Definitions

Bear

Bear

[bair]
Bryant, Bear (Paul Bryant), 1913-83, American football coach, b. Moro Bottom, Ark. The son of sharecroppers, he became a Southern culture hero through his football successes. After playing on the Rose Bowl-winning 1935 Univ. of Alabama team, he coached for 38 years at four Southern universities: Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Alabama. At Alabama (1958-82), his "Crimson Tide" teams won or shared six national championships (1961, 1964-65, 1973, 1978-79). Bryant retired with 323 wins, the record for coaches in the top-rated Division I-A until Joe Paterno surpassed it in 2001.

See biography by A. Barra (2005).

bear, large mammal of the family Ursidae in the order Carnivora, found almost exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere. Bears have large heads, bulky bodies, massive hindquarters, short, powerful limbs, very short tails, and coarse, thick fur. They walk on the entire sole of the foot and normally move with a slow, ambling gait. However, they are capable of moving with great speed when necessary and some achieve bursts of 35 mi (56 km) per hour. Most bears can climb trees and swim well. They stand on the hind feet to reach objects with their paws. They have large, strong, non-retractile claws, used for catching prey and for digging. Their teeth are adapted to grinding as well as tearing. Nearly all species are omnivorous, feeding on fruits, roots and other plant matter, honey, carrion, insects, fish, and small mammals.

Adult bears are solitary except during the mating season. Groups may feed together where quantities of food are available, but there is little social contact. In cold climates bears sleep through most of the winter in individual dens made in caves or holes in the ground. This sleep is not a true hibernation, as the bear's metabolism remains in a normal state and it may wake and emerge during warm spells. The young, usually twins, are born during winter in a very immature state. Cubs stay with their mothers for about a year, and females usually mate only every other year. Bears are not generally subject to predation, unless they are in a weakened condition. A bear is a formidable adversary and may attack a human if it is injured or startled.

Types of Bears

The brown bear of Eurasia, Ursus arctos, is extinct in much of Western Europe, but small numbers survive in some wooded sections of that region and larger numbers in Russia and N Asia. The Russian variety was the bear most often trained to dance and box in circuses and shows in the past.

The Asian black bear, or moon bear, Selenarctos thibetanus, is found in forests from central Asia and the Himalayas to Japan. The sun bear, Helarctos malayanus, is found in tropical forests of SE Asia. Smallest of the bears, it is about 4 ft (120 cm) long and weighs about 100 lb (45 kg). It spends much time in trees and is fond of honey; it is sometimes called honey bear (a name also applied to the kinkajou). The sloth bear, Melursus ursinus, is a medium-sized bear of the forests of S India and Sri Lanka.

The North American brown bears, including the Kodiak bear and grizzly bear, are regarded by many authorities as varieties of U. arctos. Brown bears are dish-faced; i.e., their muzzles curve upward in profile. Their shoulders are humped. They range in color from yellow-brown to nearly black, with much color variation among different varieties, local populations, and individuals. Most varieties do not climb well. The Kodiak bear, or big brown bear, is the largest living member of the Carnivora, sometimes reaching a length of 9 ft (2.7 m), a shoulder height of 41/2 ft (140 cm), and a weight of over 1,600 lb (730 kg). It is found along the south coast of Alaska and, like the Siberian brown bear, eats large numbers of salmon during salmon runs.

The most widespread and numerous North American bear is the so-called black bear, U. americanus, found in Alaska, Canada, the Great Lakes region, mountainous areas of the United States, and on the Gulf Coast. American black bears range in color from light brown to black; in northern regions there are gray and nearly white forms. Their muzzles are always cinnamon brown and are straight in profile. They are further distinguished from brown bears by their smaller size and by their hindquarters, which are higher than their shoulders. Males are usually about 6 ft (190 cm) long and weigh about 500 lb (230 kg).

The polar bear, Thalarctos maritimus, is an almost exclusively carnivorous species of the Arctic. The only bear of the Southern Hemisphere is the spectacled bear, Tremarctos ornatus, of the Andes Mts.; it is so called from the light-colored circles around its eyes. Recent evidence suggests also including the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca as a bear.

Classification

Bears are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Ursidae.

