The largest bear in the Universe!

Bear in the snow
Evolution may have swayed the rabbits, rodents, and deer of the world to live a crepuscular twilight life to avoid the threat of day and night predators, but some predators also evolved to follow suit - whether it be to avoid the daytime heat, or to take advantage of certain meandering morsels during the half-light period. Although active during the day and night, the bear family (all eight of them) are predominantly crepuscular opportunists.

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Panda with bamboo

In this blog we will take a look at some of the more special bear varieties, but let's start with a species no deer or mouse should ever fear: the bamboo loving giant panda. With its lovely white coat and black blotchy markings, the giant panda is arguably one of the most unique looking of the bear family. But how did this creature's comical coat come about?  Well, according to Tibetan legend, the pandas were once a brilliant white from head to toe and were the companions of four female shepherds.  One day the shepherdesses lost their lives saving a little panda cub from a ferocious leopard.  The giant pandas were very saddened by this, and to honour these brave shepherd ladies they put black ash on their arms; an old Tibetan tradition.  They wept, and when they went to wipe their tears away the ash darkened their eyes too.  To this day the giant pandas still mourn for the four heroines. 

In the Native American and Canadian First Nation cultures the black and brown bears were considered 'the keepers of dreams' - which most probably came about due to their annual hibernating nature.  But in British Columbia there is a rare subspecies of black bear known as the Kermode, or Spirit bear, which actually has a cream coloured coat.  Legend has it that the Spirit bear was given this shade of colour by the Creator himself, to remind us all of the hardships of the last great Ice Age.                                      

Despite the claims for bears being crepuscular, there is one bear who is eternally nocturnal.  To some it is known as Ursa Major, to others it is known as The Big Dipper, The Saucepan, or The Great Bear: the largest bear in… the Universe! 

Being one of the largest and most well known star constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, The Big Dipper is actually only the back and tail of the starry animal. It is the neighbouring fainter constellation Ursa Minor combining with Ursa Major to create the entire shape of this Great Bear.  In the Greek legends, Hera discovered that her husband Zeus was having an affair with Callisto, and so she turned Callisto in to a bear.  Years later on a hunt, Callisto's son unknowingly tracked down his own mother, and was just about to kill her when Zeus turned him in to a bear too and sent them both off in to the sky, as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.         

As both Ursa Major & Minor appear to move in the sky throughout the year, these constellations give the illusion of the creature running on all fours, before rising up on its hind legs - just like a bear!   

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1 comment

Beautiful I would love one on my lounge wall

Maria cleaver

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