If you’ve ever seen a large dog breed, you may have thought to yourself that they look very similar to a bear. This is especially true for some fluffier breeds of dog-like Bernese Mountain dogs or St. Bernards. This similarity in appearance may make you wonder if bears are genetically related to dogs.
Bears are not related to dogs. Bears and dogs are terrestrial mammals, but they do not share a closely related common ancestor. As members of two different species, they have different numbers of chromosomes.
So how different from each other are bears and dogs?
In this article, we’re going to take a look at both bears and dogs, their ancestors, and their genetics to explain how they are in no way related to each other.
Keep reading to get all the answers you came looking for!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
How Different Are Bears from Dogs?
Bears and dogs may have similarities in their appearances, but that does not necessarily mean that they’re related to each other.
Bears may have a sort of canine look to their facial structures, and they also walk on all fours as dogs do.
Bears and dogs have the same type of snout structure, too, both ending in a point. They both also have fluffy coats, sharp teeth, and claws. However, this is where the similarities stop.
Because they’re not genetically related, bears and dogs have evolved from two different biological families and belong to two entirely unrelated species of animal.
Dogs and other canines belong to the Canidae family, while bears belong to the Ursidae family.
Canidae are characterized by carnivoran eating habits and have the biological urge to hunt in packs and live in social groups.
The Ursidae family is a lineage of large, powerful plantigrade carnivores. This includes species like the panda, polar bears, and other species of bear.
Dogs and bears are so different from each other, in fact, that they cannot even interbreed.
For two different animal species to be able to breed successfully, they must share some similar ancestor that makes them related.
For this reason, many different species of dog can interbreed with one another and produce offspring, but bears and dogs would not be able to do the same.
Do Bears and Dogs Have a Common Ancestor?
Despite the plethora of differences between these two animal species, they share one common ancestor far back in their ancestral evolutionary line.
As part of the Carnivora order of animals, they have to have at least one common ancestor that has passed on the traits of the Carnivora.
Carnivora is a massive classification of animals, so the fact that dogs and bears both belong to this order does not mean that they are related.
This would be like saying humans and rats are related because they’re both classified as omnivores.
RELATED ARTICLE: Can Bears Be Domesticated?
Are Bears Related to Dogs or Cats?
Another species of animal that belongs to the Carnivora order of animals is the cat.
Some may think that if the bear is not closely related to the dog, may they be related in some way to the cat. However, this is not truer, and researchers have proven that bears share more similarities with dogs than cats.
One such similarity is their diet.
As members of the Carnivora order, their diets are focused mainly on meat, but they can also ingest other types of food when needed.
Both dogs and bears need a lot of protein, making them similar in terms of diet. You can see bears climb trees if they’re foraging for food like honey.
Dogs and bears also look more similar in appearance to bears and cats, and their size is much closer, their fur is more similar, and their heads are very close in shape. It may be easy to mistake a particularly large dog for a bear with a pointed snout and a shaggy fur coat. But this would never happen with a cat.
What Are Bears Related To?
Bears have descended from a varied lineage, and as such, there are bound to be some closely related animals.
Much more closely related than dogs, for example.
One of the most closely related animals to bears is the seal.
In fact, seals are one of the most closely related living animals to the bear. Their specific genetic group of Carnivora includes animals like the seal, raccoon, otter, and other animals similar to these.
However, pinnipeds are still the most closely related family of animals to bears. The pinniped family consists of animals like the seal, sea lion, and walrus. They may not appear to have many similarities with each other, but the fact is they share a recent common ancestor.
When comparing pinnipeds and Ursidae side by side, you may start to pick out the similarities.
For one, their bone structure is similar in their upper bodies, despite pinnipeds being adapted for life in the water, and bears are not. They also have extremely similar diets (as in they both love seafood,) and their jaw structures closely resemble each other.
Despite sharing a close physical appearance, bears and dogs are not related.
They may be part of the same order of animals, Carnivora, but that does not mean they are closely related. In fact, bears are much more closely related to animals like the seal, raccoon, otter, or beaver.
Pinnipeds are one of the most closely related animal families to bears, and include animals like the seal, sea lion, and walrus.
Bears and pinnipeds have descended from a close relative, making them much more related than bears to dogs.
We hope the information we’ve outlined in this article has answered all your questions about whether bears are related to dogs or not.
For more interesting animal facts and information, remember to check out our other mammal articles!