The Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), also known as the Himalayan red bear or isabelline bear, is a subspecies of the brown bear occurring in the western Himalayas. It is the largest mammal in the region, males reaching up to 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) long, while females are a little smaller. It is omnivorous and hibernates in dens during the winter.

Himalayan brown bear
Himalayan brown bear
CITES Appendix II (CITES)[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
U. a. isabellinus
Trinomial name
Ursus arctos isabellinus
Horsfield, 1826
Himalayan brown bear range



Himalayan brown bears exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males range from 1.5 to 2.2 m (4 ft 11 in to 7 ft 3 in) long, while females are 1.37 to 1.83 m (4 ft 6 in to 6 ft 0 in) long. They are usually sandy or reddish-brown in colour.[2][3]



The Himalayan brown bear occurs in the western Himalayas from northeastern Pakistan through the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to the Himalayas in central Nepal.[4][5] At present, it is unknown whether the Himalayan brown bear is connected to brown bear populations in the Karakoram Mountains and on the Tibetan Plateau.[4]

Phylogenetics and evolution


The Himalayan brown bear consists of a single clade that is the sister group to all other brown bears and the polar bear. The dating of the branching event, estimated at 658,000 years ago, corresponds to the period of a Middle Pleistocene episode of glaciation on the Tibetan plateau, suggesting that during this Nyanyaxungla glaciation, the lineage that gave rise to the Himalayan brown bear became isolated in a distinct refuge, leading to its divergence.[6]

Phylogenetic analysis has shown that the Gobi bear clusters with the Himalayan brown bear and may represent a relict population of this subspecies.[6]

Behaviour and ecology


The bears go into hibernation around October and emerge during April and May. Hibernation usually occurs in a den or cave made by the bear.[7]

Himalayan brown bear with cubs on the trek from Gangotri to Gaumukh in Uttarakhand, India



Himalayan brown bears are omnivores and will eat grasses, roots and other plants as well as insects and small mammals; they also like fruits and berries. They will also prey on large mammals, including sheep and goats. Adults will eat before sunrise and later during the afternoon.[7]

Threats and conservation


The Himalayan brown bear is poached for fur and claws for ornamental purposes and internal organs for use in medicines. It is killed by shepherds to protect their livestock. In Himachal Pradesh, their home is the Kugti and Tundah wildlife sanctuaries and the tribal Chamba region. The tree bearing the state flower of Himachal, buransh, is the favourite habitat of the Himalayan brown bear. Due to the high value of the buransh tree, it is commercially cut causing further destruction to the brown bear's habitat.[8]

Association with the Yeti


"Dzu-Teh", a Nepalese term, has also been associated with the legend of the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, with which it has been sometimes confused or mistaken. During the Daily Mail Abominable Snowman Expedition of 1954, Tom Stobart encountered a "Dzu-Teh". This is recounted by Ralph Izzard, the Daily Mail correspondent on the expedition, in his book The Abominable Snowman Adventure.[9] A 2017 analysis of DNA extracted from a mummified animal purporting to represent a Yeti was shown to have been a Himalayan brown bear.[6]

In media



  1. ^ "CITES Appendices I, II and III" (PDF). CITES. 2023. Retrieved 16 May 2023.
  2. ^ Khan, Niazul (13 November 2020). "Nature travel, wildlife photography and conservation stories from India | Nature inFocus". Archived from the original on 22 August 2023. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  3. ^ Rathore, Bipan Chand (2008). "Ecology of Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) with Special Reference to Assessment of Human-Brown Bear Conflicts in Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary, Himachal Pradesh and Mitigation Strategies" (PDF). Saurashtra University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 August 2023. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  4. ^ a b McLellan, B.N.; Proctor, M.F.; Huber, D.; Michel, S. (2016). "Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) isolated populations (Supplemented material to Ursus arctos Redlisting account)". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
  5. ^ McLellan, B.N.; Proctor, M.F.; Huber, D. & Michel, S. (2017) [amended version of 2017 assessment]. "Ursus arctos". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T41688A121229971. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T41688A121229971.en.
  6. ^ a b c Lan, T.; Gill, S.; Bellemain, E.; Bischof, R.; Zawaz, M.A.; Lindqvist, C. (2017). "Evolutionary history of enigmatic bears in the Tibetan Plateau–Himalaya region and the identity of the yeti". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284 (1868): 20171804. doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.1804. PMC 5740279. PMID 29187630.
  7. ^ a b Singh, Anadya (1 May 2023). "Rocky Road: Change is in the Air for the Himalayan Brown Bear". roundglass | sustain. Archived from the original on 22 August 2023. Retrieved 22 August 2023.
  8. ^ Tehsin, A. (2014). "Missing snowman". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-11-28.
  9. ^ Izzard, R. (1955). The Abominable Snowman Adventure. Hodder and Staoughton.

Further reading

  • "Status and Affinities of the Bears of Northeastern Asia", by Ernst Schwarz Journal of Mammalogy 1940 American Society of Mammalogists.
  • Ogonev, S.I. 1932, "The mammals of eastern Europe and northern Asia", vol. 2, pp. 11–118. Moscow.
  • Pocock R.I, "The Black and Brown Bears of Europe and Asia" Part 1. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society., vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 772–823, figs 1-11. July 15, 1932.
  • Ursus arctos, by Maria Pasitschniak, Published 23 April 1993 by "The American Society of Mammalogists"
  • John A. Jackson, "More than Mountains", Chapter 10 (pp 92) & 11, "Prelude to the Snowman Expedition & The Snowman Expedition", George Harrap & Co, 1954
  • Charles Stonor, "The Sherpa and the Snowman", recounts the 1955 Daily Mail "Abominable Snowman Expedition" by the scientific officer of the expedition, this is a very detailed analysis of not just the "Snowman" but the flora and fauna of the Himalaya and its people. Hollis and Carter, 1955.
  • John A. Jackson, "Adventure Travels in the Himalaya" Chapter 17, "Everest and the Elusive Snowman", 1954 updated material, Indus Publishing Company, 2005.