The cave bear had a burly body, big head, sharp cut snout and small eyes. The bear grew larger during the ice ages as an adaptation to the cold, since a bigger body isolates better against the cold. In the interglacial periods the cave bears got smaller again.

The teeth of the cave bears were typically more worn down than the ones on the modern brown bear, which suggests that they were more herbivorous. The bear got its name because it is often found in caves. The attachment to caves could have been a limiting factor for its distribution.

Classification – Family

DNA from a cave bear that live 42,000-44,000 years ago confirm a close relation with the brown bear. They had a common ancestor, the Etruscan bear, which lived 1,8 million years ago and up until 11,000 years ago.

The cave bear can be traced back to the common ancestor of the bears, Ursus minimus, a small bear at approx 50 kg, which lived 5,3 million years ago in the Southern Europe. Over the next 3,5 million years it evolved in many directions into the bears, we know today.


Scientific name: Ursus spelaeus

Length: 2,1-3,0 m.

Height: Shoulder-height 1,2 m.

Weight: Male 400-500 kg. Female 225-250 kg.

Food source: Mainly vegetarian (berries, grass, scrubs, and herbs), but the cave bears also ate meat, if it was available.

Life expectancy: 20 years.

Distribution: From the Western Europe to Caucasus and Iran, and from the Southern Europe to Great Britain

Status: Became extinct approx. 27,000 years ago. No findings from Denmark.