Who would win: A Silverback Gorilla vs a Grizzly Bear
There are a lot of potentially awesome animal battles out there: Jaguar vs Anaconda; Man vs Wolf; Tiger vs Crocodile. One battle that keeps popping up is a Grizzly vs a Silverback Gorilla, who wins? This topic was even recently featured on Joe Rogan’s Podcast.
I am always amazed at how much debate this question gets because it is not even close. I’d bet heavily that more than 9 times out of 10 the outcome would be the same. But first let’s meet our contenders and settle on the rules.
For most animal vs animal battles, assume an open grass field and assume both animals are healthy and have the full intent of killing another. If it helps you can visualize they are contained in a large cage UFC style. It is a cage small enough to prevent one animal from just running away but large enough so it doesn’t hinder the movements or fighting style of either animal. No weapons or tools of any sort (logs, rocks, etc) are allowed.
Size is a very important factor in fights and it is always a question of how big are the specimens we are talking about? People generally go in one of two directions. Either they pick biggest verifiable specimen on record or they go with the average animal size. I personally tend to go with the former, but the good news is the biggest animal and the average size tend to stay in reasonable proportion to each other.
Here is a quick outline of the stats of each animal
Height: 5’ average, 6’ largest
Weight: 300-400 lbs average, 500 lbs largest (excluding captive obese gorillas)
Main weapon: Bite and Strength
Height: 10’ tall
Weight: 700-800 lbs average, 1500 lbs largest
Main Weapon: Bite, Claws, and Strength
Note: Some readers want to discern between Grizzlies and the Kodiak bear. There isn’t a massive difference between the two, the Kodiak bear is larger. Some Kodiak bears have weighed over 2000 lbs.
Gorillas and Grizzlies actually have very similar fighting styles. They both tend to stand on their hind feet, engage face to face with their enemy, and attempt to maul them. Gorillas will pound with their fists and bite. Grizzlies will swipe with their claws and bite.
Gorilla fight: https://youtu.be/3T0z1CT-nR8
Grizzly fight: https://youtu.be/-6r81UOzIHg
As I said earlier, I don’t think this is a close battle at all. Looking at the size difference alone, a grizzly is often at least twice as heavy and can be three times as heavy as a gorilla. That is a very large difference. That is a 70 lb person fighting a 150-210 lb person, or a 150 lb person fighting a 300-450 lb person.
The gorilla has very little in the way of defense. It doesn’t have extremely thick skin so the bear’s claws and bite will easily rip into the flesh. Its bones are thick but not thick enough to withstand the onslaught of the bear.
Many people talk about how strong gorillas are, and they are very strong – compared to humans. Gorillas can snap down small trees and there is a video of one breaking glass in a zoo or dragging a person along easily. I agree that gorillas are strong. Exactly how strong is quite difficult to measure and strength is always task specific. But they are not strong compared to grizzly bears. Grizzly bears also routinely push over trees, roll over giant stones and move other heavy objects. There are videos of them flipping heavy trash bins. One researcher noted a grizzly flipped over a 700 lb bin many times with ease. Grizzlies have very thick hides, when a large Kodiak bear died it was noted that it had a layer of fat 7 inches thick.
The gorilla only has one attack on a grizzly: a bite. Gorillas do have a fearsome bite and I have no doubt the bite would do some damage, but it would have to kill the grizzly almost immediately. Punching a grizzly, even from a gorilla, would do minimal damage. The neck is too thick to choke or snap. With smaller adversaries a gorilla could pick them up, smash them around, and even rip off a limb with its strength. I don’t see anyway it could do any of those things to a grizzly.
The grizzly could bite while it was getting bitten and it could swipe with its massive claws. Look at the size of the claws, those are essentially daggers that could easily rend the flesh of the gorilla. The gorilla would have a hard time reaching the neck of the grizzly, seeing how much shorter it is (6’ vs 9 or 10’). And I believe a grizzly could easily push over the gorilla if they went chest to chest, given its much greater size.
Let’s use a few other examples that might highlight this outcome more clearly.
Who would win, a leopard vs a grizzly bear? I think most people would agree that a grizzly destroys a leopard. Leopards actually live with gorillas and regularly fight them. They don’t always win, sometimes the leopard wins, sometimes the gorilla wins, sometimes they are found dead next to each other. That is a relatively even match and a leopard is 150 lbs or so. Most people agree that a Grizzly beats any big cat, and a tiger is far tougher than a leopard.
I asked hunters if they had a 9-mm pistol and a grizzly bear was charging them, would they feel confident they could kill it? Most said no, the gun would damage but not kill the bear and it would just anger it. Many said the gun would not even be able to penetrate the skull of the grizzly. If a 9-mm can’t stop a bear, a punch from a gorilla won’t either.
I think most people would agree if you had a 9-mm pistol and a gorilla was charging, you would have a much greater chance of killing the gorilla, again because it doesn’t have any significant defense. It still may not be strong enough to stop a gorilla, but the general point is you need a much stronger gun to kill a grizzly than you do a gorilla.
When in doubt I always like to see if Dungeons and Dragons has already answered any of my questions – because yes D&D rules! They have a reasonably accurate fighting system and a pretty good way of ranking various opponents. Here are D&D’s stats on a gorilla and a brown bear (2nd Edition for you super-nerds out there)
HD: 4+1 (that is about 17 up to 33 hit points)
AC: 6 (how hard it is to hit)
THACO: 17 (how likely it is to hit, lower is better)
Damage: 1-3/1-3/1-6 (punch, punch, bite)
HD: 5+5 (that is 25 up to 45 hit points)
AC: 6 (how hard it is to hit)
THACO: 15 (how likely it is to hit, lower is better)
Damage: 1-6/1-6/1-8 plus a chance for a bear hug
From the above example the grizzly bear is tougher, does noticeably more damage with each attack, can do a great deal of damage with certain attacks, and is more likely to hit their opponent.
Here is a leopard just for giggles
HD: 3+2 (14 up to 26 hit points)
Damage: 1-3/1-3/1-6 with a chance to use its rear claws for a special attack
It is worth noting this is why it is a close battle between gorillas and leopards, just like in real life, since there is about a 50/50 chance either could win with these stats.
Here is one more example. My 7-year-old son, who’s favorite animal is a gorilla, saw I was writing this article. He said “of course a gorilla will win,” at which point I had to inform him, regretfully, no. To help him understand what the difference would be in real life, I used this analogy.
My 7-year-old is 70 lbs (which is big for a 7 year old) and he is quite strong. I am a 200 lb powerlifter, almost three times as heavy as he is. I am about 6’ tall, he is 4 ½ feet tall. And I get to be armed with Wolverine claws on each hand. Who wins in a fight between the two of us? When you look at it like that, you realize that the gorilla just doesn’t stand much of a chance.
A gorilla vs a lioness, that is a good one. A grizzly vs 100 unarmed people? Another classic – read this for some giggles https://forums.t-nation.com/t/one-hundred-people-versus-a-bear/70258. But a gorilla vs a grizzly? Even if they each weighed the same, 500 lbs vs 500 lbs, my money is on the grizzly. And if the grizzly is truly huge as we are assuming in this example? It is not even close.
When it is all said and done there is only one possible result.
You are going to have one dead gorilla.