Cave Bear Vs Cave Lion : Who Would Win ?
In the late Pleistocene, about 500,000 to 10,000 years ago, the caves of Western Europe were dangerous places to cave. Many of these dark, damp dwellings were occupied by cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) and were sometimes raided by hungry cave lions (Panthera leo spelaea) in search of food. The question is, who would win a fight between a pack of hungry cave lions and a den of sleepy, irritated cave bears?
Ursus Spelaeus, the Cave Bear.
Despite its importance in historical fiction the Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus) did not share its territory with the first humans of late Pleistocene Europe, although it may have been revered by them from afar. Paleontologists have collected literally thousands of Ursus spelaeus fossils in caves across Europe, some of which died of old age, starvation, or disease, and others were targeted by predators, with the Cave Lion being the prime suspect.
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Advantages of the Bear in Combat :
When raised on its hind legs, the Cave Bear was truly terrifying. The males of the species were about 3 meters tall and weighed half a ton (the females were much smaller, “only” about 2 meters tall and weighed 300 kilos). The fact that Ursus spelaeus was equipped with massive, heavy, sharp paws, one well-aimed blow of which could render a cave lion instantly extinct ⚔️, or that this wildlife mammal led a reasonably social existence, with many individuals of varying ages occupying the same cave, didn’t hurt either.
Disadvantages of the Bear in Combat :
The landscape of late Pleistocene Europe was dark, cold and bitter, especially in the dead of winter. Like modern bears, Ursus spelaeus had no choice but to hibernate for months at a time, fattening up on his favorite foods (mostly plants, despite what you’ve seen in the movies) and huddling deep in his cave until spring. The problem is that a hibernating cave bear den would have been virtually defenseless against wandering predators; it’s not like a wide-awake sentry was constantly patrolling the cave entrance.
Panthera Leo Spelaea, the Cave Lion.
Ironically, the Cave Lion (Panthera leo spelaea) got its name from the Cave Bear. This big cat didn’t actually live in caves; rather, its nickname comes from the fact that Panthera leo spelaea fossils have been found mixed in with the remains of the Cave Bear 🦁. How did the strange cave lion end up in the middle of an Ursus spelaeus den? You’ve probably already found the answer, but feel free to skip a few paragraphs if you haven’t!
Advantages of the Lion in Combat :
Although only slightly larger than the largest modern lion species – measuring up to 2.5 meters long from head to tail and weighing up to 300 kg – the cave lion was more powerful, with well-muscled legs and a thick neck. We also have direct evidence from contemporary cave paintings that Panthera leo spelaea hunted in packs, which could have terrorized animals as large as a woolly mammoth. The cave lion would also have been hardened by the frigid conditions of Pleistocene Eurasia, unlike its modern cousins, the big cats, which live in more temperate climates.
Disadvantages of the Lion in combat :
As large and heavy as it was, the Cave Lion was not particularly fast; for this reason, it was probably an ambush predator, surprising its prey rather than actively pursuing it (in this respect, it was extremely similar to the contemporary Smilodon, aka the saber-toothed tiger). Panthera leo spelaea‘s biggest weakness, however, was the same as that of modern lions, pumas, and cheetahs: this big cat failed to take down its prey far more often than it did, and a series of unsuccessful hunts could bring it to the brink of starvation 🍴.
Fight Between the Cave Lion and the Cave Bear.
Let’s imagine that winter is over and a troop of hungry cave lions is roaming the dark landscapes of northern Europe in search of food. Under normal circumstances, Panthera leo spelaea would stay away from caves populated by Ursus spelaeus, but with the survival of the pack at stake, the Cave Lions decide to take the risk. They enter the cave as stealthily as possible, one at a time, spotting the dark, huddled forms of hibernating cave bears lining the walls 🐻. Soon, they determine their target: a small female (only about 150 kilos) slightly separated from the other den occupants. One of the cave lions leaps up and bites the sleeping female on the neck; unfortunately, his instinctive growl wakes up a male cave bear sleeping a few feet away. First grumpy, then increasingly determined, the alpha bear struggles to his feet; this unusual movement awakens the other bears in the cave, whose snouts twitch ominously.
And the winner is…
Who can pick individual winners and losers in the midst of such a bloodbath? Realizing they’ve made a huge mistake, the marauding cave lions attempt to drag the dead female cave bear through the snow.
Their path is blocked, however, by two very large male Ursus spelaeus, who are literally blocking the dim sunlight with their imposing torsos ⚡️. One of the males hits a cave lion in the head with his massive forepaw, rendering the intruder unconscious, while the other tries to lift a second Panthera leo spelaea and give him the mother of all bear hugs – but he is snatched up by a third Cave Lion who leaps onto his back, causing the entire snarling, snarling mass of bears and lions to fall to the ground in a big heap.
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The end result :
Two dead cave bears, two dead cave lions, and one lucky Panthera leo spelaea who manages to crawl away from the scene of the battle, dragging the severed but nourishing leg of one of his shaggy opponents… 👀