Tiger vs bear? Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, a fight between these two animals can actually happen, and it has. In India, tigers and sloth bears occupy the same range, and in eastern Russia, tigers live side-by-side with brown bears and Asiatic black bears. Sometimes, a tiger is hungry enough to take a chance with a bear. Bears also challenge tigers for food at kill sites. As you can imagine, tiger vs bear fights are pure chaos, but which one of these two animals is more likely to come out on top? 

Table of Contents

  • Tiger vs Bear: Physical Differences
  • Tiger vs Bear: Attitude
  • Tiger vs Bear: Physical Ability
  • Stalking Ability
  • Tiger vs Bear: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Tiger vs Bear: Physical Differences

A sloth bear investigates termite mounds in India
Sloth bears have long claws, but they use them mostly for digging. photocech / Adobe Stock

We’re going to leave North American bears out of this because until the UFC starts pitting animals against each other, it’s extremely unlikely for a tiger to meet one of them, let alone want to fight one. Compared to the sloth bear, tigers have almost nine times more bite force. Big male tigers can also weigh more than double what a sloth bear weighs. Both animals have long claws and sharp teeth, but sloth bears use theirs to raid bee hives and dig for grubs.

Siberian or Amur tigers also live with bears. In southern portions of the Russian Far East, these tigers coexist with Eurasian brown bears and Asiatic black bears. And in the 1990s, their interactions were studied extensively (more on that later). Brown bears and tigers have about the same bite force. Brown bears in that part of the world do weigh a bit more than Amur tigers.


A brown bear look up from the edge of a river with forest in background
Brown bears are always ready to fight. Erik Mandre via Adobe Stock

Tigers have killed more humans than any other big cat. They are downright agressive and hunt for their food every day. Bears are omnivores and opportunists. They’ll kill to eat when they have to, but they’re more likely to eat things that don’t put up a fight. When put on the defensive, just about any bear is tenacious—but so are tigers.

In John Vaillant’s book The Tiger, he recounts the story of a Russian poacher named ​​Vladimir Markov shooting an Amur tiger. The wounded tiger followed the poacher’s scent to his cabin, destroyed everything inside that smelled like the poacher, and waited for hours for him to come home. When Markov arrived, the tiger killed him, dragged his body into the woods, and ate it. When it comes to attitude, tigers win.

Physical Ability

Brown bears in Eurasia can run about 30 to 35 mph over short distances. Sloth bears cover ground at 20 miles per hour. Tigers can run faster than both. At the top end, they’ll cover ground at 40 miles per hour. What really sets them apart, though, is their jumping and pouncing ability. A tiger can jump around like a house cat. The only difference is they weigh as much as a gun safe, and all of that weight is muscle. It isn’t uncommon for an Amur tiger to jump 25 feet horizontally and clear the height of a 10-foot NBA basketball hoop vertically. An angry tiger is your worst nightmare, and they win in the tiger vs bear physical-ability department.

Stalking Ability

Tigers are sleek, stealthy, and come with their own camouflage. As big as they are, they can all but disappear in the jungle or the forests of eastern Russia. Jim Corbett, the famous tiger hunter and author of Man Eaters of Kumaon, preferred stalking tigers alone because he couldn’t guarantee the safety of a companion. In other words, he didn’t know when a tiger was going to sneak up and kill one of his friends, so he didn’t bring them along. Bears are not known for their stalking ability, and while they are scary, they don’t turn your veins to ice water the way a tiger lurking in the shadows does. Tigers are better at stalking than bears.

Tiger vs Bear: So, Which One Would Win in a Fight

Guys, it’s tigers. By all accounts, they are stronger, more agile, and more aggressive than bears. But what happens in the real world might surprise you. Remember the study of Amur tigers and bears? Researchers found that bears displaced tigers from kill sights in at least eight cases. Individuals have also captured video footage of even sloth bears backing down tigers in the jungles of India. The point is tigers, like other predators, would rather find easier prey than duke it out with a bear unless they are really desperate. 

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However, the study also found that bear meat made up 3.7 percent of an Amur tiger’s diet. They also cited that in instances when tigers and bears did meet each other, the tigers initiated contact with bears more often than vice-versa. One takeaway from that is that tigers aren’t afraid of bears. In a tiger vs bear cage match where neither could escape, the tiger would probably kill the bear and eat him. And it wouldn’t be pretty.