Are Pandas Bears?

Jamie Hayes

Are Pandas Bears?

It seems like an obvious question: Are pandas bears? They are called panda bears after all. But really, it’s anything but a stupid question, because as far as bears go, pandas are rather…weird. And I’m not just talking about their world-famous black and white patterns. Pandas are just about the least bear-like bears on earth.

How Can You Not Love That Panda Face?

Living in the mountainous forests of south-central China, the panda has the same general body shape as other bears, but that’s about where the similarities end. There’s the obvious black and white pattern (believed to act as camouflage in the snowy, sun-dappled forests of its home) to help set it apart, but there’s also a very strange appendage on each of its front paws.

It looks like a thumb, but it’s not. Pandas have one, two, three, four, five…six fingers? Well, not exactly. The sixth “digit” is actually a modified sesamoid bone, but it acts more or less like a thumb—perfect for holding onto a panda’s preferred food: bamboo.

Herbivorous Carnivore

Unlike all the other bears, which are omnivorous and eat both meat and plants, pandas are almost exclusively herbivorous, munching on bamboo day in and day out. Though they have very occasionally been seen eating small animals, the vast majority of a panda’s diet comes from bamboo. That is, in a word, not very bear-like.

Actually, pandas are one of the only members of the order Carnivora, including cats, dogs, bears, etc., that don’t really eat meat. But, as I said off the top, pandas are bears. And, since bears are carnivores, that makes a panda’s bambooivore diet a bit of a problem.


Despite eating so much bamboo, a panda’s digestive system is really, really bad at digesting the stuff. That means they get very little energy or protein from their diet. But don’t worry, pandas have a solution: Since they can’t get quality, they go for quantity.

To make up for bamboo’s lack of nutrition, pandas eat a lot of it. A lot a lot of it. As in, up to 84 pounds a day. Setting up in their recognizable relaxed sitting posture, pandas put those unique “thumbs” to work to grasp and eat bamboo shoots. But even with those handy-dandy sixth digits, they still have to sit and eat for up to 12 hours a day just to get enough nutrition.

And yes, that much eating means a lot of pooping. Up to 40 times a day. (I just knew you were going to ask).

A Panda’s a Panda, Except When It’s Not

Yet, despite their unique look and their bizarre, nigh-inexplicable diet, pandas are still bears. However, in a strange twist of nomenclature, their neighbor, the red panda, isn’t. Red pandas may have similar markings on their face, and people did indeed believe they were small bears for many years, but recent studies have revealed that they aren’t actually closely related to bears.

Rather, red pandas are most closely related to weasels, skunks, and raccoons. The aesthetic similarities between them and regular pandas (often called giant pandas to distinguish the two) are a coincidence. Got that? Pandas are bears…except for the pandas that aren’t.

Red Panda

Sources: 1234

Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
The Truth Always Comes Out: Dark Family Secrets Exposed The Truth Always Comes Out: Dark Family Secrets Exposed
Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress
Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
These People Got Revenge In The Most Ingenious Ways These People Got Revenge In The Most Ingenious Ways
Factinate Featured Logo Featured Article
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team