How Strong Are Polar Bears? [Strength Facts & Info]

Polar bears
Lucas Kleipödszus / Pexels

Polar bears are a fascinating species. Most people find them adorable, but the fluffy white coat hides a powerful killer. Polar bears are the largest among all bears as well as the largest land carnivores in the world. Are you now wondering how strong are polar bears and whether you’d stand a chance?

Polar bears are the strongest bear species. Their bite force of 1,235 PSI is more powerful than that of a Bengal tiger and about eight times stronger than that of a human. In addition to a strong bite, polar bears also have a paw swipe force of over 1,800 pounds. That’s five times stronger than the punch force of a human. 

Here are some quick facts on polar bear strength:

  • Polar bear bite force: 1,235 PSI 
  • Adult polar bear teeth size: 2 inches 
  • Polar bear paw swipe force: 11,500 to 59,500 lb.-ft./s
  • Adult polar bear paw size: approximately 12×12 inches
  • Adult polar bear weight: 330 to 1,700 pounds

How Strong Are Polar Bears?

Polar bears are very strong mammals. They could fight off a tiger and even a grizzly bear, should they wish to.

Size-wise, polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world. Adult males can grow up to 10 feet in length and are about 5 feet tall at shoulder level when standing on all fours. Not only do they have large bodies, but polar bears are also very heavy.

On average, male polar bears weigh between 550 and 1,700 pounds. However, some polar bears are much heavier. In fact, one of the largest polar bears captured in Alaska back in 1960 weighed 2,209 pounds.

Despite their large and heavy bodies, polar bears are incredibly agile animals. They are classified as marine mammals due to their relationship with the ocean. Not only are they excellent swimmers, but they can also run incredibly fast, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.

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To put those numbers into perspective, human males have an average height of 5’9” and weigh about 136 pounds. Humans are also much slower than polar bears. Trained runners can reach speeds of about 13 miles per hour. However, the average individual is slower, running at speeds between 6 and 8 miles per hour. 

Polar Bear Swipe

Polar bears are heavy and fast, but how does that translate into power? How strong is a polar bear swipe? Weight and speed combined can produce a swipe force up to 59,500 lb.-ft./s. – the equivalent of approximately 1,850 pounds of force

Not only do polar bears have extremely powerful strikes, but their large paws and long claws can easily crush a seal’s bones and slice through its skin. In fact, polar bears have enormous paws that measure about 12 inches across and long claws that can measure up to 3.75 inches

It goes without saying that not all polar bears are this strong. Females are generally smaller and weaker than adult males. Yet, they are still incredibly strong.

The table below compares the size and swipe strength of a polar bear male vs. female: 

Length 8-10 feet6-8 feet
Weight550-1.700 lbs. 330-650 lbs.
Paw swipe force 39,375 lb.-ft./s.17,150 lb.-ft./s.

Note: The swipe forces above are calculated based on the average male/female weight and considering the top speed of 35 miles per hour. The actual swipe force a polar bear can reach depends on the individual weight and speed at the moment of the impact.

How Strong Are Polar Bears’ Jaws?

Polar bears have the most powerful bite force of all bears, their jaw strength reaching 1,235 PSI. However, their skulls are structurally weaker than the skulls of grizzly and brown bears, giving the latter an advantage in a head-to-head fight.

Compared to other bear species, polar bears have low, flat skulls that are thinner than the skulls of grizzly or brown bears. This morphology is the result of evolution and adaptation to the marine and arctic environment, allowing polar bears to increase hunting efficiency by thrusting their heads into seal breathing holes in the ice. 

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However, this shape increases the stress on the jaw bones when biting. For this reason, polar bears feed almost exclusively on young prey that is comparatively smaller than their own size and weight.

How Fast Are Polar Bears?

Due to their massive size, polar bears are often thought to be slow. However, the contrary is true. Polar bears are faster than both grizzly and brown bears, reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Comparatively, brown bears reach top speeds up to 30 miles per hour while grizzly bears are slightly slower, at 28 miles per hour. 

However, polar bears aren’t fast on land only. Classified as marine mammals, polar bears lead a semi-aquatic lifestyle and are excellent swimmers, reaching speeds up to 6 miles per hour in the water. This might seem slow, but it is about the same swimming speed as a walrus. 

Because of their adaptation to the environment – large, slightly webbed paws and double-layered fur – polar bears can spend a lot of time in the water and swim continuously for over 60 miles

How Strong Are Polar Bears Compared To Humans?

Polar bears are about eight to ten times stronger than humans. Their bite force is about eight times stronger than the bite force of the average man. They also have a more powerful swipe force, which is about ten times stronger than the swipe force of a human. 

Humans have the advantage of throwing punches, though. The average untrained man has a punch force of about 360 pounds. That’s about five times weaker than the swipe force of a polar bear. 

Size-wise, polar bears are about two times taller (when standing in a bipedal position) and up to 12 times heavier than the average man. 

The massive size, strong jaws, and powerful swipe force give polar bears all the advantages they need to fight off humans. Not only are they strong enough to fight you off, but polar bears are also one of the few mammals to actively hunt humans when they are starved

Are Polar Bears The Strongest Bears?

Yes, polar bears are the strongest bears. They are not only the largest and fastest of all bears, but they also have the strongest bite force. 

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However, this doesn’t mean they would win in a fight against bears from other species. In fact, in a one-on-one against grizzly bears, the latter would probably win the fight. 

Are Polar Bears Stronger Than Grizzly Bears?

Technically, polar bears are stronger than grizzly bears. They are larger, heavier, have a more powerful swipe force and stronger bite force.

However, polar bears have one big disadvantage: their skull morphology. Due to their flattened heads, the stress on a polar bear’s jaw bones is very high when biting at full force. Grizzly bears don’t have this problem, meaning that they can use the maximum bite force in a fight. 

The table below compares the strength of a polar bear vs. a grizzly bear: 

CharacteristicPolar bearGrizzly bear
Bite force1,235 PSI975 PSI
Front paw size12 x 12 inches5 x 7 inches
Swipe force 59,500 lb.-ft./s47,600 lb.-ft./s
Length8-10 feet7-9 feet
Speed 25-35 mph 25-28 mph

As seen in the table above, polar bears are stronger than grizzly bears. However, the two species rarely get into fights. 

While polar bears and grizzly bears have different habitats, interactions between the species can occur, especially in Alaska. Despite being stronger, these interactions revealed that polar bears display a submissive behavior when faced with a grizzly bear. 

Not only grizzly and polar bears do not display aggressive behavior towards one another, but they are also likely to interbreed

Why Are Polar Bears So Strong?

A polar bear’s strength is the result of evolution and adaptation to the environment. The largest land carnivores, polar bears, live in a harsh habitat. Their strength enables them to hunt and kill marine mammals, such as seals, sea lions, and walruses. 

The incredible strength is also the result of their size. Polar bears are massive mammals and often weigh over 1,000 pounds. Their weight and agility mean they also have powerful strikes. Combined with their large paws, long claws, and incredible jaw strength, polar bears stand among the strongest predators in the world.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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