Is A Sloth A Bear? Hmmmm…..Let’s Look Into This

Sloths are so many things – cute, adorable, gentle, lovable, wonderful…..just to name a few. Bears are so many things, too. There is also an animal known as a sloth bear. So, is a sloth a bear? Is a sloth bear a bear? These are the questions that I am going to attempt to answer in this article.

I will make this attempt by discussing a little bit about sloths, presenting the sloth bear and talking a little bit about it, and then making some comparisons between sloths and sloth bears. When all is said and done, I hope to have answered our questions and maybe even provided some useful and interesting information for you along the way. So, let’s talk sloths and bears…..and sloth bears.


Some Sloth Info

There are so many characteristics and features of sloths (and so much information about them) that I could write about in this article. However, for the purposes of this article’s topic, I will simply provide a summary of some of these characteristics, features, and facts. So, here we go:

  • Sloths are mammals that are found living in the rainforests of Central and South America.
  • Sloths are the slowest-moving mammal on the planet and are one of the slowest-moving animals on the planet, too.
  • There are six species of sloths that currently exist (and a number of extinct ones from the past, too).
  • Sloths spend most of their lives hanging upside down.
  • Various critters can be found living on sloths, including algae.
  • Sloths know how to swim quite well and are able to hold their breath for 40 minutes.
  • In one form of species or another, sloths have been around for at least 35 million years and have adapted and evolved over this period.
  • Sloths do not move slowly because they are lazy. Rather, they move slowly for strategic and survival purposes.
  • Sloths appear to live longer and healthier lives in the wild than they do in captivity.
  • The closest relative to the sloth is the anteater and the second closest relative is the armadillo.
  • Sloths of today weigh somewhere between two and ten kilograms.
  • Sloths of the past could weigh over 2,200 kilograms.
  • The three main predators of sloths are jaguars, ocelots, and harpy eagles. And sadly, we also have humans that fall under this “sloth predators” category, too.
  • In the wild, sloths average less than ten hours of sleep per day.
  • Sloths eat mostly leaves.
  • The six species of sloths share many similarities but also have several differences, too.

More detailed information about these characteristics, features, and facts (and many others) can be found in other articles on this site.


Introducing Bears, Including The Sloth Bear

While taking trips through the mountains, I have had some amazing and memorable opportunities to see black bears and grizzly bears. I am also aware of polar bears (although I’ve never seen one of those in person). As I was doing my research for this article, I learned that there are more than just the three bears that I knew about previously – there are actually eight species, which are the following:

  • Black bear
  • Grizzly bear
  • Polar bear
  • Sun bear
  • Moon bear
  • Spectacled bear
  • Giant panda (yes, this animal is actually classified as a bear)
  • Sloth bear

Elaborating more on sloth bears specifically, here is some additional information regarding them:

  • According to International Association for Bear Research and Management, “Most sloth bears are found in India and Sri Lanka, but they have also been reported from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.”
  • Animal Diversity Web states that “These bears only risk predation from large predators such as tigers and leopards.”


How Slothful Is The Sloth Bear?

With the word “sloth” in a name, one might assume that the name given was done so because of slowness of movement. In the case of sloths, that name is totally appropriate. But what about sloth bears? How and why did they get that name?

According to Cleveland Zoological Society, “The sloth bear got its name from European zoologist, George Shaw, who thought the animal’s long claws and unusual teeth resembled that of a sloth.” As far as speed of movement goes, We Love Bears states that “When at leisure, sloth bears move in a slow, shambling, almost lazy manner. They set their feet down in a noisy, flapping motion when walking. Though, they can gallop and move much faster than humans when necessary and they are excellent climbers from a very young age.”


Comparing Sloths To Sloth Bears

Now, let’s make some comparisons between sloths and sloth bears. Some of the similarities between these two animals are as follows:

  • Sloths and sloth bears are both mammals.
  • Sloths and sloth bears are both able to swim quite well.
  • Sloths and sloth bears both have poor eyesight and difficulty hearing.
  • Sloths and sloth bears both have claws that are curved and long.
  • Sloths and sloth bears both hang from branches.


Sloths And Bears…..And Sloth Bears

So, is a sloth a bear? Despite some similarities between sloths and sloth bears, sloths are not bears (but sloth bears are definitely bears). Sloths are sloths, bears are bears, and sloth bears are bears. Gee, I think I made that more confusing than it needed to be!

In any event (confusing or not), I did manage to answer our questions in this article as I discussed a little bit about sloths, presented the sloth bear and talked a little bit about it, and made some comparisons between sloths and sloth bears.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope that you enjoyed it and learned a thing or two from it. Do you have any bear experiences that you would like to share with me? How about sloth experiences? If so, I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below and I will be sure to reply.

Buttons to share and tweet this article, as well as to follow All About Sloths, can be found below.

If you’d like a sloth-related item for yourself or are thinking about a gift for someone else, check out my Product Reviews and Shop For Sloth Items for some ideas.


  • Stratos K says:

    Obviously I knew about sloths and bears but I had no clue that there are also sloth bears! Literally I had to do a google search to read more about them. And although they do look more like common bears I can see the differences between them. Your article certainly piqued my interest and I will read more about them. Thanks!

    • Michael Christmann says:

      I’m glad that you enjoyed my article.  And yes, I agree with you that sloth bears look very much like common bears but there are indeed differences between them.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article and leave your comments.

  • Daniel Fine says:

    What an amazing site!  While I felt I was somewhat educated in the world I never knew there was so much more to this tree climbing animal.   Since they are endangered, have you ever thought of setting up a fund to support these animals in South America through your site?  Maybe take donations or have a link to the WWF – world wildlife fund?

    • Michael Christmann says:


      Thank you for your kind comments regarding my site – I really appreciate it.

      I love your idea of raising funds for sloths through my site.  Thank you for that suggestion.  I will investigate this further.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ˆ Back To Top