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When I recently watched some Youtube videos on bears, I noticed something that I hadn’t on a polar bear’s back. It was something that I hadn’t seen before, and I was unsure how I had missed it for so long. It was a small tail.

All species of bear have a shot, vestigial tail. Most bears do not use their seats for activities except Brown bears and Giant pandas. Brown bears and Giant pandas use their hearts to spread their odor and mark their territory.

Watching the videos got me wondering if all bears had tails and if this was something I had been looking at without even realizing it all these years.

Brown bear showing tail

Do All Bears Have Tails?

All bears have a short, vestigial tail which may not always be seen. Because the bottom is not essential for the safety or survival of bears, evolution has made it smaller and smaller. Over millions of years, it has transformed into a short, stubby tail that most bears don’t use.

Why Do Bears Have Short Tails?

Long tails are used to aid in balance or to help when running and turning quickly. Although they can run at high speeds, this is usually for short distances. Bears do not need tails to help with their balance, as they are heavy and stocky, with a low center of gravity.  

Bears have short, stumpy, vestigial tails. Evolution has changed the bottom throughout time, as the bear had no advantage in having a long tail. There has been no evidence of longer tails from fossils, but they were thought to be much longer.

Not all mammals have tails, with humans being the perfect example of this, although even our tail is visible in the embryonic stage.  

There are many reasons for animals to have long tails. Some animals use them for balance, such as kangaroos. Like many domestic dogs, others use them to counterbalance when running and turning at high speeds.  

Other animals, including most marine mammals, use their tails to propel them while swimming. Although bears can swim, this is not their primary means of movement. Cows, bison, and other animals use them to brush away biting insects and flies away from their bodies, but bears do not seem to be bothered by flies and insects.

Monkeys have prehensile tails that allow them to grab and grasp onto tree branches, and although bears can climb trees, they use their claws to help them. They do not require long tails to help them grab onto branches.

Bears do not have long tails as they do not need them for any reason that an animal with a long tail does.

How good are a bear’s senses? Find out here

Which Bear Has The Longest Tail?

The bear with the most extended tail is the Asian sloth bear. Their seats, when fully grown, are between 5.9-7 in (15-17.78 cm) long.

Sloth bears can be found in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Although the longest of all bear species, their tails are not used for any purpose.

Do Black Bears Have Tails?

On darker bears, such as jet-black bears, tails are difficult to see. However, all black bears do have a seat. The vestigial tail can be seen on black bear cubs from birth. The small rump of an adult can measure between 3-7 in (7.7-17.7cm) long.

Black bears are the smallest of the three species living in North America. They usually have black, dark brown, white, cinnamon, or blonde coats.  

Black bears have sharp claws and are very good at climbing trees. However, their short tails do not help them in any way to climb. Black bears can swim but do not use their seats to help them.

Do you want to know more about how good bears are at swimming? Click here

Brown bear showing tail

Do Brown Bears Have Tails?

Brown bears have a tail, but like all bears, this is very short compared to their body length. The bottom of an adult brown bear measures between 2.4-8.7 in (6 to 22 cm) in size.  

Brown bears are the second largest species of bear in North America and are also known as grizzly bears. They can be dark brown, yellowish-brown, or creamy white. Brown bears have a whitish-cream color to the fur’s tops on their back, giving them both a silvery color and their name.  

Brown bears are born with a tail, with the seat on cubs being more pronounced due to their small size. Once the bears become fully grown, the tail is much harder to distinguish.

Brown bears are unlike black bears as they typically do not climb trees. In rare cases, female brown bears have been seen in trees, but males are heavier and usually don’t climb.

Brown bears have blunt claws that do not help them climb trees. The tails do not allow them to rise as they do with monkeys and squirrels.

Brown bears possess anal sacs. A study in the Journal of Zoology confirmed that secretions relayed information about the sex of the bear and other information critical to the bear’s social system. It is thought that brown bears would use their tails to wipe the secretions onto surfaces, much as giant pandas do.

Brown bears have a varied diet. Find out more here

Do Polar Bears Have Tails?

Polar bears have tails; like the black bear and the brown bear, the tail is short, 2-5 inches (7–13 cm.)Polar bears are excellent swimmers. Polar bears swim up to 10 km/h (6 mph). Even though polar bears are classed as marine mammals and spend much of their lives in the water, they do not use their tails for swimming as some mammals do.

While many marine mammals use their tails to propel themselves along, polar bears do not use their tail in this way. Polar bears use their large paws and muscular legs to swim.

Polar bears spend a long time in the ocean hunting for food and can spend several days in the water. The farthest a polar bear has been studied as swimming was an impressive 354 km (220 miles).  

Polar bears are the largest bear species in North America. Polar bears are considered marine mammals as they rely on the ocean for food. They live in Arctic regions, where they survive on a diet of seals, fish, and other small animals. Polar bears are giant, with adult males weighing up to 700 kg. Polar bears can grow up to 3 meters in length.

Where Can You See Black Bears in America? Encounters with Ursus americanus – Explore the habitats and regions where black bears can be found in America. Learn about their behavior, distribution, and conservation status, and discover the best practices for observing these majestic creatures responsibly.

Panda bear showing tail

Do Giant Pandas Have Tails?

The giant panda has the second-longest tail in the bear family after the sloth bear. The bottom of the giant panda measures between 4-6 in (10-15 cm) long. A giant panda’s tail is white. Giant pandas are born with a bottom-up to a quarter of their body size. By the time a giant panda has grown to an adult, the base is just one-tenth of the body’s size.  

Pandas do use their tails, although this is not to convey feelings, as in animals such as dogs. According to Cheng du Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, they have numerous glands in their tail, and one of these glands can excrete an acidic odor. This gland is called the circumanal gland.  

Giant pandas use the odor to mark their territory, smearing the scent onto surfaces, walls, and the ground with their tail where they usually travel. Other pandas, once they smell the odor, will avoid these areas. Pandas use their seats to wipe the odor onto different surfaces.

Female giant pandas also use the odor to show males that they are in estrus and ready to mate.

Although not native to North America, giant pandas can be seen in some zoos. Pandas are black and white bears native to south-central China. They are carnivores. However, 99% of their diet comprises bamboo shoots and leaves.

Bears can often be seen playing with each other, but do you know why?  Find out in this article I wrote.

Further Reading

Journal of zoology – Brown bears possess anal sacs, and secretions may code for sex.

Cheng du Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding