The animal kingdom is a fascinating place, full of mystery and wonder. However, at times it can also be downright scary! Animals fight for various reasons, including two very capable species: the walrus and the polar bear.
While these two massive arctic creatures would likely not fight under normal circumstances, there have of course been times where a fight was unavoidable.
Walruses are typically smart enough to avoid the polar bear, who is one of their most feared predators. However, polar bears can be injured badly if a Walrus decides to defend themselves instead of retreating to the water, which is what they would usually do.
Animal enthusiasts often ask themselves who would win in a fight between two species, including the Walrus and the polar bear. So, which do you think would be the winner? Find out more about each species’ fighting advantages in this post, and let’s determine it together!
Walrus vs. Polar Bear: Who Comes Out On Top?
This is a difficult question to answer, as so many variables are present. Is this fight taking place in water, or on land? Which animal has the most advantages? Is it one on one, or can bystanders help out? Is the Walrus a mother protecting her young, as any animal species would do without a second thought?
While it’s a difficult task to pierce the thick skin of a Walrus, polar bears have been known to try — though they’re usually smart enough to go for the injured or young walruses that can’t defend themselves.
Polar bears have indeed been found with tusk injuries; proving a walrus is a worthy contender when pushed to their limits.
My personal vote is for the formidable polar bear, as they’re more of a hunting animal and have a few distinct advantages — especially when on land. Are you in agreement, or are you on team walrus? Let’s see what you think after you consider all the facts presented in this post!
One of the walrus’ primary advantages is their weight. These guys get incredibly heavy: a male Pacific walrus can grow as large as 3,700 pounds and reach lengths of 12 feet long!
These guys’ girth is comparable to only one other species in the pinniped family, which is the mighty — and just as formidable — elephant seal.
Female Pacific walruses are slightly smaller than their male counterparts, but still pack quite the punch at an impressive 800-2,700 pounds. All this weight is lined with a generous, six-inch-thick layer of blubber, which serves to keep them warm as well as protect them from attacks.
The Atlantic walrus comes in a more compact size than their Pacific relatives, weighing in at up to 2,000 pounds and reaching eight feet in length.
However, this weight advantage is still important to consider, as being pinned under something that heavy would surely make it difficult to fight back.
Though they’re not as nimble on land as their Polar bear opponents, all it takes is one swift flop to render the other party hopeless under the walrus’ staggering weight.
Faster than you might think for such a large animal, the walrus can move at quite an impressive rate of speed considering their awkward and sluggish appearance.
Of course, they’re more adept at swimming than traversing the landscape, but don’t let their size fool you: they can run as fast as a human when they need to.
Their cute (but equally terrifying) version of running is done using their flippers as feet, and doesn’t allow them to keep up the speed for long periods — but it’s still a good idea to keep your distance!
The water is where the walrus excels in the speed department, and where they may just have the advantage over the polar bear. These guys transform from big and awkward to smooth and graceful the moment they submerge themselves and have the ability to swim as fast as 20 miles per hour if need be.
While their average speed is more like four miles per hour, being threatened by something like a polar bear under the water would be a good reason to use those extra speed abilities — and being charged by an animal this large would be no small impact!
We’ve arrived at the part of the walrus that everyone knows them for: their impressive, formidable tusks. These giant, razor-sharp protrusions are the reason why polar bears generally don’t try to take on adult walruses, as the risk of being impaled is too great.
The tusks of an adult male walrus can reach lengths of 39 inches, with the females coming in close behind at around 31. These mighty jaw ornaments are not teeth — though walruses have 18 of those, too — but more akin to an elephant tusk or a rhinoceros horn.
Walrus tusks are primarily used for hauling their massive bodies out of the water and onto the ice, creating breathing holes for them to use while swimming under ice blocks in the water, and mating or territorial displays.
However, when necessary, walrus tusks can be a mighty useful defense mechanism, and they’re not afraid to use them for this purpose, either.
They can easily puncture through layers of fat and flesh, which is why polar bears are usually smart enough to stay away — unless of course they’re rushing into the herd, grabbing a walrus calf, and rushing right back out.
As mentioned earlier, the walrus is quite a swimmer. Spending most of their lives in water, their conical shape allows them to torpedo their way through the icy deep, traverse tricky currents, and stay submerged for up to 30 minutes at a time.
While the polar bear is an adept swimmer, too, walruses are clearly at an advantage here: their diving ability and streamlined bodies make it easier to escape, but also attack at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. That would be like getting hit with a tank — one with tusks, that is!
Walruses propel themselves through water primarily by using their hind flippers, which are shaped like a whale’s tail and have a triangular form. These hind flippers have five digits, each of which is equipped with a small claw.
Their front flippers are either held in or used for steering when the walrus needs to change direction while swimming.
This expert swimming ability that the walrus possesses makes it a formidable opponent in the water, though the polar bear would likely be smart enough not to try anything risky in this domain.
Though they tend to sleep most of the time when on land, waking a walrus is the opposite of a good idea. This is because they’re extremely defensive of their herds, and even more so if it’s mating or calving season.
The ability of a walrus to switch from calm and sleepy to aggressive and defensive is scarily uncanny, which is why it’s a good idea to give snoozing herds a wide berth if you should ever encounter one.
Their freakishly fast flipper run won’t last long, but it usually doesn’t have to — they can catch up to onlookers and threats to their herd in a flash!
The aggression of walruses is another reason polar bears are wise to avoid their defenses. Though polar bears are big and strong with their own natural weapons to compete with, the risk of being caught by an angry walrus is one they usually won’t take.
They are faster than the walrus, however, which is how they can occasionally get away with an unsuspecting calf — though this isn’t their primary means of prey as it’s on the extra risky side!
