Bears are mammals with heavy bodies and relatively short legs, necks, and tails. They have small rounded ears and small eyes, but very keen hearing and eyesight for all that, as well as an excellent sense of smell. Bears have heavy fur coats which they shed each year, and can run quite quickly for their bulk, at least over short distances. Bears are good swimmers, and most species can climb trees with skill and dexterity. Their paws have large non-retractable claws, and, like humans, they have plantigrade feet, which means they walk with their heel and toe on the ground. This, incidentally, is what allows them to stand on their hind legs. Bears are omnivores, and most species depend in large part on vegetable foods for their sustenance - polar bears being an obvious exception to this. Bears are apparently very curious and have some capacity for learning, returning each year to a prized food source or deliberately setting off the trigger mechanism of a trap.
I was rather surprised to learn that there are only eight species of bears in existence today (I thought somehow there'd be more):
- brown bears (the larger members of which are often called grizzlies), the most widespread of all the modern bears
- American black bears, somewhat smaller than brown bears, and restricted, as their name suggests, to North America
- the mighty polar bear, more carnivorous than other bears
- giant pandas, those cuties
- Asiatic black bears, smaller than their American cousins
- spectacled bears or Andean bears, the only bear found in South America
- sloth bears, once erroneously thought to be a type of sloth, and native to South Asia
- sun bears, native to Asia, which do not hibernate in those warm climes
Other bears, not of the family Ursus, but worth honorable mention, include koala bears, teddy bears, and gummi bears; and don't forget Winnie the Pooh, Smokey Bear, Paddington Bear, Rupert Bear, and The straw bear of Whittlesea, stalwart individuals all.
You can find lots of interesting information on all these species of bears at "The Bear Den"