Bibliography

See R. Perry, Bears (1970).

Polar bear (Ursus maritimus).

White semiaquatic bear (Ursus maritimus) found throughout Arctic regions, generally on drifting oceanic ice floes. A swift, wide-ranging traveler and a good swimmer, it stalks and captures its prey. It primarily eats seal but also fish, seaweed, grass, birds, and caribou. The male weighs 900–1,600 lbs (410–720 kg) and is about 5.3 ft (1.6 m) tall at the shoulder and 7–8 ft (2.2–2.5 m) long. It has a short tail. The hairy soles of its broad feet protect it from the cold and help it move across the ice. Though shy, it is dangerous when confronted.

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or honey bear

Smallest member (Helarctos malayanus) of the bear family (Ursidae), found in South Asian forests. Nocturnal and tree-climbing, the sun bear weighs 60–140 lbs (27–64 kg) and is 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m) long, with a 2-in. (5-cm) tail, large forepaws, and short black fur with an orange-yellow crescent on the chest. It uses its long, curved claws to tear or dig for insect nests, particularly those of bees and termites. It also eats fruit, honey, and small vertebrates. The sun bear is shy and intelligent; legends say that its chest crescent represents the sun.

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or Andean bear

Only South American species of bear (Tremarctos ornatus, family Ursidae), found in mountain forests, especially in the Andes. It feeds mainly on shoots and fruit and is an agile climber. It stands about 2 ft (60 cm) at the shoulder, is 4–6 ft (1.2–1.8 m) long, and has a 3-in. (7-cm) tail. Its shaggy coat is dark brown to black. Whitish to yellowish marks form its “spectacles” and often extend down the neck to the chest.

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or skunk bear

Wolverine (Gulo gulo).

Solitary, voracious, nocturnal carnivore (Gulo gulo) that inhabits northern timberlands worldwide. Wolverines are 26–36 in. (65–90 cm) long and 14–18 in. (36–45 cm) high, and weigh 20–65 lbs (9–30 kg); the bushy tail is 5–10-in. (13–26-cm) long. They have short bowed legs, hairy soles, and long, sharp claws. Their long, coarse hair, used to trim parkas, is blackish brown, with a light horizontal strip. The anal glands secrete an unpleasant-smelling fluid. A cunning, fearless predator, the wolverine will attack almost any animal, including sheep, deer, and small bears.

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or cat bear or bear cat

Long-tailed nocturnal raccoonlike carnivore (Ailurus fulgens, family Procyonidae) that inhabits high mountain forests in the Himalayas and adjacent eastern Asia. It is 20–26 in. (50–65 cm) long, excluding the 12–20-in. (30–50-cm) bushy, faintly ringed tail. It weighs 6–10 lbs (3–4.5 kg) and has soft, thick, reddish brown fur. The face is white, with a red-brown stripe from the eyes to the mouth. It eats plants, especially bamboo, and fruits and insects. Though an agile climber, it mostly feeds while on the ground.

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Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus).

Tree-dwelling marsupial (Phascolarctos cinereus) of coastal eastern Australia. About 24–33 in. (61–85 cm) long and tailless, the koala has a stout, pale gray or yellowish body; broad face; big, round, leathery nose; small, yellow eyes; and fluffy ears. Its feet have strong claws and some opposable digits. The koala feeds only on eucalyptus leaves. The single offspring remains in the rearward-opening pouch for up to seven months. Koala populations have dwindled seriously, formerly because they were killed for their fur and now because of loss of habitat and the spread of disease.

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Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis).

Large North American brown bear whose forms, including the Alaskan brown bears, are usually considered races or subspecies of a single species (Ursus arctos). The more than 80 forms once ranged over open regions of western North America from Mexico to Alaska, but their numbers have dwindled. Grizzlies have humped shoulders, an elevated forehead, and brownish to buff fur. They may grow to about 8 ft (2.5 m) long and weigh 900 lbs (410 kg). One variety, the Kodiak bear, is the largest living land carnivore, reaching lengths of more than 10 ft (3 m) and a weight of 1,700 lbs (750 kg). Grizzlies feed on game, fish, berries, and occasionally grass. They have been known to attack humans and are prized as big game.

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American black bear (Ursus americanus).

