10 Famous Bears

Bears are icons of wilderness. Even if you don’t love them, you don’t dislike them. We celebrate them as mascots,

Bears are icons of wilderness. Even if you don’t love them, you don’t dislike them. We celebrate them as mascots, stuffed animals, cartoon characters, and Muppets. If you’re lucky, you’ve seen one in the wild, from a distance. Here’s our breakdown of famous bears we might hang out with.

1. Bart the Bear
Who: 9’6″ tall, 1,500-pound Alaskan Kodiak bear who appeared in Hollywood films, co-starring with John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Steven Seagal, Annette Bening, Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Brad Pitt and others. Earned critical praise in several movies, including 1997’s The Edge, in which one critic said he gave “the most realistic performance” in the movie (which starred Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins). Another critic called Bart “the John Wayne of bear actors,” whatever that means.

Would be a good hiking partner because: Celebrity cool, he hung with John Candy!, known to get along with most humans.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Kills Brad Pitt’s character at the end of Legends of the Fall. Also, deceased.

2. Smokey Bear
Who: Head Spokesbear of U.S. Forest service to educate public about forest fires. Original “Smokey” was a bear cub caught in a New Mexico wildfire in 1950, rescued by soldiers but had burns on his paws and hind legs. Nursed back to health, lived at the National Zoo for 26 years, and at one point received up to 13,000 fan letters per week.

Would be a good hiking partner because: Celebrity cool. Knows his way around the backcountry.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: A little stern with the warnings, what with all that pointing, and armed with a shovel. Likely to be more focused on job of Spokesbear than chilling. Also, a bit of a pill around campfires.

3. Fozzie
Who: Muppet, stand-up-comedian, teller of bad jokes, i.e., when asked why he didn’t wear shoes, said, “Why should I? I’d still have bear feet.”

Would be a good hiking partner because: “Wocka Wocka!” Good-naturedly endures endless heckling by Statler and Waldorf.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Only tolerable in short doses. Not a good partner for long hikes, jokes get a little tiresome.

4. Yogi Bear
Mischievous, smarter-than-the-average and always entertaining inhabitant of Jellystone National Park since 1958. Despite warnings from sidekick Boo Boo, Yogi was a continual thorn in the side of Ranger Smith, avoiding hibernation, trying to make money, and otherwise making himself Jellystone’s scheming – but most lovable – bear.
Would be a good hiking partner because: Always respectfully addressed Ranger Smith. Regardless of mission, hilarity ensues.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Less-than-exemplary behavior (stealing pic-a-nic baskets, etc.) may have been a bad influence on other, real-life bears. Not a good backpacking partner – likely to steal your food. Also, can’t Boo Boo stay home for once?

5. Baloo
Who: The bear from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, made into fun-loving and adorable animated bear in Disney’s 1967 movie of the same name. Hailed as the most popular character in the movie by many fans and critics.

Would be a good hiking partner because: Easy-going, gentleman, minimalist. Believes in living off the land and not working too hard. See performance of song “The Bare Necessities.”

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Easygoing to the point of being flaky. Likely to bail on hiking or climbing plans. Obsessed with Widespread Panic and rambles on about being at the first Burning Man.

6. Winnie the Pooh
Who: Friendly, philosophizing bear created by A. A. Milne in 1926 book Winnie-the-Pooh. Made famous worldwide as a Disney character wearing just a red shirt. Persona utilized by Benjamin Hoff to explain Taoism in the book The Tao of Pooh.

Would be a good hiking partner because: This quote: “As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.” Always looking to go on “expotitions.”

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Diet is mostly honey, which is hard to come by in mountainous regions. A bit fixated with it, actually. Also has tendency to get stuck in small places, so slot canyons are off-limits.

7. 1985 Chicago Bears
Who: Jim McMahon, Walter Payton, William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Routed opponents through the playoffs after a 15-1 season, won Super Bowl by then-record 36 points. Charmed millions of fans.

Would be a good hiking partner because: Strong, fit. If you can win the Super Bowl, you can carry a heavy pack without whining. Also known for not being here to start no trouble; just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Entire 45-player roster causes logistics issues, impact issues in backcountry – food, finding campsites, leave-no-trace practices, etc.

8. Bear Grylls
Who: Everest summiter, author, star of TV’s Man vs. Wild series. You know who he is.

Would be a good hiking partner because: Fit, well-rounded outdoorsman, allegedly can survive any wilderness situation.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Rumored to embellish certain scenarios (tough to stay core when four-star accommodations are waiting), known to eat elephant dung. Accompanying camera crew and all its gear could detract from the solitude of a true wilderness experience.

