Why Do Dogs Look Like Bears?

Adrienne Farricelli

Why Do Dogs Look Like Bears? Whether it's their long snouts, fuzzy hairs or pristine white coats, these dog breeds sure turn heads around as people have to look twice to make sure they're not being followed by a bear on a leash.

Why Do Dogs Look Like Bears? Many dog owners report that their dogs look like wolves or foxes, but then there are some dogs who look more like the canine impersonation of teddy bears. Of course, these dogs aren't the result of some love affair between Lassie and Winnie the Pooh, but they sure have a neat resemblance with some members of the Ursidae family. Whether it's their long snouts, fuzzy hairs or pristine white coats, these dog breeds sure turn heads around as people have to look twice to make sure they're not being followed by a bear on a leash.

Bear Versus Dog

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/kirbythedorkie/5756567077//"><a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Kirby the Dorkie</a> CC BY 2.0</a>
Kirby the Dorkie CC BY 2.0

Think bears and dogs do not look alike? Think again, as these two different species have some traits in common. Both species are under the order of carnivora, meaning they are meat eaters at heart. Now, they don't depends on meat as cats do (cats are obligate carnivores who rely entirely on meat), but if you asked them whether they preferred berries or steak, they both would opt for the latter. Being meat eaters by preference, Mother Nature blessed them with sharp teeth, excellent running abilities and highly developed senses.

Interestingly, at some point, carnivores split into cat-like and dog-like forms. The carnivores who split into the dog-like suborder were categorized under the suborder group Caniformia, whilethose who split under the cat-like suborder, were categorized under the suborder group Feliformia. Bears and obviously the dog's ancestors ended up in the caniformia group, both species having a long snout and non-retractable claws which is what mainly distinguished them from the cat-like group. Though being in the same suborder, dogs and bears belong to different families, dogs being in the Canidae family along with wolves and foxes, while bears are in the Ursidae family.

Five Dogs That Look Like Bears

Let's face it: some dogs don't look much like bears, but there are some dogs breeds that are more bear-like than others. Some dogs look like black bears, others look like brown bears and a few others look like polar bears. Regardless, these dogs seem to share a common factor: they seem to bring back good memories of our old teddy-bears and it's hard to resist the urge to go hug them and hold them tight. But please don't! Many dogs dislike being hugged, and hugging an unknown dog may lead to serious injury! Following are some dog breeds that look like bears.

The Chow-Chow

"What kind of dog is that? It looks like a bear!" 

Photo by By Pleple2000 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chow_chow_czarny_g%C5%82owa_61.jpg
Chow chow , by Pleple2000, CC BY-SA 3.0

Owners of this breed are quite used to hearing this when they meet people who see a chow for the very first time. Forget about the blue tongue and the lion-like ruff, the most bear-like feature of this dog breed is the coat, which is fuzzy wuzzy and comes in bear-like colors such as light golden, deep mahogany, black, cinnamon, light fawn and cream. If you see a chow chow, keep your instinct to fuss all over him at bay, according to the American Kennel Club standard, this breed is an independent spirit with an aura of aloofness which makes him reserved and discerning with strangers.

The Akita

You may have come to know this breed courtesy of the movie based on the true story of Hachikō, a loyal Akita who waited for his deceased master in front of the Shibuya train station for more than nine years. 

<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akita_(dog)#/media/File:American-akita.jpg">An American Akita</a>,byJonnydrh -
An American Akita,by Jonnydrh CC0 1.0

What many people may not know though is that this breed's ancestors were selectively bred to hunt Sika deer, wild boar and Asian black bear for the Matagi hunters. Their job was to flush out the bear and keep it at bay until the hunters arrived. The most bear-like characteristic of these dignified dogs is their large, bear-like head with erect, triangular ears. There is speculation that the black-masked Akitas might have been purposely bred to look like the bears they hunted.

The Tibetan Mastiff

Is it a lion? Is it a bear? No, it's a Tibetan mastiff! 

Chinese bred Tibetan mastiff , Yeti,  public domain
Chinese bred Tibetan mastiff , Yeti, public domain

This breed may be the closest thing to a bear that somebody may own. Imposing, weighing in between 100 to 160 pounds and standing at 27 to 29 inches at the withers, this flock guardian dog was bred to protect livestock from large predators such as wolves, brown bears and leopards. 

Among his bear-like features are the thick double coat, heavy mane and impressive head. As cute and cuddle as he may seem, his aloof personality makes him reserved towards strangers and highly protective of his property. Seeing this breed in person though will often mean travelling to distant lands, as this breed is rarely seen outside of Tibet.

The Great Pyrenees 

Welcome to winter wonderland! Not only does this breed look like a polar bear, it also is very tall, which makes it even more bear-like! 

<a href=">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pyrenees#/media/File:Great_Pyrenees_Tavish.jpg"A Great Pyrenees,</a> by Michael L. Baird, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0">CC BY 2.0</a>
A Great Pyrenees, by Michael L. Baird, CC BY 2.0

Males grow up to weigh about 100 to 120 pounds, while females weigh about 85 to 100 pounds. Other traits that are polar-bear like are the longer hairs around the neck forming a ruff, the rich dark brown eyes , black nose and black lips. And of course, the weather resistant double coat coming in white or white with markings does the rest. These gentle giants were bred to be livestock guardian dogs, camouflaging within flocks of sheep to protect them from predators, so expect these nocturnal dogs to be territorial and prone to night-time barking.

The Goldendoodle

Sarah Stierch, a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/>CC BY 2.0</a>
Sarah Stierch, Goldendoodle

What happens when a Golden retriever falls in love with a poodle? A goldendoodle is born. OK, this is not really a dog breed per se, but rather a crossbreed, but it deserves a spot as a bear-like breed. More than real bears though, some of them resemble closely those curly-haired teddy-bears children hug at night before going to sleep. These dogs became popular because of the belief of them being hypoallergenic, because of their low shedding coats. However, allergies aren't caused by hair as many think. The real source of problems is a protein that's found in the saliva and urine of dogs and cats that sticks to these animal's dander, explains Doctor James T C Li. The good news though is that dog breeds who shed less don't release as much dander as their hairs don't get released into around as much as with other dogs.

Goldendoodles come in various colors including white, cream, apricot, gold, red and even black. The ones that more closely resemble teddy bears come from crossing English cream retrievers with standard poodles and are often referred to as "Teddy Bear Goldendoodles" due to their teddy-bear like coats. Unfortunately, due to high demand for these "hypoallergenic" dogs, unscrupulous breeders have bred with little care in health and temperaments, leading to a surge of problems.

Other Bear-Like Dogs

There are several other dog breeds with a reputation of resembling bears. Samoyed puppies in their white coats are quite similar to little polar bear cubs, while Newfoundland pups resemble black, little bears. The Caucasian Ovcharka, makes an imposing bear-like guardian. Some poodles and Lagotto Romagnolo pups are considered teddy bear look- a-likes with their curly coats and round, expressive eyes; whereas, several black Pomeranian puppy owners claim that their pint-sized pups resemble little cubs of black bears. As seen, there are several dog breeds out there portrayed to look like bears, perhaps that's a reminder of bears and dogs sharing the Caniformia subgroup? Who knows!

Did you know? Legend has it that the first teddy bears were crafted after Queen Victoria's chow chow puppy. Because she carried the pup everywhere she went, her friends disapproved that a queen was seen everywhere with her dog, so they hired a dressmaker who was paid to craft a a stuffed version of her pup to bring around.