Forest-dwelling bear (Ursus americanus) that, despite reductions in population and range, is still the most common North American bear. The adult ranges from 5 to 6 ft (150–180 cm) in length and weighs 200–600 lbs (90–270 kg). It has various colour morphs but always a brown face and usually a white chest mark. It eats animals and vegetation, including pinecones, berries, and roots. It frequently raids campsites and seizes anything edible. Though it may be tamed and taught tricks, it often becomes dangerous when mature.

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Shaggy-haired, characteristically brown species (Ursus arctos) of bear with numerous races native to Eurasia and to northwestern North America. North American brown bears are usually called grizzly bears. Eurasian brown bears are generally solitary animals, able to run and swim well, and usually 48–84 in. (120–210 cm) long and 300–550 lbs (135–250 kg). They feed on mammals, fish, vegetable materials, and honey. The exceptionally large Siberian brown bear is similar in size to the grizzly.

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In securities and commodities trading, a declining market. A bear is an investor who expects prices to decline and, on this assumption, sells a borrowed security or commodity in the hope of buying it back later at a lower price, a speculative transaction called short-selling. Seealso bull market.

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Either of two species of North American plants that make up the genus Xerophyllum, in the lily family. The western species, X. tenax, also known as elk grass, squaw grass, and fire lily, is a smooth, light-green mountain perennial with a stout, unbranched stem and grasslike, rough-edged leaves at the bottom. It flowers at five to seven years, bearing a large cluster of small, creamy white flowers at the top of the stem. The turkey beard (X. asphodeloides) of southern North America is a similar plant that grows in dry pine barrens. In the southern and southwestern U.S., the name bear grass is given to various kinds of yucca and to the camas (Camassia scilloides) and the aloelike Dasylirion texanum.

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Generally massive, short-legged mammals constituting the family Ursidae. Bears are the most recently evolved carnivore, found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Closely related to the dog and the raccoon, most bears climb with ease and are strong swimmers. As a family, they are omnivores, but dietary preferences vary among species (the polar bear feeds mainly on seals, the spectacled bear on vegetation, etc.). Though they do not truly hibernate, bears often sleep fitfully through much of the winter. They live 15–30 years in the wild but much longer in captivity. They have been hunted as trophies, for hides, and for food. Seealso black bear; brown bear; sun bear.

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or African ant bear

Aardvark (Orycteropus afer).

Heavily built mammal (Orycteropus afer) of sub-Saharan forests and plains. Its stout, piglike body (“aardvark” is Afrikaans for “earth pig”) may be as long as 6 ft (1.8 m), including a 2-ft (60-cm) tail. It has a long snout, rabbitlike ears, short legs, and long toes with large, flattened claws. It feeds at night by ripping open ant and termite nests and lapping up the insects with a long (1-ft, or 30-cm), sticky tongue. Though not aggressive, it uses claws to fight off attackers. Its classification with regard to other mammals is uncertain.

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Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada. Lying astride the Arctic Circle, it was visited before 1800 by North West Company traders and later named for the bears that inhabited its shores. Containing many small islands, Great Bear Lake is roughly 200 mi (320 km) long and 25–110 mi (40–175 km) wide and has a maximum depth of 1,356 ft (413 m). It is the largest lake entirely within Canada and the fourth largest in North America. The lake's waters abound with fish, including the speckled trout.

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orig. Paul William Bryant

(born Sept. 11, 1913, Kingsland, Ark., U.S.—died Jan. 26, 1983, Tuscaloosa, Ala.) U.S. collegiate football coach. He was an all-state tackle in high school and went on to play blocking end at the University of Alabama (1932–36). As head coach at the University of Kentucky (1946–53), his team won 60 games, lost 23, and tied 5. After coaching at Texas A&M University (1954–57), he returned to Alabama (1957–82). His Alabama coaching record of 323 wins, 85 losses, and 17 ties broke Amos Alonzo Stagg's long-standing coaching record for games won; in 1985 it was broken by Eddie Robinson of Grambling State. In all, he took Alabama to 28 bowl games and six national championships.

