What Color is a Polar Bear's Fur?
A Polar Bear's Fur is White, Right?
Most pictures and video taken of polar bears show this white fur that covers their entire body. However, sometimes a polar bear's fur is seen to be yellow as well. How can that be? Are there black polar bears out there? Blue? Purple?
The only way to find out is to read on.
Polar Bear Fur Color
First off, the polar bear has two types of fur. The first, an underfur, is dense in nature. The second are the guard hairs, which is where the color of the fur on the polar bear actually comes from.
The fur color on a polar bear isn't white in color. In fact, their fur color is actually transparent, or colorless. But to the naked eye, the color of fur on a polar bear appears to be a white or tan color. The light reflects off of the polar bear's transparent fur and when our eyes process the light it appears to be an actual color, when it doesn't have a color at all.
There are other factors that can change the fur color on a polar bear. For example, as a polar bear ages their guard hairs can start to discolor, eventually turning to a yellow coat of fur. But this doesn't happen in all cases.
Something different happens to the color of fur on a polar bear when it's kept in captivity for long periods of time, especially in those cases where a polar bear is kept in climates that are warm and humid. Algae can grow directly inside of the guard hairs, resulting in their fur turning a light shade of green. But this is as very subtle change in their fur color and can be treated by a professional that knows how to treat polar bear fur.
The underfur is also transparent, but it's solid, as opposed to the guard hairs which are hallow.
So while various factors can affect the color of a polar bear's fur, their bodies are covered with transparent guard hairs that our eyes interpret as being white in color.
Facts About Polar Bears
- The polar bear is believed to be an offshoot of the brown bear. Even though there are many theories, the most recent believes polar bears split from the brown bear over four million years ago.
- Other languages, such as Russian and French, call the polar bear a "white bear", furthering the belief polar bears are purely white.
- The skin of the polar bear is actually black, but their fur does a very good job of covering that up. However, on some areas of their body you can see traces of that black, especially on the face.
- It was originally thought that the guard hairs on the polar bear were acting like fiber-optic tubes that pulled light into the skin, but that has since been disproved by further studies.
- Polar bears live in the Arctic, Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Russia, and Norway.
- Polar bears and penguins do not live in the same area. It's common belief that they do, but that is just another thing about polar bears people don't know about.
- The main diet for a polar bear are seals.
- Polar bears can live up to 25 years, but some are known to live longer.
- It's estimated that there are 31,000 polar bears in the world. The polar bear population has been shrinking due to global warming and is in danger of becoming extinct.
- Although mostly illegal, polar bears are hunted. While indigenous people hunt for their own needs, there is also recreational hunting.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 David Livermore