We get many questions sent to us here at polarbear-world, and one of the most recent ones was “Do polar bears have tails?”. It might seem like the sort of question you should immediately know the answer to, but, despite knowing what a polar bear looks like, the question of whether or not they have a tail stumps a lot of people!
Yes, polar bears have tails. It’s a short, stumpy, cute little tail, but it is a tail nonetheless!
If you’re looking for more information about polar bears’ tails, we’ve answered all your questions about polar bear tail facts below. Read on to become an expert on polar bear tails!
Do Polar Bears Have Long Tails?
No, polar bears do not have long tails, as mentioned above, a polar bear’s tail is short and stumpy. There is an old legend or fable surrounding polar bears’ tails which tells the story of how their tails became so short.
According to the Native American fable, a fox convinced a polar bear to try fishing with his long tail. The long end of the tail froze and fell off, leaving the polar bear with his short, stumpy tail!
Why Do Polar Bears Have Short Tails?
Despite the above story being a fable, some scientists do believe that polar bears originally had a longer tail but it has evolved over the years to be the short, cute tail we see today.
Like other evolutionary adaptations, this change came about to better help the species to survive. A polar bear has no need for a long tail – it doesn’t use it for balance, communication or defense, so it didn’t make sense for polar bears to have long tails.
Add to that the extra surface area of the tail being exposed to the cold, and it makes sense that polar bears evolved to have shorter or smaller extremities so that they can be protected from the cold.
What Does A Polar Bear’s Tail Look Like?
We’ve already described a polar bear’s tail as short, cute and stumpy, but a picture tells a thousand words, so we’ve included some images of polar bears where you can see their tails for yourself.
A polar bear’s tail can be anywhere from 7-13 centimeters long, or 2.8 to 4.7 inches. It is also covered in fur like the rest of the polar bear’s body.
Here are some pictures of polar bear’s tails:
Why Do Polar Bears Have Tails?
As explained previously, polar bears have tails because they evolved that way, most likely from a longer tail down to the shorter tail we see today.
But surely, if they’ve kept this stumpy tail throughout the years, there must be some sort of use for it, or wouldn’t it have evolved away altogether? So why exactly do polar bears have tails? It probably helps them to keep warm.
What Do Polar Bears Use Their Tails For?
Polar bears have many attributes which have evolved to help them survive the harsh climate of the arctic and their short, stumpy tail might be one of them! The little tail of the polar bear covers over their rear end which helps to keep them warm. The tail is covered in fur and has its own blood supply so it’s like an extra layer of covering over their bottom.
How Do Polar Bears’ Tails Help Them Survive?
Unlike many other animals, a polar bear does not use its tail for balancing, climbing, defending or communicating, but still the polar bear’s tail plays a role in its survival.
Having a short tail has helped the polar bear to survive in the cold, wintery conditions that it thrives in. A longer tail would mean more surface area exposed to the cold, but the short, compact tail of the polar bear is much easier to keep blood circulation flowing through, and less surface area to lose body heat through.
The small tail also provides an extra layer of padding over a polar bear’s backside which would also help to keep it warm.
Yes, polar bears do have tails, but they are so short and compact and can blend in with their fur so well, that sometimes people don’t realize they’re there. The pictures above prove just how cute the stumpy polar bear’s tail is!
While their tail does not play a huge role in the day to day life of a polar bear, it may be beneficial in helping to keep their rear end warm.
Find out more about polar bear anatomy here and other ways a polar bear stays warm here.