The orca and polar bear are apex predators at the top of their food chain. The orca, also known as a killer whale, loves living in cold water, and the polar bear also likes living in cold conditions. The two animals may cross paths in the Arctic, so I wonder what would happen if they tried to hunt each other. Orca vs polar bear who will win in a fight? This will be a one-on-one fight to make it fairer for the polar bear.
Orca vs Polar Bear Animal Fact Sheet
|Size||weight over 6 tonnes|
length 6 – 8 m
|weight 350 – 700 kg|
height 1.2 – 1.6 m
length 2.4 – 3 m
|Speed||35 mph||25 mph on land|
6 mph swimming
|Attack||bite force 19,000 psi|
40 – 56 teeth 7.5 cm long
hunting tactics for different animals
|bite force 1,200 psi|
42 teeth 5 cm long
claws 9.5 cm long
|can smell a seal|
from 20 miles away
|Lifespan||30 – 46 years||20 – 25 years|
|Predators||no natural predators||no natural predators|
Orca vs Polar Bear: Size
Male orcas are significantly bigger than females and are the largest member of the dolphin family. They easily weigh over 6 tonnes and are 6 – 8 m (19.5 – 26 ft) long. An enormous killer whale was once recorded to have weighed 9,980 kg (22,000 lb).
The polar bear, like the orca, is the largest member of its family, the bears with the males being considerably bigger than the females.
Males can weigh between 350 – 700 kg (771 – 1,543 lb). Their body length is 2.4 – 3 m (7.9 – 9.8 ft). Have a shoulder height of 1.2 – 1.6 m (4 – 5.2 ft) on all fours but can reach more than 3 m (10 ft) when standing on their hind legs.
The orca has the size advantage.
Orca vs Polar Bear: Speed and Agility
Orcas are the fastest marine mammal, able to swim at 35 mph (56 kph). They only keep this speed up for a short duration when pursuing prey. They can dive to a depth of 1,000 m (3,280 ft) but spend most of their time no deeper than 20 m (65 ft).
Polar bears can sprint at 25 mph (40 kph) but not for long as they can quickly overheat, so stick to a slow walk of 3 mph (5 kph). They are great swimmers and can spend several days swimming between ice sheets. The fastest they can go is 6 mph (9.5 kph). Their body is well insulated to cope with the water’s freezing temperatures.
The orca had the speed advantage in the water.
Orca vs Polar Bear: Attack Power
Orcas live and hunt in family groups called pods containing up to 40 individuals. Orcas are one of the most intelligent animals in the oceans, able to communicate and work together as a team.
They are the apex predators of the oceans with a massive mouth that holds 40 – 56 teeth 7.5 cm (3 in) long. Their bite is deadly, having a bite force of 19,000 psi.
Orcas use different hunting tactics on other animals. When hunting fish, they herd the fish into a tight ball and then strike them with their tails to stun them.
Orcas hunting for seals in the Arctic and Antarctica have learned a way to catch seals that are safe on floating ice sheets. The whole pod swims towards the ice sheet. They cause ripples in the water that rock small ice sheets that knock the seal off.
The polar bear is the strongest out of all the bears, with a bite force of 1,200 psi. They have 42 teeth 5 cm (2 in) long and claws 9.5 cm (3. 75) long. They curve over but are thick and sharp.
A polar bear’s prefered method of hunting seals is by patiently waiting for them to come to the surface to breathe and then striking. They will charge at walrus on land as they are slow.
They have also been seen launching surprise attacks on seals that are on small floating ice sheets. They swim around behind the seal and then jump onto the ice, hoping to catch the seal off guard.
The orca has an attack advantage.
Orca vs Polar Bear: Defence
In a fight, a polar bear will use its teeth and claws to protect itself. They can also stand up on their legs to appear bigger to intimidate their opponent. But the polar bear does not need to worry about being attacked as they are the apex predator of the Arctic.
A lone orca would use its tail to hit and stun its opponent to defend itself. But orcas are rarely alone, so they would have a whole pod to back them up. Also, like the polar bear, they are the apex predator of the oceans, so other animals do not generally threaten them.
The orca has the defence advantage.
Orca vs Polar Bear: Animal Senses
Orcas have excellent eyesight in and out of the water as they can spot a seal floating on an ice sheet. They also have well-developed hearing but no sense of smell.
They also have echolocation, which uses sound waves and echoes to locate objects. They send out a series of clicks that spread throughout the water when hunting. When the sound waves hit an object, the echoes bounce back and feed the killer whale with information.
The polar bear has a greater sense of smell than any dog. They can smell a seal from 20 miles away. A polar bear’s eyesight is similar to ours.
Orca vs Polar Bear What Are the Differences?
The most significant difference between the orca and the polar bear is the size and that the orca is an aquatic marine mammal that lives its entire life in the ocean.
The orca is eight times heavier than the polar and two and half times the length. The polar bear can live on land and survive in the water for an extended period. The orca has flippers and can not stay on land as they will die. So they must be careful not to beach themselves on the shoreline when chasing seals.
Orca vs Polar Bear Who Will Win in a Fight?
As the orca can not walk on land, we must assume the fight occurs in the water or on a floating ice sheet. In which case, the orca would win in an orca vs polar bear fight. The orca beats the polar bear on size, bite force and speed.
The polar bear is only capable of a fast doggy paddle. It can not match the orca on speed and agility in the water. So even a lone orca should have no trouble making an easy meal out of the polar bear.
Suppose a polar bear managed to escape a killer whale in the water and find refuge on a floating sheet of ice. It would not be safe as we know orcas have hunting tactics to flip seals off floating ice. So a polar bear had better hope it is on a big enough sheet of ice the orca can not flip. As this is a one-on-one fight, an alone orca would not be able to break a large ice sheet.
If the polar bear tried hunting the orca by waiting for it to surface for air, it would be wasting its time. There is no way a polar bear would have the strength to pull the orca from the water.
In reality, though, both animals would never hunt each other. Polar bears eat seals and orcas do not eat polar bears.