Misfit Animals is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn More.

Can Bears Be Domesticated or Not?

Bears can’t be domesticated. They’re wild animals, and will always be considered to be so, even if they’re trained. They can only really be tamed a little bit, not enough for them to live with humans or other animals in a “domesticated” household setting.

Many people think about what it would be like to keep a wild animal, such as a bear, wolf, or tiger, as a pet.

However, wild animals are considered wild for a reason: they can’t be domesticated.

In this article, we’ll discuss why bears haven’t been domesticated, if it’s possible, and the reasons behind it.

Can Bears Be Domesticated?

No, bears don’t make for good pets, for the same reasons why they haven’t been domesticated by humans. They can be trained to some degree, but they’re wild animals and will always have a desire to get back out into the wild.

While bears are highly intelligent and can be trained to some degree, they’ll never be domesticated.

Dogs have been domesticated due to selective breeding over many hundreds of years, and have hence learned to live among humans. Bears have not.

As with all other wild animals, they may become used to some form of human interaction, but they’ll never reach the point of domestication. They’re born wild, have wild genetics, and will hence (even with training) be considered wild.

Big brown bear in forest

Why Can’t Bears Be Domesticated?

Bears can’t be domesticated because they’re wild animals. They’ll always retain their natural instincts, and will never truly become tame or docile around humans. 

Even if a bear is raised by people from a young age, it will never be as friendly as a dog or cat.

Even with training, you can never be sure around a bear. Their wild, natural instincts may be triggered at some point. Despite being intelligent creatures, they can still pose a threat to anyone who tries to interact with them. 

For these reasons, bears can never really be considered domestic animals.

Bears Are Aggressive & Feral

Bears can be aggressive and feral, which can make them dangerous to both humans and other animals. 

Feral is defined as: “in a wild state”. As bears are always feral, they’re always in a wild state. This feral behavior may be toned down, or masked, by training, but will always remain inside them.

angry bears

Domestication Goes Against Natural Instincts

Bears have a natural instinct to be wild. They’re also solitary by nature and hence don’t thrive among other animals or people for that matter. 

This is why they can’t be domesticated in the traditional sense – because it goes against their very being and state.

Bears Are Solitary by Nature

Bears are solitary by nature[1]. They’re not friendly towards other beings, and they live in solitary for the majority of their lives, with the only exception of mating.

They will avoid human contact as much as possible, as well as contact with other animals. Mother bears do take care of their cubs, but at some point, these cubs also take off on their own.

brown bear and cubs

Bears Eat a Lot of Food

Bears eat a lot of food[2]. They can burn up to 12,500 calories in a day, hence they also need to eat a lot.

When they’re preparing for hibernation, they may even eat as much as 90 pounds (40 kg) of food in a single day.

They’re omnivorous animals and can eat both meat and plants. They eat fish, insects, ungulates, rodents, but most of all plants.

Feeding a bear in captivity would be expensive. Their diet is not suited for captivity.

polar bear eating meat

Bears Can’t Be Trained as Much as Dogs

Although bears can be trained, it is not to the same degree as dogs can be. 

Dogs are domesticated animals and have been bred for centuries to live among humans. Bears have not undergone this selective breeding process and remain largely wild. 

This means that they can’t be fully trained, and won’t take cues from humans as dogs do. Bears in captivity will often act unpredictably, which can be a danger to humans.

Can Bears Be Tamed?

Bears can’t be tamed. They are feral, wild animals. They’ll bite the hand that feeds them, and can be dangerous. 

Bears can’t be domesticated, as they’re wild animals that will always remain so. Even if bears are trained, they can never really become tame. They’re too powerful, and can easily harm humans or other animals. 

Humans can’t befriend bears, and it should not be attempted. The only slight exception to this is imprinting. Bears, and all other mammals, are born with an instinct to imprint on their caretaker.

Imprinting is defined as: “(of a young animal) come to recognize (another animal, person, or thing) as a parent or other object of habitual trust.”

When this happens, a bear may form a close bond with its caretaker.

man hugging a bear

Are Bears Friendly?

No, bears are not friendly. They’re wild animals and are solitary of nature. As with all other wild animals, they have an innate fear of humans and will keep their distance.

While bears aren’t friendly, it doesn’t mean they’re aggressive. Bear attacks usually only happen when they’re threatened or provoked. Keeping your distance from bears, and leaving them alone, is the best way to prevent a bear attack.

Can Bears Be Trained?

Bears can somewhat be trained, but can never be considered “domesticated”, as they are wild by nature, through their genes and instincts. 

It is possible to train bears in captivity in order to make interacting with people safer, but you can never make a bear fully safe around humans.

Bears can be taught to perform tricks, such as in a circus, but they can never truly be tamed, as they will always retain their wildness. 

Even though they can be taught tricks, they won’t take cues from humans as dogs do.

Man hugs bear

Bears Are Very Intelligent

Even though bears can’t be domesticated, they’re incredibly smart. This is the reason why they’ve been used in the circuitings industry for centuries. 

Experts claim that bears possess the largest and most convoluted brains of any land mammals (relative to their size).[3]

Studies show how black bears can count as other primates, which is a display of their intelligence.[4]

Circus Bears

A good example of trained bears is circus bears. These have been trained, but not domesticated, to perform tricks for the entertainment of humans.[5]

Circus bears can do tricks, such as stand on their hind legs or balance a ball on their nose, but they will always remain unpredictable.

Can Bears Be Pets?

No, bears don’t make for good pets, for the same reasons why they haven’t been domesticated by humans. They can be trained to some degree, but they’re wild animals and will always have a desire to get back out into the wild.

Bears don’t make for good pets for several reasons, which are largely the same reasons why they haven’t been domesticated:

  • They’re feral
  • It goes against their very nature
  • They eat a lot of food
  • They’re solitary
  • They can’t be trained to the degree of other pets

While bears can technically be kept as household animals, they’re not suited for these living conditions. They would feel cramped, be stressed, and may become anxious and depressed, which can lead to unpredictable behavior.

Conclusion

Bears can be trained to some degree, but they can’t be domesticated, They will always remain as wild animals as their wild nature is engrained in their genes. They are dangerous and should not be kept as pets. 

Bears are very intelligent creatures, one of the most intelligent land mammals. They’re however not suited for domestication, as they’re solitary, wild, and feral.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.