The Arctic wolf and the Polar bear are two of the toughest species on earth. Both call the unforgiving, icy tundra home, thriving in some of the world’s most difficult environments for their entire lives.
These two species are also both apex predators — meaning they’re at the top of their respective food chains — and can obviously hold their own in a fight without a problem. But what would happen if they had to fight each other? That’s what this article aims to figure out.
Polar Bear vs Arctic Wolf — Who Would Win?
So, who would come out on top if these two formidable animals were to come across each other? Is the Polar bear’s massive size advantage enough to stand against a pack of Arctic wolves? Could a single Arctic wolf take down the much bigger Polar bear on its own? There’s no short answer to this question, so let’s consider all the possible variables.
Polar bears have survived as a species for over 100,000 years, while Arctic wolves are said to have evolved from Gray wolves as far back as 50 million years ago. Obviously, both species have braved some tough times on our planet, so let’s dive into their individual traits and see who the top contender might be!
The Polar bear is a formidable apex predator, known to travel alone and survive the harshest of environments. But how does it stack up against the Arctic wolf? Let’s check out some Polar bear qualities and see!
It would seem that the biggest bear on earth would have the size advantage between these two species, and you’d be right in thinking so. Male Polar bears can reach lengths of 10 feet and weigh as much as 1,500 pounds, which is clearly bigger than any wolf! If the battle was one on one between an Arctic wolf and a Polar bear, the bear could come out on top based on their size difference alone.
Female Polar bears outsize wolves drastically as well, which is a good thing in the Polar bear’s eyes. A 500-pound, eight-foot female should have no trouble protecting her cub, so long as the Arctic wolf isn’t traveling with their pack — which, in most cases, they do. However, solitary Arctic wolves aren’t as rare as they used to be, though loners don’t typically tend to attack animals as large as Polar bears.
Polar bears are ambush hunters, meaning they lie in wait for their prey to catch them off guard. They’ll sit or lie down at the edge of the ice, watching and waiting for a seal to surface. When the seal least expects it, the Polar bear will bite or grab them, pulling them out of the water onto the ice, where the seal is then helpless to defend itself against this massive predator.
Arctic wolves don’t usually hang out in the water, so the Polar bear’s hunting style doesn’t necessarily fall in line with Arctic wolves’ typical behaviors. However, the fact that such a large animal is so adept at stalking its prey could play to the Polar bear’s advantage here, too. They’d have to adapt their hunting techniques to the habits of a land mammal, but their camouflage advantage and wait/watch ability could still be useful in this case.
It goes without saying that Polar bears are experts at surviving: they live in the coldest, most unforgiving place on earth, and quite happily so! The oldest fossil finds of this species date back over 100,000 years, which proves that Polar bears have been braving the elements long enough to know a thing or two about survival. Their population is sadly declining, but this is due to human actions and global warming, not Polar bear mistakes.
Polar bears can be found performing all sorts of interesting actions in order to find food, some of which you wouldn’t think a bear this large would be capable of — like climbing cliffs to steal bird eggs, for example. However, they’re also capable of going without food for as long as eight months at a time, which makes them survival champions if you ask me!
Polar bears are definitely not lacking in the defenses department. Aside from the sheer size of their bodies (which is a defense advantage in itself), they’re also well-equipped with other tools bestowed on them by mother nature. Their 42 razor-sharp teeth come to mind here, as do their long, powerful legs; which give the Polar bear the speed to either run to safety or charge an attacker at full force.
They also possess paws the size of an Arctic wolf’s head (possibly bigger), which work wonders for grabbing, smacking, or smothering a smaller animal. Their four-inch-thick layer of body fat helps here, too, as they’re better protected against bites and scratches from an Arctic wolf — which are way less threatening than the tusk-endowed walrus Polar bears sometimes have to contend with!
The bite force of an adult Polar bear is something no animal should underestimate. While they might be bigger and possibly slower than the quick, nimble Arctic wolf, one bite from a Polar bear could very well end the fight for good. How strong is their bite, you ask? You might be surprised to find out that Polar bears bite harder than Hyenas, African lions, and even Bengal tigers — all of which a single Arctic wolf is no match for!
Polar bears’ bite force can be as strong as 1,235 PSI (pounds per square inch). To compare their biting strength to the above-mentioned animals, Hyenas come in close at about 1,100 PSI, with Bengal tigers just behind them at around 1,050. The king of the jungle himself — though still not to be messed with — only has about half the bite force of a Polar bear at around 600 PSI. That just goes to show how powerful a Polar bear bite can be!
A survivalist by nature, the Arctic wolf has adapted well to its tundra habitat. Check out their qualities to see if they’d come out on top against a Polar bear!
Though they’re large animals themselves, Arctic wolves are no match for Polar bears in the size department. Sure, they’re definitely much bigger than your large — or even giant breed — family dog, but their above-average canine size still can’t stand up to the biggest bear species on the planet. The weight of an Arctic wolf (between 70 and 150lbs) is only a fraction of what a Polar bear weighs, and their height of 24-30 inches won’t do much good against a Polar bear, either.
