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Running away from any species of bear is the wrong move as they can run faster than us. Do not try to outrun a bear in any circumstances.

If you run from a bear, its predator instincts will kick in, and it may chase you. Bears are very fast for their size and have great endurance. The brown grizzly bear can run at speeds up to 56 kph, black bears up to 48 kph, and polar bears can run at 38 kph.

Outrunning a bear is never a good idea. Here I will show why you should never attempt to outrun a bear.

How fast are bears infographic

How Fast Can A Bear Run?

Grizzly Bear56 kph
Black Bear48 kph
Polar Bear38 kph

What Is The Fastest Bear In North America?

The brown bear is the fastest of the three bear species in North America. Also known as the grizzly bear, brown bears have been clocked at speeds of 56 kph (35 mph), making them much faster than the other two species and us. 

The American black bear is the second fastest of the three species. The black bear can run at speeds between 40 and 48 kph (25 to 30 mph) when they feel threatened.

Polar bears are large animals but are extremely quick for their size. They have been seen to run up to 38kph (24 mph).  

Brown bears eat more than just meat.  If you want to know more, this article I wrote has you covered.

Why Do Bears Run Fast?

Bears are predators and will often chase their prey for food. If you run from a bear, their instincts will cause them to chase you. While black bears rarely chase down other animals for food, grizzly bears and polar bears will. However, black bears may chase you and it is never a good idea to try to outrun them. Bears do not have many predators but will use their speed to escape.

Bears have huge, muscular legs that help them run at high speeds. Because they have longer back legs than front legs, this allows them to achieve faster speeds than many other animals.

If you have ever wondered why bears are mammals, I have written this article

How Far Can A Bear Run?

For 50 or 100 yards, a brown bear can go faster than any horse and has the stamina to keep going. In spring, ponies that have wintered outside very commonly become the prey of the grizzly, who can now catch them on the open plains. “

In an article from the National Parks Service from 1937, there is a story of a female brown bear who had just woken up from hibernation with her cubs. Losing sight of her cubs due to a car going past, the mother chased the car at a speed of 45 km/h (27 mp/h) for two miles.  Even if you could run faster than a bear, you would not have the endurance to match.

  1. Grizzly Bear: Grizzly bears (also known as brown bears) are powerful and can run short distances at speeds of up to 30 to 35 miles per hour (48 to 56 kilometers per hour) for brief periods, usually when they’re motivated by a threat, protecting their cubs, or pursuing prey. However, they can’t maintain these speeds for very long due to their large size and physiology.
  2. Polar Bear: Polar bears are strong swimmers and good runners on land. They can run at speeds of around 20 to 25 miles per hour (32 to 40 kilometers per hour) for short distances. They use their running and swimming skills to hunt seals and cover the vast Arctic landscape.
  3. Black Bear: Black bears are more agile and faster runners compared to their larger relatives. They can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour) over short distances, especially when they feel threatened or are chasing prey.

How do you tell the difference between a male and a female bear? Find out here in an article I have written

Grizzly bear running through water

Can Bears Run Downhill?

There is a long-standing belief that bears can’t run downhill, as their shorter forelegs will cause them to fall. This is a myth and is false. In this article from the National Parks Service, J.M. Mackenzie described Clubfoot, a famous grizzly bear, as “able to keep pace with a horse going downhill, but not uphill.” This shows that bears get quicker as they go downhill, but doesn’t mean we can run faster than them going uphill.

Do you know how long bears live? Find out here

How Fast Can A Human Run?

The speed at which an average human can run depends on the distance. Humans can run short distances over 100 meters at speeds of up to 25 kph (16 mph). Over longer distances, the average rate decreases significantly.

  1. 100 meters (short sprint): Elite sprinters can cover this distance in around 9.58 to 10.36 seconds, with the world record set at 9.58 seconds by Usain Bolt.
  2. 200 meters (sprint): Elite sprinters can complete this distance in about 19.19 to 20.57 seconds, with the world record set at 19.19 seconds by Usain Bolt.
  3. 400 meters (quarter-mile): Athletes often run this distance in approximately 43.03 to 43.18 seconds, with the world record set at 43.03 seconds by Wayde van Niekerk.
  4. 800 meters (half-mile): Elite middle-distance runners can finish this distance in around 1 minute and 40 seconds to 1 minute and 43 seconds.
  5. 1,500 meters (metric mile): The best middle-distance runners complete this distance in roughly 3 minutes and 26 seconds to 3 minutes and 28 seconds.

It’s important to note that these times are based on elite athletes and world records. Most people would have much slower times. Terrain and weather conditions would also favor bears over humans.

Can Usain Bolt Outrun A Bear?

Usain Bolt is a multi-time World record holder runner. He has broken the world record over 100 and 200 meters. His speed was clocked at 44.72 kph (27.8 mph) on 16 August 2009.

A grizzly bear can run as fast as 56 kph. It is very likely that over 100 or 200 meters, a brown bear would beat the fastest man in the world in a race.  If Usain Bolt can’t outrun a grizzly bear, then the rest of us wouldn’t have a chance.

Do bears have tails? Find out here

People Have Outrun Bears

I found this news article in the Washington Post. Morinda Marube is a professional runner who knew that outrunning a bear wasn’t the right thing to do. However, when faced with a black bear while on a run, he tried to escape it by running.

During an 18-mile run, two black bears appeared. Knowing the bears could climb trees, he decided to run or swim to escape. However, he couldn’t swim.

He had passed a house just 20 yards before, so he thought he would make it back to the house easily.

As soon as he started running, the bears ran after him. The runner, Morinda Marube, told reporters that the bears were within 10 yards of him when he reached the house. The house was unoccupied, so he unhooked the screen door and stepped inside the elevated porch.  

Although the bears could see him, the bears did not enter the porch. The runner said that the two black bears would have caught him if the house had been more than 20 yards away.

Bears can often be seen playing with each other, but do you know why?

References And Further Reading

Wild Animals I Have Known by Ernest Thompson Seton. You can buy this on Amazon here.

Washington Post – The rule is to not run away from a bear. This professional runner did just that.

Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance by Stephen Herrero

This book provides valuable insights into bear behavior, including factors that can lead to bear attacks. It also offers advice on how to avoid bear encounters and what to do if you encounter a bear.

The Essential Grizzly: The Mingled Fates of Men and Bears by Doug Peacock

Doug Peacock, a renowned naturalist, shares his experiences and knowledge about grizzly bears. While it doesn’t specifically focus on bear speed, it provides a deeper understanding of grizzly behavior.

The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears by Nick Jans

This book tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, who spent extensive time with Alaskan brown bears. It explores the complexities of bear behavior and the risks associated with close encounters.

Mark of the Grizzly: True Stories of Recent Bear Attacks and the Hard Lessons Learned by Scott McMillion

This book offers real-life accounts of bear encounters and attacks. It emphasizes the importance of understanding bear behavior and taking precautions in bear country.