The Story Of The Bear:
Story Of The Bear
American Black Bear.
Ugly Sloth Bear
Himalayan Black Bear
A Funny Little Bear
A Bear That Wears Spectacles
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The brown bear is one of the largest species, furnished in winter with long, thick, shaggy, and soft fur, beneath which is a thick and woolly under-fur; the ears being of moderate size, and covered with long hair. The color is generally some shade of brown, although subject to great variation. In general it varies from very pale to very dark brown, some of the lighter varieties being almost cream colored in certain parts; while, in a variety from Eastern Thibet, the fur on the back and limbs is blackish, with tawny tips to the hairs. In other varieties, again, the fur has a silvery tinge, owing to the hairs being tipped with white; while some specimens have a decidedly reddish tinge. In the light Himalayan variety the color deepens with age, this darkening being generally most developed in old males, which are frequently indistinguishable in color from the ordinary European form. Young animals have a white collar on the throat, traces of which may frequently be observed in the newly-grown fur of the adult. The summer coat is much shorter and thinner than the winter dress, and is likewise darker in color.
The claws are of moderate length, and their color varies from brown to nearly white.
Exact measurements of large European examples are not easy to obtain, but it is probable that some specimens reach at least 8 feet from the tip of the snout to the root of the tail. In the Himalaya the same dimensions are not generally more than 5 or 5 1/2 feet, but large specimens reach about 7 feet, and one has been recorded of 7 1/2 feet in length and 3 feet 5 inches in height. The tail does not measure more than 2 or 3 inches.
The brown bear is an inhabitant of almost the whole of Europe, and of Asia northwards of the Himalaya; its former range extending from the British Islands and Spain in the west to Kamschatka in the east. Bears are still found in the Pyrenees, and are comparatively common in many parts of Scandinavia, Germany, Hungary, and Russia. At what date they finally disappeared from the British Islands cannot be determined. There is evidence to show that bears were still in existence in the eighth century; and, in the time of Edward the Confessor, the town of Norwich had to furnish annually one bear to the king. There is no decisive historical evidence as to the existence of bears in Ireland, but remains have been found there in various parts, which in all probability belonged to the present species, although they have been referred by some to the American grizzly bear.
In the Himalaya the brown bear is found from Afghanistan in the west to Nipal in the east. It does not occur in the more or less Tibetan districts of Zanskar and Ladak, but extends up the valley of the Indus as far as Gilgit,
In the mountains around the valley of Kashmir brown bears were once very numerous, but they have become much rarer now.
The brown bear is a comparatively unsociable animal, though not unfrequently a male and a female may be seen together, while the females are, of course, accompanied by their cubs. Their favorite haunts are wooded, hilly districts. In the Himalaya the brown bear is to be found at considerable elevations, in the spring haunting the higher birch and deodar forests, while in the late summer it ascends to the open grass-lands above, where it may not unfrequently be seen grazing close to herds of ponies and flocks of sheep or goats. Both in these regions, and the colder districts of Europe and Northern Asia, these bears regularly hibernate; and while they are extremely fat at the commencement of their winter sleep, they are reduced to little more than skin and bone at its conclusion. In the Himalaya the winter's sleep generally lasts till April or May, but varies somewhat in different districts according to the (late at which the snow melts.
The cubs are generally born (luring the latter part of the hibernation, and accompany the mother when she issues forth. They are almost invariably two in number, and are born blind and naked, in which condition they remain for about four weeks.
In Europe the brown hear not unfrequently kills and eats other animals, its depredations extending, it is said, even to cattle and ponies; but in the Himalaya, except when carcasses come in its way, the animal is almost exclusively an insect and vegetable feeder. There it is fond of the numerous species of bulbous plants growing on the mountains around Kashmir; but it will also descend into the orchards of the upland villages to plunder the crops of mulberries, apricots, walnuts, etc. On such occasions it ascends the trees readily enough, although it is by no means such a good climber as its cousin the Himalayan black bear. It seeks for insects by overturning stones.
In Kamschatka the brown bear is stated to subsist for a certain portion of the year upon salmon. They walk slowly into the water, where it is about eighteen inches in depth, and, facing down stream, motionless await their prey. The incautious fish, swimming heedlessly up the river, are seized upon, and always taken to the bank to be devoured, for even the small ones do not appear to be eaten whole.
The brown bear, in common with its relatives, is dull of hearing, and it is also by no means well gifted as regards sight. What it lacks in these respects it makes up for, however, in the great development of the sense of smell. Owing to this deficiency of hearing, a bear can be approached from the leeward to within a very short distance. Care should, however, always be taken to approach a bear from above, as a wounded one rolling down hill on to the hunter is a very dangerous object.
