Bear vs lion – Who would win?

Bear vs Lion - Who wins?

So, here’s a nice easy question for you all – who would win the fight lion vs bear?

Some of you may say a bear because of its brute force and aggression. Others might say a lion because of its guile, stealth and natural born killer instinct.

This article explores the strengths of these beautiful mammals and asks who really wins between bear and lion.

The Wonderful Wild

Lion vs lioness fight in the Masai Mara, Kenya

There’s nothing better than watching a wildlife show to see what our intellectually superior cousins from the African animal kingdom are up to.

And when thinking about wildlife a series of hypothetical questions come to mind. Could a giraffe survive in a European forest? What would happen if elephants occupied the Amazon?

Who would win – brown grizzly bear vs lion? Or Kalahari lion vs black bear?

These animals evolved and exist in polar opposite habitats, so the possibility of these two species ever having an altercation is not high.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t predict and propose who would win such a colossal confrontation.

Bear vs Lion – Fight Rules

Grizzly bear roaring as a warning

Before attempting to answer which of these predators would win such an unlikely yet deadly duel, we must consider what form of combat would make the contest fair.

Were they to batter each other’s bodies in a bare-knuckle fist fight, the lion would almost certainly be the one left bloodied, bruised and beaten.

The bear’s bread and butter is to slam its massive paws into seemingly unbreakable objects, such as ice and wood. The lion’s skull, though solid enough, would offer little resistance to any sustained onslaught of bear slaps.

However, if it was a game of stealth played over a large area, the lion’s natural instinct would be an unbeatable advantage.

Home advantage would be essential. The outcome of a bear vs lion fight would be different in the forests of the Rocky Mountains than on the African savanna.

Of course, lion vs bear remains completely hypothetical. These animals do not overlap and even if they did, they would probably stay away from each other.

Still, that doesn’t stop us from being hypothetical. Here is bear vs lion so you can make up your own opinion.

Brain vs Brawn

Male lion and spotted hyenas fight over a kill

A toe-to-toe punch up would not be the lion’s discipline of choice, as it is speed and stealth that makes a lion stand out from the rest. To be beckoned into a brawl with a bear would be a heavy, one-sided defeat.

Whereas the bear would be looking for a quick knockout or grappling submission, the lion’s only hope of success would be a points win, or a tremendously-timed slash to the neck or face.

This would daze the bear and leave him open to a long-toothed lunge which would be game over.

The predatory lion relies on a retractable jaw that can clamp down on its target and restrict movement. So a mixed martial arts event with as few rules as possible would be much more suitable for the lion.

Lions are in their element when biting through flesh and scratching through skin. Sadly for the lion, these moves are maligned in modern forms of martial arts.

So it’s the smarter big-game killer vs brute size and strength. And in our hypothetical bear vs lion scenario there are no rules, just like there are no exact rules to survival on the African savanna.

Bear vs Lion – Tale of the Tape

Let’s take a look at the lion vs bear match up from a strictly factual perspective.


Majestic lion standing proudly on a small mound

Considering the unavoidable size differences between the two, the bear should be hot favourite to win any battle with a lion.

The average grizzly bear can easily tip the scales at 300 kg (660 lbs), making it well over a third heavier than a large lion at 180 kg (400 lbs).

But, if weight was the deciding factor in every conflict, a trim and toned Muhammad Ali would not have been victorious over the gargantuan George Foreman in the aptly named ‘Rumble in the Jungle’.

Height and reach

Curious brown bear stands on its hind legs, Lake Clark National Park

In an epic lion vs bear skirmish, who would have the superior height and reach? Interesting question.

With both competitors possessing an ability to rear up on their hind legs, height may not be a major factor.

The bear is able to maintain a vertical position for a greater length of time, so will be more effective at pounding and pummeling from up high.

However, the lion’s agility and expertise in evasive manoeuvres means the bear punches are likely to miss.

Track record

The Lion King of the Savanna

Both of these animals are the kings of their home environments.

The lion is famously referred to as ‘The King of the Jungle’. However, lions live almost everywhere in Africa except in the jungle. In reality, the lion is the king of the savannah, the apex predator in a wild wilderness.

Similarly, a brown or black “grizzly” bear is unparalleled in its wild environment and comfortably stands clear as ruler of the realm.

Unfortunately, both these majestic creatures are prey to a small and seemingly insignificant mammal – homo sapiens. Yep, both are hunted by cowardly people carrying guns and shooting from afar.

Neither can lay claim to being braver than the other but with varying weapons and skills at their disposal, this fight would be decided on either the fight IQ and strategy of the lion, or the merciless attack of the bear.

Both brown and black bears are considered animals of least concern by the IUCN. Their populations are stable and increasing. Lions are now endangered and their numbers continue to drop at astonishing rates.

Training for the Confrontation

Coming from totally different cultures and backgrounds, the training regimes of the two combatants couldn’t be more different.

Physical training

Grizzly bear running in Knight Inlet, British Columbia

In a natural environment surrounded by mountains and trees, the bear grows strong with hill climbs, long distance runs and high-intensity tree trunk charges. Over a lifetime it gradually builds up endurance and sudden bursts of power.

Bears rub themselves up against the bark of a tree to take care of any itches and remove knots from muscles. They have a natural massage machine so they can train and fight harder!

