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BEAR

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Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 575 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BEAR, properly the name of the European brown bear (Ursus arctus), but extended to include all the members of the Ursidae, the typical family of Arctoid carnivora, distinguished by theit massive bodies, short limbs, and almost rudimentary tails, With the single exception of the Indian sloth-bear, all the species have forty-two teeth, of which the incisors and canines closely resemble those of purely carnivorous mammals; while the molars, and especially the one known as the " sectorial " or carnassial," have their surfaces tuberculated so as to adapt them for grinding vegetable substances. As might have been supposed from their dentition, the bears are omnivorous; but most prefer vegetable food, including honey, when a sufficient 574 supply of this can be had. The grizzly bear, however, is chiefly carnivorous; while the polar bear is almost wholly so. Bears are five-toed, and provided with formidable claws, which are not retractile, and thus better fitted for digging and climbing than for tearing. Most climb trees in a slow, lumbering fashion, and, in descending, always come hind-quarters first. The grizzly bear is said to lose this power of climbing in the adult stage. In northern countries bears retire during the winter into caves and the hollows of trees, or allow the falling snow to cover them, and there remain dormant till the advent of spring, about which time the female usually produces her young. These are born naked and blind, and it is commonly five weeks before they see, or become covered with hair. Before hibernating the adults grow very fat, and it is by the gradual consumption of this fat—known in commerce as bear's grease—that such vital action as is necessary to the continuance of life is sustained. The bear family is widely distributed, being found in every quarter of the globe except Australia, and in all climates, from the highest northern latitudes yet reached by man to the warm regions of India and Malaya. In the north-west corner of Africa the single representative of the family found on that continent occurs. The polar or white bear (Ursus maritimus), common to the Arctic regions of both hemispheres, is distinguished from the other species by having the soles of the feet covered with close-set hairs, in adaptation to the wants of the creature, the bear being thereby enabled to walk securely on slippery ice. In the whiteness of its fur also, it shows such an assimilation in colour to that of surrounding nature as must be of considerable service in concealing it from its prey. The food of the white bear consists chiefly of seals and fish, in pursuit of which it shows great power of swimming and diving, and a considerable degree of sagacity; but its food also includes the carcases of whales, birds and their eggs, and grass and berries when these can he had. That it can sustain life on a purely vegetable diet is proved by instances on record of its being fed for years on bread only, in confinement. These bears are strong swimmers, Sir Edward Sabine having found one " swimming powerfully 40 M. from the nearest shore, and with no ice in sight to afford it rest." They are often carried on floating ice to great distances, and to more southern latitudes than their own, no fewer than twelve Polar bears having been known to reach Iceland in this way during one winter. The female always hibernates, but the male may be seen abroad at all seasons. In bulk the white bear exceeds most other members of the family, measuring nearly 9 ft. in length, and often weighing 1600 lb. Land bears have the soles of the feet destitute of hair, and their fur more or less shaggy. On these the brown bear (Ursus arctus,—aprcros of Aristotle) is found in one or other of its varieties all over the temperate and north temperate regions of the eastern hemisphere, from Spain to Japan. The fur is usually brownish, but there are black, blackish-grey and yellowish varieties. It is a solitary animal, frequenting the wooded parts of the regions it inhabits, and living on a mixed diet of fruits, vegetable, honey, fish and the smaller animals. In winter it hibernates, concealing itself in some hollow or cavern. It does not seek to attack man; but when baited, or in defence of its young, shows great courage and strength, rising on its hind legs and endeavouring to grasp its antagonist in an embrace. Bear-baiting, till within comparatively recent times, was a favourite sport throughout Europe, but, along with cock-fighting and badger-baiting, has gradually disappeared before a more humane civilization. It was a favourite pastime among the Romans, who imported their bears from Britain, a proof that the animal was then comparatively abundant in that country; indeed, from reference made to it in early Scottish history, the bear does not appear to have been extirpated in Britain before the end of the 1th century. It is now found in greatest abundance in Norway, Russia and Siberia, where hunting the bear is a favourite sport, and where, when dead, its remains are highly valued. Among the Kamchadales " the skin of the bear," says a traveller," forms their beds