If two bears are feeding together and one is hit by a bullet, it will not unfrequently turn fiercely on its companion, apparently under the impression that the latter was its aggressor. In the Himalaya, at least, the brown bear never voluntarily attacks human beings if unmolested, and it rarely turns on them when wounded, unless brought to close quarters. There is but little doubt that the current stories of the fierceness of the European bear are exaggerated. In regard to the proverbial "hug," the story is apparently devoid of foundation. A bear, from its anatomical structure, strikes round with its paws, as if grasping, and the blow of its powerful arm drives its claws into the body of its victim, causing terrible wounds, but the idea of its "hugging" appears not confirmed by recent observers.
At the best, a brown bear is uncouth and grotesque in its movements, and in no case is this more marked than when one of these animals suddenly catches a whiff of human scent, and starts off with a loud "whuff" at a shambling gallop. In spite, however, of their uncouthness, bears can travel pretty quickly when so minded, although their usual gait is deliberate in the extreme.
The brown bear is easily tamed, and both in Europe and India is the companion of itinerant showmen, by whom it is taught to dance, and go through various other performances. As showing the age to which the brown bear may live, it is worthy of mention that one kept in the garden at Berne survived for upwards of forty-seven years, while it is on record that a female gave birth to young at the age of thirty-one years. From the beauty of their color, and the length of their fur, the skins of the Himalayan brown bear, if procured early in the spring, are held in high estimation.
The inhabitants of Northern Europe hunt the brown bear with much skill, and take it in traps and pitfalls, availing themselves of its love for honey. There exists a practice of placing the hive in a tree, and planting long spikes round its foot. A heavy log of wood is then suspended by a cord just before the entrance of the hive, and the trap is complete.
The bear scents the honey, and comes to look at the tree. The spikes rather astonish him, but he sniffs his way through them, and commences the ascent. When he has reached the hive, he is checked by the log hanging before the entrance; this he finds movable, and pushes aside, but it is just so long that a mere push will not entirely remove it, so he gives it a tremendous pat, and looks in at the entrance. Just as he has succeeded in putting his nose to the hive, the log returns and hits him very hard on the head. This makes him exceedingly angry, and he pokes it away harder than ever, only to return with a more severe blow than before.
He now has a regular fight with the log, hitting it first to one side and then to the other, the perverse block invariably striking his head every time, until at last a severer blow than usual knocks him fairly off the tree on to the spikes below.
The gigantic grizzly bear of Western North America, whose range extends from Alaska through the Rocky Mountains to Mexico, is generally regarded as a species distinct from the brown bear, although there can be no question but that the two are very closely related. The grizzly is generally larger in size, greyer in color, and has shorter and less valuable fur than its European cousin. Some of the brown bears from Northern Asia are probably nearly or quite as large as an average-sized grizzly; while the difference in this respect between brown hears from different districts indicates that mere size cannot be a matter of much importance. All. the American hunters recognize several varieties of greyish bears, respectively known as the "silver-tip," "roach-back," and the "barren-ground' bear, in addition to the typical grizzly. We prefer, however, to adopt the view that there are but two distinct species of North American bears.
Occasionally, as in the case of the black bear, there may be cinnamon-colored varieties of the grizzly; and it was at one time considered that such yellow-haired bears constituted a distinct species the so-called cinnamon bear, but it is now known that such coloration is merely a phase common to each species. A naturalist reports having seen a female grizzly with three cubs, of which one was almost yellow, a second nearly black, and the third grey.
The so-called barren-ground bear of Arctic America comes very close to the European brown bear, and may indeed prove to be the connecting link between it and the typical grizzly.
The accounts of the size and weight of the grizzly are probably much exaggerated; most of the measurements having been taken from pegged-out skins, while the weights are mere estimates. It is said that the finest grizzlies hail from Alaska, but it is probable that those formerly inhabiting the Pacific flanks of the high Sierra Nevada were really the largest. . These, however, have been nearly or completely exterminated by the shepherds, who poisoned them on account of the ravages they committed on their flocks. These Sierra grizzlies are reported to have been of the enormous weight of 1,800 pounds; and there seems no doubt that instances of 1,400 and 1,200 have been reached. Probably the best estimates are from 900 to 1,000 pounds. The skin of such an animal will measure 9 feet 3 inches from the nose to the hind-foot, when pegged out without undue stretching.
