I’ve always been fascinated with animals that are not only cute, but will straight up murder you if given half the chance. I grew up with cats, which arguably also possess those traits (possible future blog topic, stay tuned). The XL versions of cats WILL most certainly kill humans when given half the chance! But since Christmas is just days away, let’s talk about polar bears for a bit!
What’s not to like about polar bears? Whether they’re capering around and drinking Coca-Cola in those animated advertisements, or on display at your local zoo, they are quite the popular, aesthetically-pleasing and lovable beast.
My older brother and I used to split 16.9-ounce glass bottles of Coke when we were kids. Equal sized glasses had to be used, and we made sure we each got our fair share! Here are the Coca-Cola bears…
My husband and I visited the Toledo Zoo last April, and there was a “teenage” polar bear on display with an older bear (presumably its mother), and those two were rough housing like you wouldn’t believe! They were doing complete body slams against the Plexiglass that separated them – from us. Kind of made me wonder after a while how much pressure that Plexiglass could stand!
Fun fact, polar bear fur is not actually white, but transparent. It appears white because it reflects the light. Their skin underneath it all is black. Here are the two rambunctious polar bears from the Toledo Zoo, who put on quite the show for zoo visitors! And OMG that tail! I can’t even!
A polar bear is featured as a supporting character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Father Christmas Letters. These were letters that Tolkien wrote to his children beginning in 1920, while under the guise of “Father Christmas,” which is what some cultures call “Santa Claus.” It’s notable that he wrote these letters to his children seventeen years before The Hobbit was published – and 34 years before The Lord of the Rings trilogy was published! In true Tolkien fashion, he not only included highly descriptive narratives in his letters (not unlike the highly descriptive passages in his future published works), but also included a detailed description of North Pole culture – and even a rune language he created. Since Tolkien was a noted linguist, this should not be a surprise! In these letters, The “North Polar Bear” is depicted as kind of a lovable doofus.
My mom read many of Tolkien’s works to me when I was a kid, but the Father Christmas Letters were a holiday treat! Unfortunately, my mom’s calm, soothing voice would often put me to sleep! Which I’m sure was her goal, lol…Here the polar bear screws up while trying to help out Father Christmas. Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien.
So we’ve established that polar bears are damn cute and have kind of a playful, mischievous personality. But this adorable animal – the largest carnivore on the planet – is also a serious bad-ass! When fully grown, a male polar bear can weigh as much as 12 grown men (about 990 pounds) and when standing upright, is up to 12 feet tall (that’s as tall as an elephant). With their massive neck muscles, they can pull up to twice their body weight, which comes in handy if you’re a polar bear and you’ve just managed to take down a walrus, which can weigh up to 2,200 pounds! If you’re wandering around haplessly in the Arctic, you don’t want to run into a hungry polar bear! But even before the polar bear sees you, he/she will probably be able to sniff you out. Their keen sense of smell can sniff out a seal (one of the polar bear’s favorite foods) up to 20 miles away on the ice – and a breathing hole in a seal den a half mile away. Read more about that here
Polar bear one, walrus zero…
If you think an adult polar bear is cute? And a young polar bear cub is even cuter? Well, you haven’t seen a newborn polar bear! A mother bear typically gives birth to 1-2 cubs, weighing about a pound each. A pound – that’s like the typical weight of a decent package of lunchmeat. While mama polar bear is “denning,” she does not eat, drink, or take a shit. She has shut down her metabolism completely. Did I mention that polar bear bodies were weirdly adaptable to their environment? And after those months of sacrifice and being holed up, she gets to see one of these adorable things, pictured below. Her cubs will live with her for up to two years, while she teaches them the basics of surviving in a snow – and seal-filled – world.
Look at those paws! Can you believe these can grow up to be 12-feet tall when they’re on their hind legs?
Polar bear bodies are weirdly adapted to their Arctic homes. One, if they go long enough without eating, they can slow down their metabolism and live off their blubber reserves. When there aren’t enough delicious, delicious seals wandering around – or vainly attempting to hole up in their snow dens – a polar bear won’t hesitate to take down its own. Sad state of affairs! Unfortunately, their Arctic habitat has become threatened as of late, and sources of food are becoming scarce.
I seriously hope these wonderful, wonderful animals have a chance in the long run! Who wants to live in a world without polar bears?