Polar Bear Advantages
The polar bear’s size is nothing to scoff at. In fact, they’re the biggest bear species on earth — even compared to the massive Grizzly!
Male polar bears can grow to a length of 10 feet and weigh up to 1,500 pounds, with their smaller female counterparts being much smaller at six to eight feet long and around 500 pounds (though a pregnant female can weigh as much as 1,000).
polar bears also possess a layer of fat up to four inches thick, which adds to their overall body size. This is for protecting them from the frigid temperatures of their icy environment, but can be a handy tool in a fight, too.
It’s much harder to reach vital organs when you have to get through a layer of fat that thick first — though a walrus tusk would likely be able to handle that task if given the opportunity!
Polar bears might be large, but that doesn’t make them slow — in fact, quite the contrary. They’re faster than they look and can run on ice at speeds up to 25 miles per hour — way faster than the slower-moving walrus can maneuver on land!
This is largely attributed to their giant, snowshoe-like paws, which are expertly designed by mother nature herself to allow the polar bear to maneuver across the snow and ice with ease.
Their strong back legs —which are longer than the front legs for additional power — also contribute to their running speed.
Polar bears are also quite adept swimmers and can easily paddle for hours when hunting for food. They’re commonly found hundreds of miles away from any land source (or big blocks of ice) thanks to their excellent swimming stamina.
While they can only reach up to about six miles per hour in the water, they’re incredibly graceful and can definitely hold their own. Their long back legs lay flat as they paddle with their front paws, creating a raft-like effect that moves through the icy waters gracefully.
Polar bears have another advantage that the walrus doesn’t share: long, curved, non-retractable claws. These are used for grasping prey as well as scooping ice out of the way when running, and considering they’re attached to paws the size of dinner plates, they’re quite a formidable resource!
Polar bears are five-toed, so there are 20 of these weapons on a single bear, and they’re as sharp as knives — and are backed by a powerful punch!
While walruses have those massive tusks we discussed earlier, the polar bear’s teeth can inflict some major damage, too.
Their prey of choice is the seal, which means they regularly tear through thick layers of fat to eat their prey — which is what their razor-sharp teeth were designed to do.
Adult polar bears possess 42 teeth in their giant mouths, and while they can’t puncture as deep as a walrus tusk, they’re still a weapon not to be messed with!
Though we’ve already discussed speed, there’s one element of nature that gives the polar bear an obvious advantage. They’re much more adept at maneuvering on land than the slow, awkward walrus, which raises their odds if the two were to brawl on the ice.
The polar bear’s aforementioned paws and claws grant it much more stability than the walrus, who relies on flippers and body weight to move around.
Polar bears are experts on land travel, though they frequently rely on large chunks of floating ice for resting, hunting, and mating.
While they can be found hunting in the water hunting a lot of the time, land is where they’re the most confident, which speaks to their ability to defend themselves (and their young) when out of the water.
The fact that they can travel distances of up to 20 miles a day on land (along with their territorial range being hundreds of square miles) shows they have a clear advantage in this department.
Polar bears also have the camouflage advantage going for them — their environment and their fur are the same color. This allows them to stay largely out of sight when it comes to hunting, as well as being helpful for defense purposes.
This factor combined with their quick movements makes them able to appear out of what seems to be thin air, and a lot faster than you might think!
This is something the walrus doesn’t have going for it, unless they’re blending in with surrounding rocks and land, which is possible, too — but less likely due to their tendency to congregate in herds.
Contrary to popular belief, polar bear fur isn’t actually as white as it appears. In fact, their fur is multi-layered: they have a thick undercoat for insulation, covered by a coat of guard hairs (which are the ones that are visible).
These guard hairs are hollow-shafted and translucent, which makes them act as light reflectors. They allow the polar bear to appear white because of its surroundings — another awesome contribution from mother nature — which protects them and helps them to excel as hunters!
Hunting Habits of the Walrus and Polar Bear
When gauging who would win in a battle between a walrus and a Polar bear, I think it’s important to consider the hunting habits of each species.
After all, they both clearly have advantages that would benefit them in a fight — even if they’re not technically an equal match for one another. See if these hunting behaviors sway your vote in favor of one or the other:
The hunting habits of a polar bear are much more violent than that of the walrus, though it only makes sense as their prey is larger and more difficult to catch. Their use of claws and teeth as well as their ambush-style attacks are a good example of how they might behave in a fight.
Polar bears are patient hunters and are known to wait at the edge of the ice for seals to surface. They’ll then grab the seal with their massive paws or bite it before pulling it onto land, flipping it over, and enjoying their meal.
This would be considerably harder with a walrus, of course, which is probably why they tend to go for the calves!
Seals are easier prey than walruses, as they don’t have tusks — or any other way to defend themselves against a polar bear, for that matter.
However, an ambush attack upon emerging from the water is the ultimate way to catch an animal off guard, so the walrus may be at a slight disadvantage after all!
Walruses, on the other hand, are more opportunistic hunters. They typically dine on defenseless marine organisms in shallow waters along the ocean floor, such as mollusks, shrimp, squid, and others like them.
The murkiness of the water where their favorite foods reside is no match for them: they use their abundance of whiskers to feel around and locate their next tasty morsel.
While this is an impressive trait in and of itself, it doesn’t really help the walrus in terms of fighting ability.
They do, however, have plenty of practice in self-defense, as male walruses commonly fight one another in territorial battles or for the purpose of impressing a desired female walrus.
The habits of walruses are mostly peaceful, aside from their territorial displays and scary-aggressive defensive strategies, that is. However, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch sometimes, and the walrus proves this with its deadly weapons — as well as its famously grouchy overall temperament!