and their coverlets, bonnets for their heads, gloves for their hands and collars for their dogs. The flesh and fat are their dainties. Of the intestines they make masks or covers for their faces, to protect them from the glare of the sun in the spring, and use them as a substitute for glass, by extending them over their windows. Even the shoulder-blades are said to be put in requisition for cutting grass." In confinement the brown bear is readily tamed; and advantage has been taken of the facility with which it can sustain itself on the hind feet to teach it to dance to the sound of music. It measures 4 ft. in length, and is about 21 ft. high. Of this species Crowther's bear from the Atlas Mountains, the Syrian bear (Ursus arctus pyriacus) and the snow or isabelline bear (Ursus arctus isabellinus) of the Himalaya are local races, or at most subspecies.' American naturalists regard the big brown bears of Alaska as a distinct group. They range from Sitka to the extremity of the Alaskan Peninsula, over Kodiak Island, and inland. Their distinctive external features are their large size, light-brown colour, high shoulders, massive heads of great breadth and shaggy coat. The grizzly bear (Ursus arctus horribilis, formerly known as U. ferox) is regarded by some naturalists as a distinct species and by others as a variety of the brown bear, to which it is closely allied. It was said to exceed all other American mammals in ferocity of disposition and muscular strength. Stories were told of its attacking the bison, and it has been reported to carry off the carcase of a wapiti, weighing nearly moo lb, for a considerable distance to its den, there to devour it at leisure. It also eats fruit and vegetables. Its fur is usually of a yellowish-brown colour, coarse and grizzled, and of little value commercially, while its flesh, unlike that of other bears, is uneatable even by the Indians. The grizzly bear is now rare in the United States, save in the Yellowstone Park and the Clearwater Mountains of Idaho, though more common in British Columbia. Several geographical races are recognized. The Tibet bear (U. pruinosus) is a light-coloured small species. The American black bear ( Ursus americauus) occurs throughout the wooded parts of the North American continent, whence it is being gradually driven to make room for man. It is similar in size to the brown bear, but its fur is of a soft even texture, and of a shining black colour, to which it owes its commercial value. At the beginning of the 19th century black bears were killed in enormous numbers for their furs, which at that time were highly valued. In 1803 the skins imported into England numbered 25,000, but the imports have since decreased to one-half of that number. They are chiefly used for military accoutrements. This is a timid animal, feeding almost solely on fruits, and lying dormant during winter, at which period it is most frequently killed. It is an object of superstitious reverence to the Indians, who never kill it without apologizing and deploring the necessity which impels them to do so. The Himalayan black bear (U. torquatus) is found in the forest regions ranging from the Persian frontier eastward to Assam. The average length is about 5 ft.; there is no under-fur, and the coat is smooth, black in colour, with the exception of a white horseshoe-mark on the chest. It feeds chiefly on fruit and roots, but kills sheep, goats, deer, ponies and cattle, and sometimes devours carrion. The small bruang or Malayan bear ( Ursus malayanus) is of a jet-black colour, with a white semilunar mark on the chest, and attains a length of 41 ft. Its food consists almost solely of vegetables and honey, but the latter is its favourite food,—the extreme length and pliability of the tongue enabling it to scoop out the honeycombs from the hollows of trees. It is found in the Malay Peninsula and Islands, and is readily tamed. Not much larger than the Malay bear is the South American spectacled bear of the Andes (U. ornatus), distinguished from all the rest by the presence of a perforation in the lower end of the humerus, and hence sometimes separated as Tremarctus. It is black, with tawny rings round the eyes, and white cheeks, throat and chest. A second race or species exists. The sloth-bear (Melursus labiatus or ursinus) is distinguished 1 Lydekker, in Proc. Tool. Soc., 1897, p. 412. by the absence of one pair of upper incisors, the small size of the cheek-teeth and the very extensile character of the lips. It is also known as the aswail and the honey-bear, the last name being also given to the Malay bear and the kinkajou. It is about the size of the brown bear, is covered with long, black hair, and of extremely uncouth aspect. It inhabits the mountainous regions of India, is readily tamed and is the bear usually exhibited by the Hindu jugglers. The food consists of fruits, honey and white ants. Fossil remains of extinct bears first occur in strata of the Pliocene age. Those of the great cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), found abundantly in certain caverns of central-Europe and Asia, show that it must have exceeded in size the polar bear of the present day. Its remains are also found in similar situations in Britain associated with those of an allied species (Ursus priscus). BEAR-BAITING and