We’ve created quite a few serious-sounding hypothetical military match-ups in the past, so today we thought we’d tread lightly and create a kind of amusing celebrity death-match, only with animals. Don’t worry, no animals were hurt during the making of this video. The two animals seem fairly evenly matched, but at the same time they have very different skill-sets. In fact, the question of who would be the winner of this potentially gruesome rumble in the jungle – or forest – has been the subject of widespread disagreement all over the web and beyond. We hope that by pitting together these two wonderful beasts we might reveal a few interesting facts, or even provoke further examination. We might also remind our viewers that some of the species in this show might soon be wiped-out of existence. Without further ado, welcome to this episode of the Infographics Show, the gorilla vs. the bear.
First of all, you might be wondering what type of bear we are talking about: the polar bear, the grizzly bear, the black bear, or the very much vertically and horizontally challenged koala bear? There are 8 species of bear, none of which are likely to get into a tangle with a gorilla due to a lot of reasons but mostly because the two species don’t hang-out in each other’s yards, so to speak. Today we’ll choose the bear we think would make the most interesting gorilla-bear battle.
The 8 species of bear are: the Asiatic bear, the black bear, the brown bear, the panda bear, the polar bear, the sloth bear, the spectacled bear, and the sun bear. There are also many more subspecies of these bears. None of these furry mammals are ever naturally involved in turf infractions with our largest great apes, although a few badly made videos attempt to show such a thing.
There are two gorilla species and four sub-species. The two species are the Eastern gorilla and the Western gorilla. The Eastern species includes the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla. The western species includes the Cross River gorilla and the western lowland gorilla. All these great apes are residents of Central Africa, and while similar, they do have noticeable differences regarding size, facial features, body hair and skin tone.
So, who should we choose? Why not the biggest of the bunch, which is the Eastern gorilla. The biggest bear is the polar bear, but because this match-up seems too ridiculous to believe, we are going to say the grizzly bear. The grizzly sometimes grows as big as a polar bear, and aesthetically, geographically, the fight makes more sense.
The Eastern gorilla is the biggest of all primates. The adult males, known as silverbacks, are in the gorilla world pretty big dudes, weighing around 440 pounds and standing about five feet five inches. As for grizzly bears that have been endowed with a fairly large stature, they can weigh around 790 pounds, and when standing can be as tall as 10 feet. We must note that there are many kinds of grizzly bears, all of which are kinds of brown bears, so it’s possible to find one that makes the weight for a 440 pound weight limit in the animal fight of the century. A 400 pound grizzly would be a small one, but it would still have the advantage of coming to the fight legally equipped with a bunch of very sharp knives.
Gorillas usually live a lot longer – if they can escape being hunted by pesky people of course – at around 35-40 years old. Grizzly’s generally live to about 25 years old. For the purpose of the hypothetical punch-up we’ll pick two strapping adults in their prime.
Ding ding, round one.
The consensus is that the gorilla is one of the strongest animals on the planet, able to lift something close to 10 times its own body weight. That’s around 4,400 pounds, enough to easily get a grizzly out of its stance. Again, it all depends on the size of the bear. An inland 440 pound grizzly might get thrown around with ease, but not so much a 1,300 pound giant coastal grizzly that would look like a refrigerator to a medium-sized poodle.
Grizzly bears are not as strong as gorillas, but when their strength was tested in a study at Montana University it was found that they were very able to flip around a 700-pound dumpster. That’s enough strength to throw its gorilla opponent from tree to tree.
The important thing to note is that an equal-weight gorilla would be relying on its superior strength, which has been documented in videos showing the primates pulling down trees and dragging humans as if they were nothing but twigs. The bear on the other hand would be relying on its armory, in others words its killer claws and meat-shredding teeth. A grizzly has 42 teeth, some of which were designed to rip through flesh. The gorilla on the other hand has 32 teeth, with very large scary looking fangs. That’s part of the reason they have fangs apparently, just to scare things. Unlike the bear, the gorilla uses its teeth to eat plants. This has a benefit though in terms of our fight, and that is that some of those plants are pretty damn tough. Imagine biting through a bamboo shoot sandwich. Lists have appeared featuring the strongest animal bites, which is measured by Pound per Square Inch, or psi. On one list, the grizzly bear came in 7th with a psi of 1,250, but the gorilla took 5th spot with a psi of 1,300. While the peaceful gorilla is said to be not too keen on fighting, if the bear got close to its family you can bet those thirteen hundred psi giant fangs would soon come into play.
Still, the bear also comes strapped with long claws that can grow up to 5 inches. For a gorilla this would look something like A Nightmare on Nature Street. It’s been said that a grizzly bear can decapitate a moose with one swipe. While there is little evidence to back this up, most believers in the one-swipe-wonder bear cite a study by American biologist Dr. Jacob MacDonaldson. The good doctor wrote that he had marveled such a bloody feat.
A gorilla is pretty fast, able to run up to speeds of 25 mph, but a bear can get up to speeds of around 35 mph. Neither of our contestants are running away, so it doesn’t really matter. The question is, who is the most agile? Science doesn’t have the answers, but if you believe martial arts enthusiast and podcast philosopher Joe Rogan, the two are evenly matched with the gorilla possibly having superior speed and agility. The outcome would likely depend solely on if the bear could get a potentially life-ending strike in before the gorilla could get in close and pull the bear’s jaw apart with its nimble fingers and very strong hands. Imagine attacking Joe Rogan with a knife in each hand, you could still end up the loser. A lot of emphasis has been put on the bear being a carnivore, and the gorilla being a herbivore, but this shouldn’t really matter as the gorilla is obviously capable of protecting itself and its family. In terms of diet affecting strength and bloodlust, some people say that Genghis Khan was a vegetarian.
Unfortunately, this hypothetical fight has not been debated by many actual scientists, and probably never will if they want to keep their day jobs. The closest to expert commentary out there seems a little biased, as it comes from a Yellowstone National Park bear biologist. His assertion was, make no mistake, the bear would win. Astrophysicist and general expert in many things scientific, Neil deGrasse Tyson, was once asked who would win in this fight. His answer, to paraphrase him, was the bigger foe in nature generally comes out the winner. He did add, “exceptions could change the balance of power” but his money was on the four-legged mammalian with the history of mortal combat.
One thing we know is that we want to keep all the gorillas we have, seeing that all species and sub-species are now critically endangered. The beautiful animals share 98.3% of their DNA with humans, and are the closest to us after chimpanzees and bonobos. Humans are the greatest threat to gorillas, destroying their habitat and turning them into meat. The gorilla in question today, the Eastern lowland gorilla, has a precarious existence. It’s thought there are only about 4,000 of them left, while there are only around 880 Eastern mountain gorillas living in the wild.
On that note, we come to the end of today’s show. We hope you’ve had fun comparing these two animal heavyweights. Which animals should we compare next? Let us know in the comments!