Dogs and bears share many of the same physical traits, including:

  • Sharp teeth.
  • Thick and fuzzy coats.
  • Pointy snouts.
  • Non-retractable claws.

Although dogs are not directly related to bears, both furry beasts have ancient common ancestors, dating back 55 million years. Today’s guide explores this relationship.

Are Bears Related to Dogs?

The first thing to clarify is that dogs and bears evolved from different biological families. For this reason, bears and dogs are not directly related.

Dogs are members of the Canidae family. This family includes the following species:

  • Coyotes
  • Dingoes
  • Foxes
  • Wolves
  • Jackals

Bears, on other hand, belong to the Ursidae family. This family is comprised of eight different species of bear. The bear family is one of five separate families of dog-like mammals that descended from the vulperines (prehistoric wolf-like creatures).

So, although bears and dogs look superficially similar in some ways, there is no direct relationship between these animals. The two cannot breed to create a hybrid animal since they do not have the same number of chromosomes.

That said, there is an evolutionary relationship between dogs and bears. This started before either dogs or bears existed.

Throughout history, the carnivora order has been used to broadly classify similar animals throughout the history of evolution. This order of animals had diets consisting primarily of meat. The modern term carnivore also means meat-eater. Dogs today still thrive on diets rich in protein, so some things never change.

Within the carnivora order, there is another and more involved distinction. Not all animals in the carnivora ate mainly meat-based diets. Some creatures within that order would seek out any food that provided sustenance, supplementing the meat they consumed with berries and fruits. These animals were called facultative carnivores.

Among facultative carnivores, there are only two different animals:

  1. Dogs
  2. Bears

Facultative carnivores went through many significant changes related to their lifestyles and diets due to the way these animals did more than just kill other animals for food. These evolutionary effects are still evident today. The facultative carnivores adapted readily to their environment, developing a much sharper sense of smell to help them with hunting and scavenging.

Additionally, these animals also retained some traits related to meat, including an ability to run very quickly, and razor sharp teeth designed to streamline ripping through flesh.

Over time, the bigger carnivora order was divided into two suborders:

  1. Feliformia: These animals evolved a more cat-like appearance. Eventually, this suborder group evolved into the cats we know today. Cats, lions, and tigers all once belonged to this suborder group.
  2. Caniformia: These creatures ultimately evolved into dog-line animals.

Where, then, do bears enter the equation?

Originally, bears were categorized with the caniformia suborder group. It is for this reason that bears and dogs have so many traits in common, and why so many people imagine that bears and dogs must be directly related. Animals in this suborder group developed the following characteristics:

  • Long snouts
  • Non-retracting claws

Other animals that were part of this suborder group include:



Red pandas


There is another link between bears and dogs that predates what is outlined above in the evolutionary chain. Before the carnivora order, the Miacidae reigned. This was over 42 million years ago. These tiny animals had extra-long tails and they lived in trees, rather like the monkeys we know today. These animals survived by eating meat and are viewed as the precursor to the carnivora order.

Can You Mate a Dog and a Bear?

It is not possible to breed dogs and bears. These animals are from different families, and they also have a different number of chromosomes. Dogs have 39 chromosomes, whereas bears have 74 chromosomes.

Now you are clear about the ancestry of bears and dogs, which dog breeds look most like bears?

Which Dog Breeds Look Most Like Bears?

    1. Pomeranian
    2. Tibetan Mastiff
    3. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
    4. Great Pyrenees
    5. Akita
    6. Leonberger
    7. Bush Dog
    8. Newfoundland
    9. Samoyed
    10. Chow Chow

1) Pomeranian


The Pomeranian looks like a miniature bear. With abundantly fluffy coats, you could easily mistake one of these dogs for a teddy bear.

Despite their diminutive size, most Pomeranians have big hearts full of courage, and they act as though they are as big and ferocious as a bear.

2) Tibetan Mastiff


Tibetan mastiffs are hulking dogs that often weigh around 200 pounds. One of the most defining features of this breed is the thick and bulky mane surrounding their face and neck. This, combined with their impressive stature, gives them a distinctly bear-like appearance.

While this breed has a physical resemblance to bears, they have much milder dispositions and can make for good family pets, assuming they are properly trained and socialized, and that you can assume an alpha role.

3) Caucasian Shepherd Dog


CSDs (Caucasian shepherd dogs) are much like bears in many ways, especially when it comes to their size. This breed can weigh up to 200 pounds, just like the mastiffs above.

In addition to their commanding physical presence, Caucasian shepherd dogs are also fearless in nature. First-time dog owners should think twice before bringing one of these pups home. You’ll need to be confident when it comes to training these dogs.

4) Great Pyrenees


Great Pyrenees are much friendlier than bears, even though they share a superficial similarity.

Having said that, this breed was developed to help shepherds protect their flocks against predators like badgers, wolves, and bears.

These dogs can make fantastic family pets if you’re looking for a dog with a difference that looks very much like a cuddly, friendly bear.

5) Akita


Japanese akitas can be pretty big dogs, sometimes weighing 130 pounds or more.

This breed comes with sleek and lithe bodies matched with cute bear-like faces. This breed is known for its loyalty, but akitas can also be aggressive if they are not properly socialized, another commonality they share with bears.

6) Leonberger


Leonbergers are extra-large dogs weighing up to 170 pounds. As well as their size, this breed also has many bear-like markings.

These dogs were developed to pull carts, indicating their impressive strength. This breed also works well if you’re looking for a watchdog. Their gentle and loving natures mean they are not the best choice of guard dogs, despite their giant stature.

7) Bush Dog


Bush dogs hail from South America. These wild dogs are nearly extinct. One reason for their scarcity is that people often mistake them for bears and kill them.

These strange dogs are much smaller than bears, but they have an almost uncanny facial resemblance.

Despite their appearance, these dogs are not aggressive or hostile. Instead, they typically run off at the first hint of trouble.

8) Newfoundland


Newfoundland puppies look incredibly bear-like thanks to their thick and fluffy coats. When these dogs are young, they tend to have a rounded shape like most bears.

This breed is renowned for its strength, so be prepared for them to pull on the leash when you’re out for walkies.

9) Samoyed


Samoyeds are like tiny polar bears, and they thrive in colder climates just like bears, too.

These dogs have fur that’s remarkably soft and luxuriant. Note that you will need to invest plenty of time and effort into grooming if you bring one of these bear-like furballs home.

10) Chow Chow


Chow chows have striking coats that give them a distinctly bear-like look.

This breed is one of the most effective you can find for watch dog duties. Their independent and standoffish nature means this breed might be challenging for first-time owners to deal with. Consider one of the breeds above that are easier to train and maintain than chow chows.


We very much hope today’s guide to the relationship between bears and dogs has cleared up any confusion you might have had concerning this issue.

Before we close, it is worth pointing out that you should never buy a dog purely because of the way it looks. Always look at the bigger picture and assess all aspects, including training, grooming, diet, and exercise requirements. Many first-time or inexperienced pet parents may find that a bear-like dog offers too much of a challenge. Consult the above guide to establish whether the breeds you are considering are suitable for you.

Take a moment to explore our blog for more informative guides on all areas of dog ownership. We’ll also help you choose the best dog equipment the easy way. Bookmark GO Boxer Rescue before you head off and be sure to pop back soon!

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