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orig. Paul William Bryant

(born Sept. 11, 1913, Kingsland, Ark., U.S.—died Jan. 26, 1983, Tuscaloosa, Ala.) U.S. collegiate football coach. He was an all-state tackle in high school and went on to play blocking end at the University of Alabama (1932–36). As head coach at the University of Kentucky (1946–53), his team won 60 games, lost 23, and tied 5. After coaching at Texas A&M University (1954–57), he returned to Alabama (1957–82). His Alabama coaching record of 323 wins, 85 losses, and 17 ties broke Amos Alonzo Stagg's long-standing coaching record for games won; in 1985 it was broken by Eddie Robinson of Grambling State. In all, he took Alabama to 28 bowl games and six national championships.

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Bears (family Ursidae) are mammals in the order Carnivora. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere. That which pertains to bears is called ursine. Bears are found in the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, plantigrade paws with five nonretractile claws, and a short tail. While the polar bear is mostly carnivorous and the giant panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo, the remaining six species are omnivorous, with largely varied diets including both plants and animals.

With the exceptions of courting individuals and mothers with their young, bears are typically solitary animals. They are sometimes diurnal, but are usually active during the night (nocturnal) or twilight (crepuscular). Bears are aided by an excellent sense of smell, and despite their heavy build and awkward gait, they can run quickly and are adept climbers and swimmers. Bears use shelters such as caves and burrows as their dens, which are occupied by most species during the winter for a long period of sleep similar to hibernation.

Bears have been hunted since prehistoric times for their meat and fur. To this day, they play a prominent role in the arts, mythology, and other cultural aspects of various human societies. In modern times, the bear's existence has been pressured through the encroachment of their habitats and the illegal trade of bears and bear parts, including the Asian bile bear market. The IUCN lists six bear species as vulnerable or endangered, and even "least concern" species such as the brown bear are at risk of extirpation in certain countries. The poaching and international trade of these most threatened populations is prohibited, but still ongoing.

Biology

Reproduction

The bear's courtship period is very brief. Bears in northern climates reproduce seasonally, usually after a period of inactivity similar to hibernation, although tropical species breed all year round. Cubs are born toothless, blind, and bald. The cubs of brown bears, usually born in litters of 1–3, will typically stay with the mother for two full seasons. They feed on their mother's milk through the duration of their relationship with their mother, although as the cubs continue to grow, nursing becomes less frequent and learn to begin hunting with the mother. They will remain with the mother for approximately three years, until she enters the next cycle of estrus and drives the cubs off. Bears will reach sexual maturity in five to seven years.

Dentition

Unlike most other members of the Carnivora, bears have relatively undeveloped carnassial teeth, and their teeth are adapted for a diet that includes a significant amount of vegetable matter. The canine teeth are large, and the molar teeth flat and crushing. There is considerable variation in dental formula even within a given species. It has been suggested that this indicates bears are still in the process of evolving from a carnivorous to a predominantly herbivorous diet. Polar bears appear to have secondarily re-evolved fully functional carnassials, as their diet has switched back towards carnivory. The dental formula for living bears is:

Winter dormancy

Many bears of northern regions are assumed to hibernate in the winter. While many bear species do go into a physiological state called hibernation or winter sleep, it is not true hibernation. In true hibernators, body temperatures drop to near ambient and heart rate slows drastically, but the animals periodically rouse themselves to urinate or defecate and to eat from stored food. The body temperature of bears, on the other hand, drops only a few degrees from normal and heart rate slows only slightly. They normally do not wake during this "hibernation", and therefore do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate the entire period. Higher body heat and being easily roused may be adaptations, because females give birth to their cubs during this winter sleep. It can therefore be considered a more efficient form of hibernation because they need not awake through the entire period, but they are more quickly and easily awakened at the end of their hibernation. They have to stay in a den for the whole hibernation.

Relationship with humans

Some species, such as the polar bear, American black bear, and the grizzly bear, are dangerous to humans, especially in areas where they have become used to people. On the west coast of Canada, the American black bear has become an integral part of the silviculture industries, specifically treeplanting. The bears are coaxed into areas of harvested forest to "flush out" the other wildlife, i.e. moose, which are a far greater threat to planters. For the most part, bears are shy and are easily frightened of humans. They will, however, defend their cubs ferociously if a situation calls for it.

