Polar bears are the largest of all bear species by size, but you’ll rarely get to stand next to one and see its size in person. So, just how tall are polar bears?
A male polar bear is usually around 3m (10’) tall when stood on its hind legs, whereas a female will be smaller at around 2.4m (8’) tall. However, polar bears tend to walk on all four legs which makes them 1.3 – 1.6m (4’4” – 5’3”) tall.
Keep reading to find out more about the height of polar bears and how tall the world’s biggest polar bear was.
How Tall is a Polar Bear?
The typical way to measure the size of a polar bear is from its nose to the tip of its tail.
However, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on how tall polar bears are in practice, when on all four legs and when standing upright on their hind legs.
When standing on all fours, polar bears are between 1.3 to 1.6m (4’4” – 5’3”) tall. However, a fully grown male polar bear can be up to 3m (10’) tall when standing up on its hind legs. This makes them the largest four-legged mammal1(source: Polar Bears International).
These heights are based on male polar bears. A female polar bear is shorter at around 2.4m (8’) tall, this is because they reach sexual maturity earlier and explains why they also weigh less2 (source: National Wildlife Federation).
How Tall is the Biggest Polar Bear on Record?
It is widely considered that the biggest polar bear on record was 3.4m (11’1”) tall and spotted in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska in 1960. The bear was shot by Arthur Dubs put on display outside Seattle World Fair in 19623 (source: Guinness World Records).
The location of the exhibit is unknown today, although you can see a photo of it at the fair here.
Why Do Polar Bears Stand On Their Hind Legs?
Inuit folktales tell of polar bears that walked around on their hind legs like humans and lived in igloos.
But, in reality, we know that polar bears, like most other bears, usually walk around on all four legs since this allows them to spread their weight more evenly.
Polar bears oftentimes stand on their hind legs to improve their vision and smell across the landscape.
They will also stand on their hind legs with their paws by their side to signal to another bear that they want to play. It’s easy to confuse polar bears playing for polar bears fighting since they are mock battling4 (source: Top 50 Reasons to Care about Polar Bears: Animals in Peril, R.E. Hirsch, 2010).
Polar Bear Height Vs Other Mammals
Polar Bear Height vs Humans
With a height of up to 4m (13 feet) tall on their hind legs, a polar bear is taller than two adult men standing on top of each other based on the average for US males at 1.75m (5’9”)5 (source: Healthline).
Even the world’s tallest man to have ever lived, Robert Wadlow at 2.7 m (8’11”) tall, is no match for the height of a polar bear.
When a polar bear is standing on all fours, it is said to be like standing next to a large pony.
Polar Bear Height Vs Other Bears
Polar bears are the largest bear species by weight and using the standard measure of size, from the tail to the nose. However, Kodiak bears will rival some polar bears in shoulder height and when stood on their hind legs.
Here is a height comparison of some of the best-known bears:
|Height on all fours||Height standing on hind legs|
|Polar Bear||1.3 – 1.6m (4’4” – 5’3”)||3 m (9’10”)|
|Kodiak Bear||1.5m (4’11”)||3 m (9’10”)|
|Grizzly Bear||1m (3’3”)||2.4m (8’)|
|Black Bear||0.9m (3’)||1.7m (5’7”)|
|Giant Panda||0.6 – 0.9m (2’ – 3’)||1.7m (5’7”)|
How Big Are Polar Bear Paws?
Polar bears have huge feet to help them spread their weight across the surface like snowshoes, their paws are up to 30cm (12”) wide. These paws are also slightly webbed which helps them whilst swimming too6 (source: Polar Bears International).
How Heavy Can A Polar Bear Get?
A male polar bear can weigh between 350-680kg (775-1500lbs). Females tend to be much smaller than males, often as much as half their weight. A typical female will weigh between 150-250kg (330-550lbs).