Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere. Bears are found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, plantigrade paws with five nonretractile claws, and a short tail. While the polar bear is mostly carnivorous and the giant panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo, the remaining six species are omnivorous, with varied diets.
With the exceptions of courting individuals and mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals. They are generally diurnal, but may be active during the night (nocturnal) or twilight (crepuscular), particularly around humans. Bears are aided by an excellent sense of smell, and despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they can run quickly and are adept climbers and swimmers. In autumn, some bear species forage large amounts of fermented fruits, which affects their behaviour. Bears use shelters, such as caves and burrows, as their dens: most species occupy their dens during the winter for a long period of sleep similar to hibernation.
Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. To this day, they play a prominent role in the arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies. In modern times, the bear's existence has been pressured through the encroachment on its habitats and the illegal trade of bears and bear parts, including the Asian bile bear market. The IUCN lists six bear species as vulnerable or endangered, and even least concern species such as the brown bear are at risk of extirpation in certain countries. The poaching and international trade of these most threatened populations are prohibited, but still ongoing.
Famous quotes containing the word bear:
“I hid my love when young till I
Couldnt bear the buzzing of a fly;
I hid my life to my despite
Till I could not bear to look at light:
I dare not gaze upon her face
But left her memory in each place;
Whereer I saw a wild flower lie
I kissed and bade my love good-bye.”
—John Clare (17931864)
“Out then spak her father dear,
And he spak meek and mild,
And ever alas, sweet Janet, he says,
I think thou gaes wi child.
If that I gae wi child, father,
Mysel maun bear the blame;
Theres neer a laird about your ha,
Shall get the bairns name.”
—Unknown. Tam Lin (l. 5360)
“You are come in very happy time
To bear my greeting to the senators
And tell them that I will not come today.”
—William Shakespeare (15641616)