Interspecies Conflict/Bear v Tiger/Lion


Hi BK, I have a query in which opinions seem to be polarized.  What is in your opinion the outcome of a face to face fight to death between the following:

1)Brown Bear v Siberian Tiger
 Brown Bear v Bengal Tiger
 Brown Bear v Lion
 Brown Bear v Jaguar

2)Kodiak Bear v Same Felines as in 1)
3)Polar Bear v Same Felines as in 1)
4)Black Bear v Same Felines as in 1)
5)Sloth Bear v Same Felines as in 1)

Please assume that all animals are healthy young  male adults of equal size at the peak of their powers.  Can I ask you to scale down the Bears to the size of the felines and scale up the same animal if it is smaller than the felines.  Sorry about the long email.  Thank you very much.  Bye.

Hello Riaz.

There are several types of brown bears (the Kodiak bear is a brown bear), so we will use the most famous (and arguably the most formidable) one, the grizzly.  The grizzly bear is probably the most aggressive & combative of the brown bears.  When "brown bear" is used for this scenario, we'll assume it to be the grizzly.

As in most bear vs big cat matchups, both participants have advantages over the other.  Bears with typically be stronger (pound-for-pound), have superior endurance, and bigger paws & claws.  The big cats have the edge in speed (in paw swipes & mobility), agility, killing experience, and are typically more powerful pound-for-pound (strength + speed = power).  When a grizzly battles, let's say, an elk, it may simply overpower it by using its strength to wrestle it and knock it to the ground.  A puma attacking this same elk will use its speed & agility to get into position to land a throat or snout bite to suffocate the cervid.  The puma isn't overpowering the elk, it is simply using a killing technique to subdue the larger animal.  Big cats are specialists at doing this.  However, jumping onto a bear and jumping onto an elk are 2 different things.  A bear can twist around to face something that jumps upon it, and an attack to a bear's throat still puts the attacker in range of those huge paws.  Because of the endurance edge bears have over big cats, the cats will need to find a way to end the fight in a relatively short amount of time.  A prolonged battle will fatigue the cat, and the advantage will shift mightily in the bear's favor.  In the old World Book Encyclopedias (if you find the article on bears), it states that a bear rarely loses a fight against another animal.  At average or maximum weights bears will usually have enough of a size advantage to be favored in most of these encounters, but here we are scaling all competitors to equal sizes, so that changes things a bit.  It's easy to think about bears being bigger than the cats in these matchups, but seeing a scale model or other representation of these 2 at equal weights will give a good visualization to go by and give the cats a better chance than they might otherwise be given.  Grizzly bears and Kodiak Bears are very similar at equal weights (grizzly might have a slight edge).  Not enough difference in the 2 to change the results in their matchups.

Brown Bear/Kodiak Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Very close fight.  Brown bears have a shoulder hump of muscle (developed to enable them to rip through carcasses & tear up roots), and this makes their paw swipes very strong.  The cat will need to use its mobility & quicker paw strikes to set up a favorable position.  Because Siberian tigers have experience dealing with bears, it will have the slightest of edges at equal weights.  These animals will be close to the same height at the shoulder, the tiger will be longer and more slender, and the tiger will have a reach advantage.  It will need to get latched on to the side of the bear and secure a neck bite before it loses energy.  It should succeed at this more times than not.

Brown Bear/Kodiak Bear vs Bengal Tiger: Siberian & Bengal tigers are close in fighting ability, and the Bengal also has some experience dealing with bears.  Slight edge to the tiger.

Brown Bear/Kodiak Bear vs Lion: Lions tend to fight more than tigers (against invading male lions and each other at kills), but they are not used to fighting bears.  Grizzlies aren't used to fighting big cats either(a puma is the largest cat it will encounter), but a Eurasian brown bear is.  This would make a small difference here.  Lion has the slightest of edges against a grizzly, but it's even money against the Eurasian brown bear.

Brown Bear/Kodiak Bear vs Jaguar: Jaguars are arguably the strongest cats pound-for-pound, but the only bears they deal with are spectacled bears.  Jaguars kill with a crushing bite to the skull or spine (back of the neck). The jaguar won't be quite as quick as the other cats here, but its power and huge bite will make it well-suited to deal with the bear.  Edge to the jaguar.

Polar Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Polar bears don't have the prominent shoulder hump of the brown bear, but it has massive strength distributed evenly throughout its more streamlined body.  Its claws are shorter as well, but are very sharp.  The polar bear uses its great strength to attack and subdue large walruses, snatch seals & begula whales out of the water, and punch holes through thick ice.  It is the most predatory of all bears.  It doesn't have quite the same strength in its shoulder area to deliver paw strikes equal to a similar-sized brown bear, but it probably exerts strength in other ways to higher degrees.  Against these cats the polar bear probably has the same chances a brown bear would.  Slight edge to the tiger.

Polar Bear vs Bengal Tiger. Bengals might be a tad more aggressive than Siberians, but the Siberians have thicker fur that might better serve as a buffer against blows.  overall, the 2 tiger species are equally formidable.  Same as with the Siberian, slight edge to the Bengal tiger.

Polar bear vs Lion: Close fight, slightest of edges to the lion for reasons stated above.

Polar Bear vs Jaguar: Edge to the jaguar for reasons stated above.

Black Bear vs Siberian Tiger: Black bears aren't as strong, robust, or aggressive as brown bears, and have smaller paws & claws (even at equal weights).  The largest cat they encounter is the puma.  They are probably still physically stronger than any of the cats pound-for-pound, but they won't bring as much (overall) to the table as a brown bear would.  It would probably need a 20% weight advantage to compete with these cats.  Black bears are no joke (they have dispatched hunting dogs with one swipe), but they don't quite measure up to a tiger.  Siberian tiger wins.

Black Bear vs Bengal Tiger: Bengal tiger wins for reasons stated above.

Black Bear vs Lion: Lion wins for reasons stated above.

Black Bear vs Jaguar: Jaguar wins for reasons stated above.

Sloth Bear vs Siberian Tiger/Bengal Tiger: The sloth bear has a stocky body and short, powerful limbs.  It occasionally deals with tigers & leopards.  It is very aggressive (will sometimes intimidate tigers), and has dangerous claws.  It isn't quite as strong as the black bear, but it is more combative and used to confronting large cats.  However, it is not on par with the brown or polar bear at equal weights, and will lose to the tigers.

Sloth Bear vs Lion: Lion wins for reasons stated above.

Sloth Bear vs Jaguar: Ferocious battle, but the jaguar will win for the reasons stated above.

Best regards.

Interspecies Conflict

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




Questions regarding animal conflicts within realistic or unrealistic settings are welcome; my strength lies in medium-to-large species. Small animals (including birds of prey), prehistoric animals, sea creatures, and domestic dog breeds are usually within my scope, but to a lesser degree. I can't confidently answer hypothetical questions about human vs animal, arachnids, insects, or amphibians, but I am willing to field them nonetheless.


From a young age, I have been interested in animals. Starting with the original Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and World Book Encyclopedias, I have seen many animal shows and documentaries and have read multiple books on the subject. I have a solid understanding of the physiology of many animals and interspecies conflict in general.

Associate degree in unrelated field; biology classes in college.

©2017 All rights reserved.