Laws have been passed in many areas of the world to protect bears from hunters or habitat destruction. Bears in captivity have been trained to dance, box, or ride bicycles; however, this use of the animals became controversial in the late 20th century.

Bears as food and medicine

Many people enjoy hunting bears and eating them. Their meat is dark and stringy, like a tough cut of beef. In Cantonese cuisine, bear paws are considered a delicacy. The peoples of China, Japan, and Korea use bears' body parts and secretions (notably their gallbladders and bile) as part of traditional Chinese medicine. It is believed more than 12,000 bile bears are kept on farms, farmed for their bile, in China, Vietnam and South Korea. Bear meat must be cooked thoroughly as it can often be infected with trichinellosis.

Classification

The genera Melursus and Helarctos are sometimes also included in Ursus. The Asiatic black bear and the polar bear used to be placed in their own genera, Selenarctos and Thalarctos which are now placed at subgenus rank.

A number of hybrids have been bred between American black, brown, and polar bears (see Ursid hybrids).

Evolutionary relationships

The Ursidae family belongs to the order Carnivora and is one of nine families in the suborder Caniformia, or "doglike" carnivorans. Bears' closest living relatives are the pinnipeds, a clade of three families: Odobenidae (the walrus), Otariidae (fur seals and sea lions), and Phocidae (true or earless seals). Bears comprise eight species in three subfamilies: Ailuropodinae (monotypic with the giant panda), Tremarctinae (monotypic with the Spectacled Bear), and Ursinae (containing six species divided into one to three genera, depending upon authority).

The origins of Ursidae can be traced back to the very small and graceful Parictis that had a skull only 7 cm (3 in) long. Parictis first occur in North America in the Late Eocene (ca. 38 million years ago), but this genus did not appear in Eurasia and Africa until the Miocene. The raccoon-sized, dog-like Cephalogale, however, is widely regarded as the most primitive ursid and is ideally suited as a representative basal taxon for the family. Cephalogale first appeared during the middle Oligocene and early Miocene (approximately 20–30 million years ago) in Europe. Cephalogale gave rise to a lineage of early bears of the genus Ursavus. This genus radiated in Asia and ultimately gave rise to the first true bears (genus Ursus) in Europe, 5 million years ago. Even among its primitive species, such as C. minor, it exhibits typical ursid synapomorphic dentition such as posteriorly oriented M2 postprotocrista molars, elongated m2 molars, and a reduction of the premolars. Living members of the ursids are morphologically well defined by their hypocarnivorous (non-strictly meat-eating) dentitions, but fossil ursids include hypercarnivorous (strictly meat-eating) taxa, although they never achieved the extreme hypercarnivory seen in mustelids. Cephalogale was a mesocarnivore (intermediate meat-eater). Other extinct bear genera include Arctodus, Agriarctos, Plionarctos and Indarctos.

It is uncertain whether ursids were in Asia during the late Eocene, although there is some suggestion that a limited immigration from Asia may have produced Parictis in North America due to the major sea level lowstand at ca. 37 Ma, but no Parictis fossils have yet to be found in East Asia. Ursids did, however, become very diversified in Asia later during the Oligocene. Four genera representing two subfamilies (Amphicynodontinae and Hemicyoninae) have been discovered in the Oligocene of Asia: Amphicticeps, Amphicynodon, Pachycynodon, and Cephalogale. Amphicticeps is endemic from Asia and the other three genera are common to both Asia and Europe. This indicates migration of ursids between Asia and Europe during the Oligocene and migration of several taxa from Asia to North America likely occurred later during the late Oligocene or early Miocene. Although Amphicticeps is morphologically closely related to Allocyon, and also to Kolponomos of North America, no single genus of the Ursidae from this time period is known to be common to both Eurasia and North America. Cephalogale, however, do appear in North America in the early Miocene. It is interesting to note that rodents, such as Haplomys and Pseudotheridomys (late Oligocene) and Plesiosminthus and Palaeocastor (early Miocene), are common to both Asia and North America and this indicates that faunal exchange did occur between Asia and North America during the late Oligocene to early Miocene. Ursid migration from Asia to North America would therefore have also been very likely to occur during this time. In the late Neogene three major carnivoran migrations that definitely included ursids are recognized between Eurasia and North America. The first (probably 21–18 Ma) was waves of intermittent dispersals including Amphicynodon, Cephalogale and Ursavus. The second migration occurred about 7–8 Ma and included Agriotherium – this was unusual among ursoids in that it also colonised sub-Saharan Africa. The third wave took place in the early Pliocene 4 Ma, consisting of Ursus.

