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Are Bears Related to Dogs? A Complete Answer

There’s no doubt that dogs are the most popular domesticated animals. Regardless of the geographical location, if there are humans living there, you can be sure that these species will also be present, which is why they are referred to as ‘man’s best friend.’

On the other hand, bears are among the most intelligent mammals due to their unique determination; especially when overcoming obstacles that may hinder them from accessing their target item (usually food).

Due to certain similarities shared by bears and specific dog breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, most people wonder if bears are related to dogs.

Therefore, this article aims to take you on a trip down memory lane using scientifically proven facts and information; to determine whether bears and dogs are related.

Are Bears Related To Dogs? Quick Answer

Although these two species share the same ancestor and belong to the sub-order known as ‘Caniformia,’ bears and dogs are not genetically related.

How Are Animals Related? The Search for a Common Ancestor

This is the part where I’ll take you on a historic trip to inform you how all species share the same ancestor. I will also highlight why despite sharing the same origin, most animals are different but at the same time have some similar features and habits/characteristics.

Universal Common Ancestor

Studies from evolution researchers and scientists like Patricia Hawks reveal that all living things can trace their existence from the evolution of a single-cell organism that existed 3.5 billion years ago.

Charles Darwin was the first to come up with these findings from his evolution theory, which suggested that all living organisms share a ‘Universal Common Ancestor’.

Scientists conducted extensive research and studies to determine whether this theory was factual. 150 years after the Darwin theory, evolution experts found out that it’s actually true since they discovered that all living organisms have 23 similar universal proteins.

Bear head

These universal proteins are essential in the survival of all species since they perform vital functions like DNA replication and other cellular processes. However, the single cell mutated, and the different conditions exposed resulted in the formation of different species.

The process that led to the evolution of different species and organisms is called ‘Natural Selection‘. Scientists formulated an efficient method called the’ Phylogenetic Tree‘ to categorize all living organisms according to the similarities shared (like their most recent ancestors).

Do Bears And Dogs Have A Common Ancestor?

According to the Phylogenetic tree, bears and dogs have a common ancestor.

The taxonomy classification related to this method states that both animals belong to the order Carnivora (which means animals that feed on flesh/meat).

The suborder Caniformia

It’s essential to note that this order (Carnivora) is divided into two suborders: feliformia (also referred to as the cat-like family) and Caniformia (dog-like family).

Dogs and bears belong to the suborder Caniformia. The distinctive feature of the animals in this suborder is that they are typically omnivorous and they have non-retractable claws.

The suborder Caniformia is subdivided into nine families, but three are currently extinct. They include; Canidae, Mephitidae, Mustelidae, Odobenidae, Otariidae, Phocidae, Procyonidae, Ursidae. Dogs belong to the Canidae family, while bears are in the Ursidae family.

What is Bears and Dogs’ Most Recent Shared Ancestor?

Miacids are the most recent ancestor shared by bears and dogs. Although they are extinct, these animals existed approximately 62 million years ago, where they did fairly well, living for at least 28 million years.

Evolution experts believe these extinct mammals served as the foundation for the order Carnivora, from which the suborders Caniformia and Feliformia evolved.

They resembled weasels and martens and used to live in trees, while others preferred staying on the ground.

Vulpavus ovatus
Fossil of Vulpavus ovatus, belonging to the family Miacidae.

Is It Possible To Create A Bear/Dog Hybrid? (Can They Mate?)

No, it’s not possible to cross-breed a dog and a bear. Therefore, these two cannot mate and produce a hybrid. Although they belong to the same sub-group, the Caniformia, they are in two distinct families. Bears are in the Ursidae, while dogs are in the Canidae family.

This difference means they are incompatible since a bear has 74 chromosomes while a dog has 39. For two different species to mate and produce a hybrid, they must be in the same family in regards to their taxonomy classification and have the same chromosome numbers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Bears in The Canine Family?

No! Bears do not belong to the canine family, scientifically known as the ‘Canidae family.’ They are the only animals in the Ursidae family, while dogs are in the canine/Canidae family.

Are Bears Related To Wolves?

No! Bears are not closely related to wolves despite being in the same suborder (the suborder Caniformia). However, wolves and dogs are closely related since they belong to the same Canidae family.

Are Bears Related To Cats?

Although both animals belong to the same order, Carnivora, they are not closely related. All cats (lions, cheetahs, leopards, even the domestic cat) are in the suborder feliformia, while bears are in Caniformia.

Are Bears More Closely Related To Cats or Dogs?

Bears are more closely related to dogs than cats since they belong to the same taxonomy suborder, Caniformia, while cats are in the feliformia suborder. However, they all belong to the same Carnivora order: animals that feed on flesh/meat.

Why Do Bears Look Like Dogs?

Bears and dogs are similar because they shared the same ancestor and took a similar evolutionary path before they split into two distinct families around 25 million years ago.

Some of their similar body features include; non-retractable claws, a long snout, an equal number of teeth, and a sharp sense of smell.

Despite being scientifically referred to as carnivorous (since they are in the Carnivora order), they both portray omnivorous feeding habits, which means they occasionally supplement their diet with plant foods.

Final Thoughts

Bears and dogs may have some similarities in terms of their body features and behaviors; since they share the same ancestor and belong to the same order and sub-order. However, they cannot produce a hybrid since they are not in the same family.

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