9. Boulder’s “Falling Bear”
Who: A black bear who wandered onto the University of Colorado campus and climbed a tree near a campus dorm, was tranquilized, then immortalized in a photo as he fell out of the tree onto a crash pad below.

Would be a good hiking partner because: Had celebrity potential. Had his own Facebook page, vaulted to worldwide fame almost instantly.

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Unfortunately dead. Died last week after being hit by a car on U.S. 36 near Boulder.

10. Knut
Who: Probably the most famous adorable bear in the past 30 years, Knut’s mother rejected him at birth at the Berlin Zoological Garden, and he was raised through his entire excessively cute childhood by zookeepers and photographed to the delight of millions. He was the first Berlin Zoo polar bear cub to survive past infancy in more than 30 years.

Would be a good hiking partner because: International celebrity; also, how could you get mad at something that cute?

Would not be a good hiking partner because: Grew into a full-grown, not-as-cute polar bear; cannot survive warm climates, family members known to kill people. Also, deceased. Tragically died at the age of four.


Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
Showing 21 comments
  • Kelly Stewart

    Our Nashville Hiking Meetup’s (http://www.nashvillehiking.com) mascot is a bear and we’ve been waiting for a review of famous bears as assets and liabilities on hikes. Thank you for providing such a valuable service to our membership. 🙂

  • D

    How do you leave the Cubs off this list?

    • steve casimiro

      Good question. Mr. Leonard, how did we leave the Cubbies off the list?

      • Scott Thacker

        The mascot of the cub’s is officially named bart the bear too…its really a soft tap to the gonads that he wasnt included

  • Charity Bowhay

    Great list- I was rather hoping to see Little John from Disney’s animated Robin Hood. I think he would be fantastic! He wouldn’t even cause a stir, because he dresses up like a human as not to attract attention- granted his wardrobe choice was a voluptuous fortune teller.

  • Teresa

    I cannot imagine a more ideal person to write this post. Brendan Leonard is one of the most erudite bear connoisseurs I’ve ever known. Bear!

  • brendan leonard

    I grew up in the Midwest, and am the son of a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. I had my photo taken with Ozzie Smith when I was 11 years old. That’s how I left the Cubs off the list. No offense to any Cubs fans.

  • Brandt Hardin

    The lovable huggable Pooh Bear has developed a carnal appetite for flesh after he took a step on the Zombie Walk of Fame! See him eat until he bursts at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/03/zombie-winnie-pooh.html

  • Laura

    Brendan- Nice answer! I also met Ozzie on the Cardinals Caravan tour and ditched my Chicago roots to be a redbirds fan- I was 7 and Ozzie said I had pretty hair 🙂 It’s as good a reason as any to leave the Cubs off the list.
    Besides, you really wouldn’t want to take the Cubs for a hike in the mountains… I hear they have a problem with goats 🙂
    Love the list- made me giggle.

  • Tim

    For all his role as spokesbear (all the pointing and stuff), Smokey is the most taciturn bear out there (unlike Yogi, for example) – you wouldn’t have to worry about long silences on a long road trip. And you’d never have to worry if you left you fire dead out.

  • steven threndyle

    Jasper the Bear was a cartoon character who appeared regularly in a Canadian magazine known as Macleans (sort of a cross between Time and the New Yorker) – and became the official mascot of Jasper National Park in Alberta… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Simpkins

  • Bert

    I’m really wondering how you gain 8500 ft of elevation in New Hampshire (10 best day hikes) when the highest point in NH is 6288 ft. Email me your answer if you have one.

  • Skunkabilly

    I would respectfully ask that Wojtek of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the Polish II Corps be added to this list: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/voytek.html

  • Johnny

    What about the Care Bears? They’re more famous than many of the bears on your list.

  • Lesley

    Love this post — thanks!! 🙂

  • Reply

    I will not belive,that !I am not in the top 10 ? Who makes these list up ?

  • najlepsza

    Care Bears should be listed here indeed!

  • Mike

    I think the most shocking omission is Paddington bear! Surely he is the most famous bear?? Also Sooty

    • Mayan Fox

      Paddington would wipe the floor with Winnie! I love Paddington! But this is an American article and their view is limited.

  • Cathy

    Do you have Jasper the bear?

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