Cave Bear, Ursus spelaeus, is an extinct species of bear, notable for its habit of inhabiting caves, where its remains are frequently preserved; in European cave deposits, the remains of more than 100,000 cave bears have been found. The cave bear is best known from late Pleistocene cave deposits, although it can be traced back to Late Pliocene times (the Pliocene Epoch ended about 1.8 million years ago and was followed by the Pleistocene). Remains have been found in England, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy, and Greece, and it may have reached North Africa. Several local varieties, or races, have been described; dwarf races are known from some regions.
Stone Age peoples sometimes hunted the cave bear, but evidence of this hunting is very sporadic; it is highly unlikely that hunting by man caused its extinction. It appears likely that most cave bears died in the severe glacial winters during hibernation; the remains include a large proportion of very young or very old and many specimens showing unmistakable signs of illness or disease. Extinction of the cave bear seems to have been a gradual process that was complete at the close of the last glacial episode.
When standing on its hind legs, the height of this beast would have averaged 10 feet tall! Skulls have been found 20 inches in length! The closest relative is our modern day brown bear but the cave bear averages 30% greater in size. One way to differentiate a cave bear skull from a brown bear (and all other bears for that matter) is the sheer size, first off, and also the prominence of the brow and forehead, unique to the cave bear. Modern bear skulls have a more gradual sloping forehead. It has been inferred that the animal was largely vegetarian.
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