The giant panda's taxonomy has long been debated. Its original classification by Armand David in 1869 was within the bear genus Ursus, but in 1870 it was reclassified by Alphonse Milne-Edwards to the raccoon family. In recent studies, the majority of DNA analyses suggest that the giant panda has a much closer relationship to other bears and should be considered a member of the family Ursidae. The status of the red panda remains uncertain, but many experts, including Wilson and Reeder, classify it as a member of the bear family. Others place it with the raccoons in Procyonidae or in its own family, the Ailuridae. Multiple similarities between the two pandas, including the presence of false thumbs, are thought to represent convergent evolution for feeding primarily on bamboo.

There is also evidence that, unlike their neighbors elsewhere, the brown bears of Alaska's ABC islands are more closely related to polar bears than they are to other brown bears in the world. Researchers Gerald Shields and Sandra Talbot of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology studied the DNA of several samples of the species and found that their DNA is different from that of other brown bears. The researchers discovered that their DNA was unique compared to brown bears anywhere else in the world. The discovery has shown that while all other brown bears share a brown bear as their closest relative, those of Alaska's ABC Islands differ and share their closest relation with the polar bear. There is also supposed to be a very rare large bear in China called the blue bear, which presumably is a type of black bear. This animal has never been photographed.

Koalas are often referred to as bears due to their appearance; they are not bears, however, but marsupials.

Culture

Myth and legend

Some evidence has been brought to light on prehistoric bear worship, see Arctic, Arcturus, Great Bear, Berserker, Kalevala. Anthropologists such as Joseph Campbell have regarded this as a common feature in most of the fishing and hunting-tribes. The prehistoric Finns, along with most Finno-Ugric peoples, considered the bear as the spirit of one's forefathers. This is why the bear was a greatly respected animal, with several euphemistic names. The bear is the national animal of Finland.

This kind of attitude is reflected in the traditional Russian fairy tale "Morozko", whose arrogant protagonist Ivan tries to kill a mother bear and her cubs — and is punished and humbled by having his own head turned magically into a bear's head and being subsequently shunned by human society.

"The Brown Bear of Norway" is a Scottish fairy tale telling the adventures of a girl who married a prince magically tunred into a bear, and who managed to get him back into a human form by the force of her love and after many trials and difficulties.

There has been evidence about early bear worship in China and among the Ainu culture as well (see Iomante). Korean people in their mythology identify the bear as their ancestor and symbolic animal. According to the Korean legend, a god imposed a difficult test on a she-bear, and when she passed it the god turned her into a woman and married her.

In addition, the Proto-Indo-European word for bear, *hr̥ktos (ancestral to the Greek arktos, Latin ursus, Welsh arth (cf. Arthur), Sanskrit *ṛkṣa, Hittite hartagga) seems to have been subject to taboo deformation or replacement (as was the word for wolf, wlkwos), resulting in the use of numerous unrelated words with meanings like "brown one" (English bruin) and "honey-eater" (Slavic medved). Thus four separate Indo-European language groups do not share the same PIE root. The theory of the bear taboo is taught to almost all beginning students of Indo-European and historical linguistics; the putative original PIE word for bear is itself descriptive, because a cognate word in Sanskrit is rakshas, meaning "harm, injury".

In the arms of the bishopric of Freising (illustration, right) the bear is the dangerous totem animal tamed by St. Corbinian and made to carry his civilised baggage over the mountains: the allegory of the civilising influence of Christianity is inescapable. A bear also features prominently in the legend of St. Romedius, who is also said to have tamed one of these animals and had the same bear carry him from his hermitage in the mountains to the city of Trento.

Imaginary bears are a popular feature of many children's stories including Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Berenstein Bears, and Winnie the Pooh.

The constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor represent bears.

