What is a Sloth Bear? Sloth or Bear?

We at PopSloth spend a lot of time investigating our favorite animals, which is the ostrich. Just kidding, our favorite animal is the sloth. Could you have guessed?

When looking for information on sloths, every now and then we have seen the phrase sloth bear pop up. At first, we thought that people simply called sloths by the name sloth bear in the same way people sometimes call koalas koala bears.

However, we realized there is a specific animal known as a sloth bear.  Here is a picture of one:

Sloth bear illustrated by Frederick Polydore Nodder, 1789

Is it a sloth or a bear?

If you look at the sloth bear you can see that it looks more like a bear than a sloth. So, which is it?

Well, this creature is a member of the Ursidae family, which is the animal family of bears. So, it is a bear. Sloths, on the other hand, are members of the suborder Folivora, which is a totally different type of mammal.

Why is it called a sloth bear then? Well, maybe just a little bit because of the appearance and behavior. The sloth bear is a lot skinnier and a bit more awkward than the typical bear. Otherwise, sloth bears do spend a lot of time in trees, just like sloths, and they are capable of hanging upside down from branches just like sloths:


But in most ways, sloth bears a very different:

How big is a sloth bear?

Sloth bears are much larger than sloths, though they are not as big as most bears, especially bears in North America.  An adult sloth bear can weigh 80 to 140 kilograms (170 to 320 pounds) while females are smaller 55 to 100 kilograms, or 120 to 130 pounds. Of course, they are smaller and cute when they are babies:

A picture of a baby sloth bear cub / Samadkottur / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Where do sloth bears live?

Another major difference between sloth and sloth bears is their habitat. While both animals are at home in tropical forests. The difference is that sloth bears live on the opposite side of the world. While sloths live in the Western Hemisphere, in Latin America, sloth bears live on the Indian Subcontinent, which is the southern part of Asia that includes India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Sloth bear range

Unlike sloth, sloth bears are somewhat social. Oftentimes a male and female will stay together as a pair and the male will even take a special interest in the cubs (sloth daddies don’t have any relationship with their children). Another difference: sloth bears are not slow. They are actually faster than humans.

Are sloth bears dangerous?

Sloth bears are also much more aggressive than sloths. Rather than depending on hiding in a mass of algae covered fur in frees (see: Why Are Sloths So Slow? How Slow Are Sloths?), sloth bears generally stand their ground, and will fight off predators, even tigers!

Of course, this also means that humans and sloth bears can come into conflict. When threatened, sloth bears will lash out at humans.

Given that sloth bears live in one of the most populous countries, India, the number of human attacks is very high. This even results in human fatalities. Each year at least a handful, an average of 6, people lose their lives when attacked by a sloth bear. To contrast that, there has bever been a recorded human death because of a sloth attack (Are Sloths Dangerous to Humans?).

©Getty Images

Despite this apparent aggression by sloth bears, you have to remember that these wild animals view humans as a threat. And guess what? They’re right!

There are only about 20,000 sloth bears left in the wild. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in India has designated the species as endangered. On an international level, the trade of the sloth bear or products derived from it is also banned. The Indian government has also prohibited entertainment uses of the sloth bear. So, the bear is no longer (legally) tamed and placed in circuses or other animal shows.

Besides this, human encroachment into sloth bear habitat is a major threat. The reserves in India that exist for tigers and elephants are the places where sloth bears also thrive. There is a sanctuary specifically for sloth bears, the Daroji Bear Sanctuary in Karnataka.

It’s strange to have written so much about an animal that isn’t a sloth. Maybe time for a dose of slothiness?

Here’s a cute sloth video:

So, we see that the sloth bear is a totally distinct animal from the actual sloth, and well… honestly… not nearly as cute! But if someone ever brings up sloth bears in a conversation, we can feel like true sloth experts by understanding more about these sloth bears.

Sloth Articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore aliqua.

Sloth Videos

Fun Sloth Videos

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore aliqua.

Sloth Shop

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore aliqua.