Asiatic Black Bear cubs, Ursus thibetanus in Khao Yai national park (totan travel – Some rights reserved)

Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus)


Asiatic black bears are found in the forests of Eastern Asia from Afghanistan to Taiwan and Japan, particularly in hilly and mountainous terrain.  Bears hibernate at the northern extent of their range but further south migrate to warmer areas in winter.  Nocturnal when in the vicinity of humans they appear naturally diurnal spending about half their time in trees, often on a platform made from branches and vegetation.  The bear has a reputation of being extremely aggressive towards humans.

Of medium size, Asiatic black bear have long, usually black but sometimes brown, fur and a distinct yellow, cream coloured or white chest patch which is often crescent-shaped.  Hence the alternate name of “moon bear”.  Length is around 120 centimetres to 2 metres with males weighing about 60 to 200 kilograms and females about 40 to 140 kilograms.

The bears are omnivorous although predominately herbivorous.  Except for females with cubs they are solitary.  Mating occurs in June and July with litters of from one to four cubs being born in January and February in a winter den.  Cubs remain with their mother for a year to eighteen months.

Asiatic black bears are classed as vulnerable to extinction with a decreasing population.  Longevity in the wild is unknown but is probably between 20 and 25 years and can be up to 30 years in zoos.


Status:  Classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, except for the subspecies U.thibetanus.gedrosianus (Baluchistan black bear) which is listed as “Critically Endangered”.  All subspecies are listed in Appendix I of CITES.  Generally numbers are decreasing.

Kingdom: Animalia  Phylum: Chordata  Class: Mammalia  Order: Carnivora  Family: Ursidae

Genus: Ursus thibetanus (G. [Baron] Cuvier, 1823)

General decription:  Medium-sized bear, principle colour phase is black with a lighter muzzle and a white or cream crescent-shaped chest patch and white chin.  There is also a rare brown phase of this bear and still rarer are the blonde and mixed blonde and black phases found in Cambodia, Thailand and the Lao PDR (Galbreath et al. 2000).

Size:  At shoulder typically 70 to 100cm.  Length from 120 to 200 cm.

Weight: Males 60 to 200 kg, females 40 to 140 kg.

Life Expectancy: Around 25 years in the wild.  Up to 32 years recorded in captivity.

Also known as: Himalayan black bear, dog bear, moon bear (and see various subspecies names below).

Range:  Once found as far west as France and Germany, the Asiatic black bear is now, as its name suggests, confined to Asia.  They are found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, northeastern China, India, Iran, Japan (on the islands of Honshu and Shikoku), South Korea, North Korea, the Lao PD, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, southeastern Russian Federation, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Distribution of the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) (Chermundy/IUCN/Bear Conservation – Creative Commons Licence). For an up to date and detailed map of the distribution of Ursus thibetanus click here to open the IUCN species page


Click on the links below for more information on each subspecies.

Baluchistan bear (Ursus thibetanus gedrosianus)

Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus)

Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger)

Indochinese black bear (Ursus thibetanus mupinensis)

Japanese black bear (Ursus thibetanus japonicus)

Tibetan black bear (Ursus thibetanus thibetanus)

Ussuri black bear (Ursus thibetanus ussuricus)


Animals Asia works to end the barbaric bear bile trade, which sees over 10,000 bears – mainly U. thibetanus (moon bears) but also Helarctos malayanus (sun bears) and U. arctos (brown bears) – kept on bile farms in China, and around 2,400 in Vietnam.

Page updated 17 February 2022