Atlas Bears

Atlas bears, also known as the African bear (Ursus arctos crowtheri) is an extinct species of bear that was native to Africa.

Artist’s impression of an Atlas bear


The bear gets its name because it mainly lived in the Atlas Mountain and areas surrounding Morroco, Libya, and Algeria. However, fossils of the bear have been found in caves throughout North Africa. The Atlas bear lived in mountains and forested terrain.


Atlas bears had brownish-black fur and a black muzzle. The fur on the chest and stomach area was an orange-red color. The length of its fur was 4-5 inches long.

It is also believed that these bears were stouter and thicker than American black bears and they had shorter claws and muzzles. Atlas bears were described as being about 9 feet long and weighed up to 1000 pounds.


Atlas bears ate mostly roots, nuts, and acorns. It is believed to have been an omnivorous mammal given the fact that most modern bears are.


Atlas bears became extinct after the Roman Empire invaded North Africa. The bears were hunted for sport and most were killed. Bears were also used as executioners. Bears also were used in the arenas to fight against gladiators, lions, tigers and other animals.

Interesting Facts About Atlas Bears

  • The Atlas Bear was classified as subspecies Ursus arctos crowtheri by Swiss naturalist Heinrich Rudolf Schinz in 1844.
  • Atlas bears are the only species of bears that were endemic to Africa.
  • The Atlas Bear is believed to have become extinct in the 1870s.
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