That the grizzly is a man eater is admitted by all. They have been known to attack the huge bison that once fed on the Western plains, and wherever elk are abundant there will grizzly bears be found. Failing to get meat they thrive on acorns, nuts, etc., and are especially fond of the pine nut stored away by the mountain squirrels.
The grizzly is a had climber and seldom resorts to trees. Its strength is prodigious. It can break the neck of an ox with one blow of its paw, and it frequently carries off the carcass of an elk weighing 1,000 pounds.
Some writers have said that the grizzly bear will run away if he comes across the scent of men. This is denied, and it has been stated that the man is more likely to run away from the bear than the bear from the man. The American Indians fear it so much that a necklace of its claws, which may only be worn by the individual who destroyed the bear, is a decoration entitling the wearer to the highest honors.
These formidable claws are five inches long, and cut like so many chisels, so that the Indian of former days, armed only with bow, spear, and knife, fully deserved honor for overcoming so savage and powerful a brute. Since the introduction of fire-arms, the grizzly bear affords a rather easier victory, but, even to one armed with all advantage of rifle and pistols, the fight is sure to be a severe one, for when the bear is once wounded, there is no attempt to escape, but life is pitted against life.
The following thrilling experience of two amateur hunters will show the man-fighting qualities of the grizzly:
The two young men were resting beneath some trees, their guns lying everal feet away. Looking up suddenly one of them saw a huge grizzly bear coming toward them. The bear was so close that they did not have time to seize their guns. Each climbed a small tree, and none too soon, for One of them barely escaped being caught by the leg.
When the bear found that his game had escaped he ran frantically from one tree to another clawing at the trunk, but the trees were too small for him to climb. He occasionally passed from one tree to another, but he never wandered far enough away to give the men an opportunity to descend and reach their guns in safety.
Occasionally the brute clawed and toyed with the guns, as though wondering what they were, but he did not harm them by his manoeuvres.
The night that succeeded this adventure was quite bright and moonlight, so that their colossal enemy was as plainly discernible as at noonday.
The men were becoming thirsty, hungry, tired and cramped. It looked like a regular three days' siege, which could only be a lingering torture to those principally concerned.
Towards midnight the more courageous of the two announced his intention of descending and making the attempt to recover his gun. "You can't do it," said the other; "the fellow is too sharp."
"I have hope that we can outwit him."
"I don't see how; it is no darker now than it was four hours ago, and he is just as wide awake as either pf us."
"But it must be done," replied number one, "we can't afford to sit here and let him starve us to death."
"I think he will probably go away after a while."
"No fear of it; he has set his heart upon us, and there he will stay until we go down and surrender, or until we manage to outwit him."
After some further consultation, it was agreed that the first speaker should stealthily slide down the tree, while his companion endeavored to keep the attention of the enemy drawn toward him.
The former moved as quietly as possible among the limbs, while the other purposely made a rustling of the branches.
The bear was instantly on the alert, and sidled closer to the tree, so as to be ready for the choice morsel when it dropped into his mouth.
As a matter of course, the second man moved tardily, while his friend did his best. When the latter found himself with his arms around the trunk, pressing it with his knees, the moment became one of intense excitement.
But the second hunter shook and rattled the limbs in a manner that must have set the grizzly's heart bounding with expectation; the young man was sure he saw him lick his chops in anticipation of his luscious meal.
A moment later, the feet of the first hunter lightly touched the ground, and he peered cautiously from behind the tree, to make sure that the bear had not discovered him. He was still wistfully looking upward, when the hunter sank softly to the ground and began crawling toward his gun, several yards distant.
At this critical juncture the bear evidently came to the -conclusion that it was time to give a little attention to the other half of his meal, and turning his gaze in that direction, he espied him creeping over the ground.
With a furious growl he made a low plunge after him, and the hunter, finding the crisis had arrived, sprang to his feet and grasped his gun.
When he turned to fire it the bear was upon him, and the flash of his powder was in his very eyes. The wound appeared only to enrage him, for the next instant he had grasped the young man in his arms, with the purpose of tearing him to shreds.
Fortunately, the hunter possessed a hunting knife, which he plunged with all his might into the stomach of his enemy; but, upon drawing it forth and attempting to repeat the process, it slipped from his hand, and he thus found himself entirely unarmed in the clasp of the most formidable brute of the Western wilderness.
The other hunter, seeing the terrible strait in which his companion was placed, dropped lightly to the ground, and caught up his own gun, while the bear, fully occupied with his victim, did not observe the appearance of this second actor upon the scene.
Running hastily forward, the second hunter placed the muzzle of the gun under the upraised fore leg of the animal, and fired, the ball entering his heart.
Another moment's delay and it would have been too late.