Symbolic use

The bear is a common National personification for Russia (as well as the Soviet Union) and even Germany. The brown bear is Finland's national animal. In the United States, the black bear is the state animal of Louisiana, New Mexico, and West Virginia; the grizzly bear is the state animal of both Montana and California.

Bears appear in the canting arms of Berne and Berlin.

Also, "bear", "bruin", or specific types of bears are popular nicknames or mascots, e.g. for sports teams (Chicago Bears, Boston Bruins); and a bear cub called Misha was mascot of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR.

Smokey Bear has become a part of American culture since his introduction in 1944. Known to almost all Americans, he and his message, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" (updated in 2001 to "Only You Can Prevent Wildfires") has been a symbol of preserving woodlands. Smokey wears a hat similar to one worn by many U.S. state police officers, giving rise to the CB slang "bear" or "Smokey" for the highway patrol.

Figures of speech

The physical attributes and behaviours of bears are commonly used in figures of speech in English.

  • In the stock market, a bear market is a period of declining prices. Pessimistic forecasting or negative activity is said to be bearish (due to the stereotypical posture of bears looking downwards), and one who expresses bearish sentiment is a bear. Its opposite is a bull market, and bullish sentiment from bulls.
  • In gay slang, the term "bear" refers to male individuals who possess physical attributes much like a bear, such as a heavy build, abundant body hair, and commonly facial hair.
  • To "try like a bear" means to try your hardest to catch the attention of a certain lady. The harder you try, the better the bear you are.
  • A bear hug is typically a tight hug that involves wrapping one's arms around another person, often leaving that person's arms immobile. It was used in the Ronald Reagan political ad "Bear in the woods."
  • Bear tracking - in the old Western states of the U.S. and to this day in the former Dakota Territory, the expression, "You ain't just a bear trackin'.", is used to mean "You ain't lying" or "That's for sure" or "You're not just blowing smoke". This expression evolved as an outgrowth of the experience pioneer hunters and mountainmen had when tracking bear. Bears often lay down false tracks and are notorious for doubling back on anything tracking them. If you are not following bear tracks, you are not following false trails or leads in your thoughts, words or deeds.
  • In Korean culture a person is referred to as being "like a bear" when they are stubborn or not sensitive to what is happening around their surroundings. Used as a phrase to call a person "stubborn bear."
  • The Bible compares King David's "bitter warriors", who fight with such fury that they could overcome many times their number of opponents, with "a bear robbed of her whelps in the field" (2 Book of Samuel, 17, 8 - see ). The term "a bereaved bear" (דב שכול), derived from this Biblical source, is still used in the literary Hebrew of contemporary Israel.

Teddy bears

Around the world many children have stuffed animals in the form of bears.

Names

In Scandinavia the word for bear is Björn (or Bjørn), and is a relatively common given name for males. The use of this name is ancient and has been found mentioned in several runestone inscriptions. The name was also used by J.R.R. Tolkien in his book "The Hobbit", where a bear-like character is named Beorn.

The female first name "Ursula", originally derived from a Christian saint's name and common in English- and German-speaking countries, means "Little she-bear" (dimunitive of Latin "ursa"). In Switzerland the male first name "Urs" is especially popular.

In Russian and other Slavic languages, the word for bear, "Medved" (медведь), and variants or derivatives such as Medvedev are common surnames.

The Irish family name "McMahon" means "Son of Bear" in Irish Gaelic.

One of widely held etymological explanations for the common name "Arthur" is that it originally meant "bear-like".

In East European Jewish communities, the name "Ber" (בער) — Yiddish cognate of "Bear" — has been attested as a common male first name, at least since the 18th century, and was among others the name of several prominent Rabbis. The Yiddish "Ber" is still in use among Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel, the US and other countries.

With the transition from Yiddish to Hebrew under the influence of Zionism, the Hebrew word for "bear", "Dov" (דב), was taken up in contemporary Israel and is at present among the commonly used male first names in that country.

References

Further reading

  • Bears of the World, Terry Domico, Photographs by Terry Domico and Mark Newman, Facts on File, Inc, 1988, hardcover, ISBN 0-8160-1536-8
  • The Bear by William Faulkner
  • Brunner, Bernd: Bears — A Brief History. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007

See also

External links

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