Tibetan blue bear

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Tibetan blue bear
Oji zoo, Kobe, Japan (6631356045).jpg
Tibetan blue bear at the Oji Zoo, Japan.
CITES Appendix II (CITES) [1]
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
U. a. pruinosus
Trinomial name
Ursus arctos pruinosus
Blyth, 1854

The Tibetan brown bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus), also known as Tibetan blue bear, [2] is a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos) in the eastern Tibetan Plateau.


One of the rarest subspecies of bear in the world, the blue bear is rarely sighted in the wild. First classified in 1851, it was once known in the Western world only through a small number of fur and bone samples. However, the 2021 French documentary The Velvet Queen (La Panthère des Neiges) did manage to capture extensive footage of the reclusive animal. [3]

Common names

Tibetan blue bear is also known as the Himalayan blue bear, [4] Himalayan snow bear, Tibetan brown bear, and the horse bear. In Tibetan, it is known as Dom gyamuk.


Illustration of a Tibetan blue bear by Joseph Smit Tibetan Blue Bear - Ursus arctos pruinosus - Joseph Smit crop.jpg
Illustration of a Tibetan blue bear by Joseph Smit

The Gobi bear is sometimes classified as being of the same subspecies as the Tibetan blue bear; this is based on morphological similarities, and the belief that the desert-dwelling Gobi bear represents a relict population of the blue bear. However, the Gobi bear is sometimes classified as its own subspecies, and closely resembles other Asian brown bears.

Distribution and habitat

It is possible that the occasional specimen might be observed traveling through high mountain peaks during times of reduced food supply, or in search of a mate. However, the limited information available about the habits and range of the blue bear makes such speculation difficult to confirm.


Mrs. Yvette Borup Andrews feeding a Tibetan bear cub in 1917 The American Museum journal (c1900-(1918)) (17540841703).jpg
Mrs. Yvette Borup Andrews feeding a Tibetan bear cub in 1917

The exact conservation status of the blue bear is unknown, due to limited information. However, in the United States, trading blue bear specimens or products is restricted by the Endangered Species Act. It is also listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as a protected species. It is threatened by the use of bear bile in traditional Chinese medicine and habitat encroachment.

In culture

1917 photo of two Tibetan bear cubs playing The American Museum journal (c1900-(1918)) (17975206579).jpg
1917 photo of two Tibetan bear cubs playing

The blue bear is notable for having been suggested as one possible inspiration for the yeti. A 1960 expedition to search for evidence of the yeti, led by Sir Edmund Hillary, returned with two scraps of fur that had been identified by locals as 'yeti fur' that were later scientifically identified as being portions of the pelt of a blue bear. [5]

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  1. "CITES Appendices I, II and III" (PDF). CITES. 2023. Retrieved 16 May 2023.
  2. Lydekker P.Z.S. (1897). "The Blue Bear of Tibet". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 1897: 412.
  3. Amiguet, Marie and Munier, Vincent (July 13, 2021). La panthère des neiges [The Velvet Queen] (Motion Picture) (in French).
  4. Sowerby, Arthur de Carle (1920). "Notes on Heude's Bears in the Sikawei Museum, and on the Bears of Palaearctic Eastern Asia". Journal of Mammalogy . American Society of Mammalogists: 225.
  5. ""Genève: 15 000 francs pour une peau de yéti"". Archived from the original on 2011-06-24. Retrieved 2011-06-23.