Tag Archives: Brown Bear Strength

How Strong is a Kodiak Bear, and How Fast can They Run?


To understand how strong a Kodiak bear is, you only need to observe one effortlessly running up a steep slope, quickly digging a den out of the side of a mountain, or easily flipping huge boulders weighing several hundred pounds. Kodiak bears have a heavy skeleton and a thick layer of muscles. The hump on their backs is a mass of muscles that aids in their ability to dig and provides a powerful striking force with their forepaws.DSC_0033

Brown bears have a shuffling, lumbering walk. They are flat-footed and pigeon-toed, and they walk with both legs on one side moving together. Their paws strike the ground in the following sequence: Right forepaw then left hind paw then left forepaw followed by the right hind paw. When walking at a fast pace, the hind paw is often placed well in front of the forepaw track.


Brown bears can run very fast over a short distance and have been clocked at 35 to 40 mph (56 to 64 kph). Even over a long distance, they can quickly cover a great deal of ground and climb steep banks with ease.

Many of our guests are surprised to learn that Kodiak bears can swim, but brown bears are excellent swimmers and can swim for a mile or two to cross a bay or lake. A brown bear swims with his body below the water and his head and nose slightly above the waterline. Although bears are strong swimmers, they seem ill-at-ease and vulnerable when swimming, and when approached by a boat, a bear may give up his plan DSC_0116to swim across the bay and return to the shore he just left, even if he is closer to the opposite shore. On sunny summer days, it is common to see Kodiak bears lying in water or splashing in the ocean to cool themselves, and some bears while even dive underwater to catch salmon. Snorkeling is a funny fishing technique employed by a few bears where the bear walks through chest-deep water and submerges his head to look for fish.


I never grow tired of watching bears. Sometimes they amuse me when I watch the interactions between a sow and her cubs, and other times I get caught up in the drama when two bears square off against each other. I am always amazed, though, by their tremendous strength and their ability to cover a great deal of distance in the blink of an eye. The combination of these two characteristics makes them the rulers of their domain.

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