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Elephant Seal vs Polar Bear Who Will Win In A Fight?

elephant seal vs polar bear

Polar bears spend their days hunting seals, with their diet mainly made up of ringed seals, bearded seals, harbour seals, harp seals and hooded seals. So they are capable of preying on a wide variety of seals but would they be able to take down the biggest seal of them all, the elephant seal? In this, we will compare the two animals to see how an elephant seal vs polar bear fight may go down.

Elephant Seal vs Polar Bear: Animal Fact Sheet

elephant seal vs polar bear
Elephant SealPolar Bear
3000 – 4000 kg
5 – 6 m
weight 350 – 700 kg
shoulder height 1.2 – 1.6 m
length 2.4 – 3 m
Speedtop speed on land 3 mph
top speed in the water 10 mph
top speed on land 25 mph
top speed in the water 6 mph
Strengthsmassive size
protection from bites
thick 5 cm skin
blubber 15 cm thick
bite force 1200 psi
5 cm teeth
9.5 cm claws
protection from bites
blubber 10 cm thick
Weaknessesslow movement on landnone
Habitatpacific oceanArctic sea ice
Lifespan13 – 19 years20 – 25 years
great white sharks
no natural predators

Elephant Seal vs Polar Bear: Size

elephant seal vs polar bear

Elephant seals are enormous, with the southern elephant seal being the largest. Bulls can reach weights as high as 3000 – 4000 kg (6614 – 8816 lb). They can be 5 – 6 m (16.4 – 19.6 ft) long and tower above the females being as much as three times as big.

elephant seal vs polar bear

Polar bears are the second largest species of bear after the Kodiak bear. They weigh anywhere between 350 – 700 kg (772 – 1543 lb), have a body length of 2.4 – 3 m (7.9 – 9.8 ft) and have a shoulder height of 1.2 – 1.6 m (3.9 – 5.2 ft).

As you can see on a size comparison, elephant seals are massive and make the polar bear appear like a child’s teddy bear. The polar bear will only have the elephant seal beat when it is standing on its hind legs. They can reach 1.8 – 3 m (6 – 10 ft), whereas the elephant seal can only raise the top half of its body 1.8 m (6 ft) off the ground.

Elephant Seal vs Polar Bear: Speed and Agility

When looking at an elephant seal, it should be immediately apparent they are not built for speed on land. Using their flippers, they belly flop across the beach with their fat body ripply like jelly. On land, they can reach a max speed of 3 mph (4.8 kph). Only when they enter the water, do their body adaptations shine.

They become more graceful creatures when swimming and can move at a top speed of 10 mph (16 kph). This top speed is reserved for catching prey or avoiding predators; otherwise, they swim much slower to conserve energy.

On land, the polar bear easily beats the elephant seal on movement speed, reaching a top speed of 25 mph (40 kph). In the water, the polar bear has a slower swimming speed of 6 mph (9.6 kph) as it is weighed down by its thick fur, which keeps it warm on land but bogs it down in the water.

So the polar bear should launch its attack on land while the elephant seal can easily escape the fight in the water.

Elephant Seal vs Polar Bear: Strengths and Weaknesses

elephant seal vs polar bear

An elephant seal’s two main strengths are its massive size and teeth that are 2.5 cm (1 in) long. Males challenge each other yearly, fighting on the beach, with the winner having the right to mate with the females. The males rise up and slam into each other, stabbing one another with their teeth. The longer the fight goes on, the more likely a severe injury can occur. The biggest male typically wins the battle.

elephant seal vs polar bear
Bull elephant seal with battle scars

They have protection in these fights as they have naturally thick skin, which is 5 cm (2 in) thick. And their 15 cm (6 in) thick blubber that insulates them from the cold adds another layer of protection. The elephant seal’s only weakness is that it is too slow to dodge incoming attacks on land.

elephant seal vs polar bear

The polar bear has the strongest bite force of all the bears, with a bite power of 1200 psi that’s strong enough to crush bone. Their teeth are 5 cm (2 in) long. They use their powerful front forelimbs to hold on to their prey. Their claws are 9.5 cm (3.75 in) thick, curved and sharp, perfect for gripping ice or hooking seals.

Like the elephant seal, the polar bear has a layer of fat to shield it from the cold but is just 10 cm (4 in) thick. The polar bear’s major weakness in this fight is its weight disadvantage over the elephant seal.

Elephant Seal vs Polar Bear Who Will Win In A Fight?

elephant seal vs polar bear

A fight between an elephant seal and a polar bear would end with the polar bear having to admit defeat. The elephant seal is just too big a prey for the polar bear to tackle. A massive male elephant seal weighs as much as five times the weight of the biggest polar bear. The elephant seal could easily slam into the polar bear and flatten it.

Even though the polar bear possesses a powerful bite, it wouldn’t be able to penetrate the elephant’s thick skin and blubber. When the polar bear attacks the elephant seal, the elephant seal will head off towards the water with the polar bear unable to hold it back and would end up being dragged along the beach with it. Once it reaches the water, the polar bear would have no choice but to let the elephant seal swim away.


Do Polar Bears Eat Elephant Seals

Polar bears do not eat elephant seals as they live in different habitats. The polar bear lives in the Arctic Circle where, as the northern elephant seal lives Pacific coast of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Southern elephant seals live in the southern hemisphere.

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