The lion, being a native of the open plains and dusty lands of Africa, trains with close friends and family. It spends most of its day sleeping. But when awake, lions can be very active.

Lions play fight and tumble from almost the day they are born. Cubs build up strength fighting each other. Then at two years old they are kicked out of the pride and must find food by themselves.

This harsh transition into adulthood means lions don’t have time to sit around. They need to act and they must hone the art of hunting if they are to survive. So for the lion, every day is training!

When ruling a pride, lions wind up their day with a few sessions of wrestling with a team of sparring partners, also known as the pride’s cubs.


Two big male lions gnawing on a carcass

The diets of lions and bears are also in direct contrast.

The bear chows down on large quantities of plant life. Fish and other small animals add some protein to its predominantly herbivore diet.

The lion, however, adheres to a strict diet of raw red meat. This gives it the extra protein needed to be active for longer periods of time, in case the bear vs lion fight goes into the later rounds.

Such a heavy protein-based diet suggests that lions have a greater strength to weight ratio, so although they are smaller than bears they are probably stronger.

A killer instinct is also such an integral part of the lion’s make up. This could be the difference between the two animals, especially if the contest comes down to who wants it more.

Lion vs Bear – The Battle Begins

The time for talk is done, the hype is over and it’s time to find out who is the most dangerous giant animal of them all.

The lion’s pride can be seen ringside, chewing on springbok steaks and looking apprehensive.

The bear’s family are sitting opposite, growling with anticipation and hoping for the best.

Ring walk

Brown bear on a foggy day

The bear is the first one to enter the ring, a no-nonsense competitor who slowly and solemnly strolls through the watching crowds, looking icily calm yet menacing.

His entrance music is some loud thrash metal record which contrasts eerily with his composed persona.

Next, comes the lion, probably not bursting out to the Guns N’ Roses tune Welcome to the Jungle, and probably not entering the ring to a song from The Lion King (too cliche!).

He growls and snarls his way to the ring, bouncing from foot to foot, psyching himself up for the task ahead.

Get it on

Just before the bell rings, the two animals are brought to the centre of the ring by the referee who is, of course, a rhino, because a rhino is the only animal with any chance of controlling these two giants.

Dwarfed by his big brown opponent, the lion shows his fangs and lets out a great roar as a warning to stay well back.

The bear adopts a different approach, distractedly peering over the head of the lion to feign a lack of interest, and to further illustrate the gulf in size.

Seconds out, ding, ding. Time to see who is the true, undisputed champion of the animal kingdom!

Let’s get it on…

Who would win a fight between a lion and a bear?

Unhappy lion growling

Oh wait, you wanted an answer as to who would win a fight between a lion and a bear?

Of course, it’s all hypothetical. Nobody knows and nobody should ever know the answer to this.

These animals will never actually meet in the wild. And all the bears and lions of the world should be given the freedom to live in the wild.

We’re not advocating a sick zoo-based battle between these majestic creatures. Lions and bears should never be kept captive, not even in zoos.

So who would win lion vs bear? Let’s keep that as one of nature’s mysteries.

More Interesting Battles of the Giants

If you enjoyed this hypothetical battle, you may also want to explore the strengths of other beautiful mammals.

Who would win the fight…

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9 thoughts on “Bear vs lion – Who would win?”

  1. Yes the grizzly is a super powerful animal, but so is the lion. Lions while in packs have been shown to take down Cape buffalo, giraffes and elephants at their adult age. It is this information that gives the lion a fighting chance even against overwhelming odds.

    I am not saying the lion can straight out right beat a grizzly. It is just that full grown adult giraffes and adult elephants weigh a whole lot more than a grizzly bear. And grizzly bears have been known to have trouble with mountain lions, which are much smaller than African lions.

    Just something to think about.

  2. Brown bears and lions once shared territory in both the Atlas mountains of North Africa and the foothills of the Himalayas in the last 2000 yrs. I would suspect this matchup occurred more than once. Additionally large brown bears and Siberian tigers share the same territory today.

  3. And brains? Bears are smarter than lions.

    Also, “Yep, both are hunted by cowardly people carrying guns and shooting from afar.” Really? Going this way? Are you angry that primitive humans with sharp sticks successfully hunted and killed both species LONG before guns.

    Using tools is the human evolutionary path.

    1. Brains are definitely part of the deal, though defining what “smart” is is highly debatable.

      Does it not depend on how those “tools” are used?

      Weapons can be utilised in various ways, both constructive and destructive.

      What, in your opinion, is more “evolved”: to kill to eat, or to kill just for the sake of it?

      And are wars a true sign of evolution?

      I’m a firm believer in the ancient UBUNTU African philosophy: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

      In other words, if it’s not good for everyone, it’s no good at all.

      In unity and harmony,


  4. But this was answered in real life. In the days of the California Gold Rush, prospectors needed entertaining so they would pit bear against bull, or against dogs (different times).

    And the bear always won.
    So someone had an African lion brought in at great expense.
    And the bear won.
    Then some more lions. And the bear won every time.

    Why? The lion’s kill method involves choking out prey. Bears heads and necks have thick fur and skin, which is also very loose. And a bear’s killing blow is a smack with a mighty paw… The relatively thin skull of a lion is no much for a bear’s swat. Grizzlies can kill bison this way.

    The lions never won.

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