Asiatic Black Bear

Asiatic Black Bear

Moon bear, White-chested bear, Asian Black bear, Tibetan Black bear, Himalayan Black bear, Asian black bear, Asiatic black bear, Moon bear, White-chested bear

4 languages
Ursus thibetanus
Life Span
25 yrs
Top speed
40 km/h
40-200 kg
70-100 cm
120-190 cm

The Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus ), also known as the Asiatic black bear, moon bear and white-chested bear, is a medium-sized bear species native to Asia that is largely adapted to an arboreal lifestyle. It lives in the Himalayas, southeastern Iran, the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, the Korean Peninsula, China, the Russian Far East, the islands of Honshū and Shikoku in Japan, and Taiwan. It is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and is threatened by deforestation and poaching for its body parts, which are used in traditional medicine.


























Altitudinal Migrant


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The Asiatic black bear is a bear of medium to large size with a large rounded head and small eyes. It has large ears which are farther apart than those of an American black bear. Its body is heavy, and its legs are strong and thick with broad paws. It walks on the soles of its feet, as humans do. It has a short tail that can hardly be seen under its long, coarse coat. Its fur is black with a “V” shape of light beige to white on its chest, a small beige to a white crescent on its throat, and a small white spot on its chin. Its muzzle is white.



Asiatic black bears inhabit a small area from southeastern Iran through to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and across the Himalayan foothills in India to Myanmar. They are also present in all of mainland Southeast Asia except Malaysia and scattered throughout the northeastern and southern part of China. There are also clusters living in North Korea and South Korea, the southern Russian Far East, the Japanese islands of Shikoku and Honshu, and Hainan and Taiwan. Asiatic black bears are found on steep mountains, deciduous forests, mixed forests, thorn brush forests, moist forests, and in areas of thick vegetation. In summer they live at high elevations, descending during winter.

Asiatic Black Bear habitat map
Asiatic Black Bear habitat map
Asiatic Black Bear
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Habits and Lifestyle

In general, Asiatic black bears feed at night, sleeping in a cave or a hole in a tree during the day, but they do sometimes go out during the daytime to feed. In autumn, they increase their nocturnal activity. Asiatic black bears are solitary but may live in family groups consisting of two adults and two successive litters of young. Asiatic black bears are good climbers of rocks and trees and will climb to feed, rest, sun, elude enemies and hibernate. Half of their life is spent in trees and they are one of the largest arboreal mammals. Asiatic black bears do not hibernate over most of their range. They may hibernate in their colder, northern ranges, though some bears will simply move to lower elevations. Nearly all pregnant females hibernate. Asiatic black bears prepare their dens for hibernation in mid-October and will sleep from November until March. Their dens can either be dug-out hollow trees (60 feet above ground), caves or holes in the ground, hollow logs, or steep, mountainous, and sunny slopes. They may also den in abandoned brown bear dens. Asiatic black bears communicate using a wide range of vocalizations, including grunts, whines, roars, slurping sounds, and "an appalling row" when wounded, alarmed, or angry. They emit loud hisses when issuing warnings or threats, and scream when fighting. When approaching other bears, they produce "tut tut" sounds, thought to be produced by bears snapping their tongue against the roof of their mouth. When courting, they emit clucking sounds. Asiatic black bears usually avoid humans and will only attack if they are wounded or are protecting their young.

Diet and Nutrition

Asiatic black bears are omnivores and mainly eat fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, honey, grasses, invertebrates, fish, birds, rodents, other small mammals, as well as carrion.

Mating Habits

June-July, January-February
6-8 months
2 cubs
2-3 years

Asiatic black bears are polygynandrous, with two or more males mating with two or more female bears. A social hierarchy based on the age and body weight of the males means that only larger males are able to mate with the females. This occurs between June to July as well as January and February. Gestation is for 6 to 8 months and usually, 2 cubs are born (but the number can be 1 to 4) in a safe, warm winter den between March and April. They are born blind and helpless, depending totally on their mother. Cubs are weaned at 6 months old when they start to eat solid foods only but often stay with their mother until 2-3 years of age. Young bears are able to breed from 3-4 years of age.


Population threats

The main threat to this species is illegal hunting for body parts, in particular, the gall bladder, skin, and paws. Asiatic black bears also suffer from habitat loss due to logging, the development of human settlements, and the building of roads.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Asiatic black bear total population size. According to the IUCN Red List specific populations of this species have been estimated in such areas: China: around 28,000 individuals; Japan: 12,000-19,000 individuals; India: 5,000-7,000 individuals; Russia: 5,000-7,000 individuals; Iran: around 100-200 individuals; South Korea: around 40 individuals. Overall, currently, Asiatic black bears are classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Asian black bears break branches and twigs to place under themselves when feeding on trees, thus causing many trees in their home ranges to have nest-like structures on their tops.
  • Asiatic black bears seem to intimidate Himalayan brown bears in direct encounters. They eat the fruit dropped by Asian black bears from trees, as they themselves are too large and cumbersome to climb.
  • In Japanese culture, the Asiatic black bear is traditionally associated with the mountain spirit (yama no kami) and is characterized variously as "mountain man" (yamaotoko), "mountain uncle" (yama no ossan), "mountain father" (yama no oyaji), a loving mother, and a child. Being a largely solitary creature, the Asiatic black bear is also viewed as "lonely person" (sabishigariya).


1. Asiatic Black Bear Wikipedia article -
2. Asiatic Black Bear on The IUCN Red List site -

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