BULL-BAITING, sports formerly very popular in England but now suppressed on account of their cruelty. They took place in arenas built in the form of theatres which were the common resort even of cultivated people. In the bear-gardens, which are known to have existed since the time of Henry II., the bear was chained to a stake by one hind leg or by the neck and worried by dogs. Erasmus, writing (about 1500) from the house of Sir Thomas More, spoke of " many herds of bears maintained in the country for the purpose of baiting." Sunday was the favourite day for these sports. Hentzner, writing in 1598, describes the bear-garden at Bankside as " another place, built in the form of a theatre, which serves for the baiting of Bulls and Bears. They are fastened behind, and then worried by great English bull-dogs, but not without great risk to the dogs from the horns of the one and the teeth of the other, and it sometimes happens they are killed upon the spot; fresh ones are immediately supplied in the places of those that are wounded or tired." He also describes the whipping of a blinded bear, a favourite variation of bear-baiting. For a famous baiting which took place before Queen Elizabeth in 1575 thirteen bears were provided. Of it Robert Laneham (fi.1575) wrote, " it was a sport very pleasant to see, to see the bear, with his pink eyes, tearing after his enemies' approach; the nimbleness and wait of the dog to take his advantage and the force and experience of the bear again to avoid his assaults: if he were bitten in one place how he would pinch in another to get free; that if he were taken once, then by what shift with biting, with clawing, with roaring, with tossing and tumbling he would work and wind himself from them; and when he was loose to shake his ears twice or thrice with the blood and the slaver hanging about his physiognomy." The famous " Paris Garden " in Southwark was the chief bear-garden in London. A Spanish nobleman of the time, who was taken to see a pony baited that had an ape tied to its back, expressed himself to the effect that " to see the animal kicking amongst the dogs, with the screaming of the ape, beholding the curs hanging from the ears and neck of the pony, is very laughable." Butler describes a bear-baiting at length in the first canto of his Hudibras. The Puritans endeavoured to put an end to animal-baiting, although Macaulay sarcastically suggested that this was " not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." The efforts of the Puritans seem, however, to have had little effect, for we find the sport flourishing at the Restoration; but the conscience of cultivated people seems to have been touched, for Evelyn wrote in his Diary, under the date of June 16th, 1670: " I went with some friends to the bear-garden, where was cock-fighting, dog-fighting, bear and bull baiting, it being a famous day for all these butcherly sports, or rather barbarous cruelties. The bulls did exceedingly well, but the Irish wolf-dog exceeded, which was a tall greyhound, a stately creature indeed, who beat a cruel mastiff. One of the bulls tossed a dog full into a lady's lap, as she sat in one of the boxes at a considerable height from the arena. Two poor dogs were killed, and so all ended with the ape on horseback, and I most heartily weary of the rude and dirty pastime, which I had not seen, I think, in twenty years before." Steele also attacked these cruel sports in the Taller. Nevertheless, when the tsar Nicholas I. visited England as cesarevich, he was taken to see a prize-fight and a bull-baiting. In this latter form of the sport the bull's nose was usually blown full of. pepper to render him the more furious. The bull was often allowed a hole in the ground, into which to thrust his nose and lips, his most vulnerable parts. Sometimes the bull was tethered, and dogs, trained for the purpose, set upon him one by one,, a successful attack resulting in the dog fastening his teeth firmly in the bull's snout. This was called "pinning the bull." A sport called bull-running vas popular in several towns of England, particularly at Tutbury and Stamford. Its establishment at Tutbury was due to John of Gaunt, to whose minstrels, on the occasion of their annual festival on August 16th the prior of Tutbury, for his tenure, delivered a bull, which had his horns sawn off, his ears and tail cut off, his nostrils filled with pepper and his whole body smeared with soap. The minstrels gave chase to the bull, which became the property of any minstrel of the county of Stafford who succeeded in holding him long enough to cut off a lock of his hair. Otherwise he was returned to the prior. At the dissolution of the monasteries this tenure devolved upon the dukes of Devon-shire, who suppressed it in 1788. At Stamford the running took place annually on November 13th, the bull being provided by the butchers of the town, the townspeople taking part in the chase, which was carried on until both people and beast were exhausted, and ended in the killing of the bull. Certain rules were strictly observed, such as the prohibition of carrying sticks or staves that were shod with iron. The Stamford bull-running survived well into the 19th century. Bear-baiting and bull-baiting were prohibited by act of parliament in 1835.
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