One place where an Arctic wolf can almost come close to a Polar bear is in their overall length, as they can grow anywhere from three to six feet long. Considering the fact that a fight between these two would likely result in the Arctic wolf jumping on the Polar bear’s back, the length factor might just be the only aspect that saves them in the size contest!
Arctic wolves, like other wolf species, hunt in packs. This is the most powerful advantage that the wolves might have over the Polar bear, as the latter are traditionally solitary and can’t rely on a pack to protect them from an attack. Arctic wolves travel in packs of about seven or eight family members, so unless one gets caught off guard by the Polar bear, it’s pretty much a guarantee that the whole family is getting in on the fight.
Arctic wolves typically hunt large game, such as Caribou, Moose, and Musk-Oxen. This means they’re no strangers to taking down much larger animals, though it’s important to consider that their chosen prey doesn’t have the defense advantages that Polar bears do. However, the pack aspect essentially guarantees the Arctic wolves would come out on top in this fight — even if Polar bears have been known to hunt them from time to time!
Any animal that survives the harsh elements of the icy tundra is a survival expert in my book, so the Arctic wolf is basically even with the Polar bear in this category. The territories that the Arctic wolves roam are some of the most unforgiving on the planet; such as the far northern regions of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. They’ve evolved as a species to not only survive these environments but thrive in them — much like the Polar bear.
They also possess a thick layer of fat, which sits underneath thick, double-coated fur (including on their paws) to keep them warm. Adding to their survivability, Arctic wolves are one of very few species that don’t come into contact with people. This means threats to their survival are much fewer; in fact, they’re the only species (or sub-species, to be precise) of wolf that isn’t on the threatened or endangered list.
While the main defense of the Arctic wolf is their tendency to hunt in packs, they can handle themselves when flying solo, too. These guys are powerful animals, able to run at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour to chase, charge, or escape from a threat. Their legs are capable of carrying them across large areas of territory, which makes a quick sprint a walk in the park — while their heavily padded, colossal paws keep them balanced and rooted firmly to the ground.
The above-mentioned double coat also serves as a defense: its white coloring allows Arctic wolves to appear almost invisible against their icy habitat. Next is their go-to weapon: their teeth are sharp enough to pierce flesh and bone, backed by powerfully strong jaws, and there are 42 of them in a single wolf’s mouth. They also possess retractable claws on all four paws, making it easy for them to latch on to their prey (or opponent) and bring it to the ground in a single swift motion.
This category gets a little tricky, as it’s less likely that a Polar bear will be contending with a lone wolf than the entire pack, which makes a little basic math necessary. The Arctic wolf’s bite force is about half that of the Polar bear, at 600 PSI compared to the Polar bear’s 1,200. However, while a single bite from an Arctic wolf may not affect the Polar bear too badly, a pack of eight wolves can likely inflict some major damage when working in sync to take down the world’s biggest bear.
If you calculate 600×8, you’ll conclude that this would amount to 4,800. While this wouldn’t technically be accurate as the bites would be coming from several sources, the Polar bear would essentially be feeling quadruple the strength of its own bite force, even if it is in a “death by a thousand cuts” sort of way!
So, now that you have all the details, who do you think would win this battle? My personal thoughts are that it all depends on the scenario, as both species obviously have many advantages that would help them in a fight against each other. Here’s a few examples of how the brawl could go, and who might come out as the victor:
Arctic Wolf Pack Attack
As stated earlier, the Arctic wolf pack is a well-oiled hunting machine. Their joined efforts in hunting large game have kept the species on top of their food chain so far, and they show no signs of slowing down any time soon.
If a pack of eight Arctic wolves were to team up against a Polar bear, the bear would stand little chance of winning the fight. Fighting off that many attackers at one time would just be too much, and the wolves would likely succeed in their efforts to take down the Polar bear.
One on One Fight
A single Arctic wolf is in no way a match for the world’s biggest bear, so the Polar bear would definitely come out on top in this scenario. The size difference alone would be enough to guarantee this.
However, we also have to account for the Polar bear’s giant paws, their long, sharp claws, and of course, their razor-sharp teeth accompanied by a bite force of 1,200 PSI. If a lone Arctic wolf was bold enough to engage a Polar bear, it would likely be its last encounter — unless it was smart enough to run away!
Battle Near the Water
One scenario where a Polar bear might win against a pack of Arctic wolves is if the fight were to happen near the water. Polar bears are expert swimmers, while Arctic wolves prefer to stay on land, so the bear has this advantage over them.
The Polar bear could essentially drag several members of the pack into the water and drown them, leaving fewer wolves to contend with and making their odds of winning more even. It could also use the water to escape, or even lie in wait until an Arctic wolf gets near the water’s edge and instigate an ambush attack, rendering the wolf helpless.
Sick or Injured Polar Bear
If a Polar bear were sick or injured its mighty strength would be weakened, making it less able to defend itself against an attack. This is probably the only scenario in which a lone Arctic wolf might succeed in taking down a Polar bear, as the bear’s ability to overpower the wolf would be compromised.
However, due to the natural instincts of Polar bears (and animals in general) it’s more likely that the sick or injured bear would go into hiding to protect itself. So, while this scenario is of course possible, it’s probably one of the least likely to occur.