The giant short-faced bear was the biggest bear ever to have lived. Standing a 1.5 metres at the shoulder and equipped with powerful jaws this bear would have been an intimidating sight.
Height: 1.5m at the shoulder and an impressive 3m when standing on its hind legs. Weight: 6-800kg
The giant short-faced bear was a large bear, bigger than any living species of bear. Compared to modern brown bears it had much longer limbs and was generally more slender. It had a very short, broad muzzle which gives rise to its name, and which gave it a very powerful bite.
Giant short-faced bears inhabitated the open areas of ice age North America from steppe tundra in the far north to grasslands further south.
The giant short-faced bear was a carnivore, probably a scavenger but would have taken live prey at times.
Little is known of the behaviour of short-faced bears. Studies of the bone chemistry show that they were predominantly carnivorous but whether or not they were predators or scavengers remains a contentious issue. Recent research favours the scavenger theory. With long legs, they were adapted to ranging far and wide in search of carrion and their powerful bite enabled them to crack open bones to reach rich marrow.
Extinct from approximately 12,500 years ago.
The short-faced bear belongs to a group of bears known as the Tremarctine bears which are of New World origin. The earliest member of the Tremarctinae is Plionarctos of the Pleiocene age (about 5-2 million years ago) from Texas. It is likely that this genus is ancestral to the spectacled bear (Tremarctos) and the short-faced bear (Arctodus). Although the early history of Arctodus is poorly known, it evidently became widespread in North America about Kansan time (about 800,000 years ago).