When Rabbit said, 'Honey or condensed milk with your bread?' he was so excited that he said, 'Both,' and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, 'But don't bother about the bread, please.'

A. A. MILNE (1882-1956)


All About Bears

Male and female bears are known as boars and sows, despite being about as closely related to pigs as koalas are to bears, or pandas to raccoons. The bear family’s closest relatives are actually dogs. One thing they do share with pigs is an omnivorous diet – apart from the exclusively carnivorous polar bear – most are as happy snacking on plants and fruit as they are gnawing on the leg of an elk. They can be fussy, too. Only a really hungry brown bear eats a whole salmon. Most of the time it only goes for the high-nutrition bits: the brain, skin and eggs. Polar bears have an odd liking for toothpaste. They have been known to raid Arctic tourist camps, knocking over tents and trampling equipment all in order to suck a tube dry.
Bears spend much of their day eating, laying down fat reserves to get through their seven-month sleep. Technically this isn’t hibernation, but ‘torpor’ because their body temperature, respiration and metabolic rate hardly alter. During this whole time they don’t eat, drink, urinate or defecate but recycle their urea into protein and plug their anuses with a mixture of feces, hair and bedding material called a ‘tappet’. Female bears even give birth in their sleep: the cubs are tiny and premature and weigh a tenth of those of similar sized mammals. As a result bears’ milk is much richer than other carnivores’ and they soon make up for it.

Newborn brown bears hum loudly while nursing, to help stimulate their mother’s milk production. Each cub in a single litter is quite likely to have a different father. 


When a pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle sees it; the deer hears it, and the bear smells it. 

Black Bears

If a black bear rears up on its hind legs, snarls and roars at you, relax - you're in a film. Black bears don’t roar, and rarely even growl. To get the ‘bear-like’ noise that audiences expect, film producers dub in the sounds of big cats or wolves. Wild black bears also don’t stand on their hind feet when threatened, or bare their teeth - only trained bears will do that. Black bears rarely attack humans, but when they do, there tend to be no dramatic warning signs.

Brown bears (grizzlies) do roar. There is another way to tell the difference between brown and black bears: climb a tree. If the bear climbs up after you, it's a black bear, but if it pulls down the tree and gets you that way, that's a brown bear.
There are about a million black bears in North America, and people continue to believe they are dangerous. However, only three people have been killed by black bears in the eastern USA in the past 100 years. The reason they have big claws and great strength is not for fighting, but so they can rip open logs and turn over stones to eat insect larvae, which make up much of their diet.

Bears like the smell of toothpaste.

'Pig-faced ladies' were created by getting a bear drunk, tying it to a chair, shaving its head, and dressing it up as a woman.

Dangerous Bears

The Government of Yukon, as part of its official advice on what to do when you meet a bear, says that it ‘can be dangerous to crowd a bear’s personal space’.

 Brown bears can be black and black bears can be brown. Unfortunately, it’s important to know the difference: if confronted by a brown bear, you should play dead. If you do that to a carrion-loving black bear, it will start to eat you. Not that you are in any serious danger.

In the US, you are 25 times more likely to be killed by a snake, 180 times more likely to die from a bee-sting and 90,000 times more likely to be shot, stabbed or beaten to death by a fellow human, than to die at the paws of a bear.

Polar bears aren’t white; their apparent whiteness is due to light refracted through their fur.

Bears can find their way home even when they’ve been moved hundreds of kilometres by helicopter.

Some male grizzlies herd females to the tops of mountains, preventing competition.

Paddington was originally going to be from 'deepest, darkest Africa', until the writer realised there are no bears in Africa.

Pliny thought bears were licked into shape by their mothers and stung themselves on the eyes with bees to improve their sight.

In the Bible, the prophet Elisha has 42 boys mauled to death by bears for mocking his baldness.

Peter the Great trained two bears to serve vodka to his guests and harrass those who refused a drink.

During the Cold War, the US tested its ejector seats out on bears.

Polar Bears

If someone offer’s you a slice of polar bear’s liver, don’t be tempted. A pound contains enough vitamin A to kill you. A smaller dose will lead to headaches, blurred vision, loss of hair, drowsiness, diarrhoea and enlargement of the spleen and liver.

Male polar bears have been observed following the tracks of breeding females for more than 100km.
Female polar bears only breed once every three years, so the males have to fight each other for breeding rights. 

When Byron learned his university wouldn't let him keep a dog, he got a pet bear, Bruan, and kept him there instead.

A bear called Wotjek, who enjoyed smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, was drafted into the Polish Army in WWII.

The lips of bears are not attached to their gums, which make their lips look rubbery.