How large is a bear cub at birth?
A bear cub at birth is smaller in proportion to the size of the mother than the young of any other mammal except marsupials. When born a cub is eight or nine inches long and weighs only about 12 or 15 ounces. Adult female bears of some species often weigh 500 pounds or much more while one of their cubs at birth may weigh less than 1/500th as much. A human baby at birth generally represents about 1/20th of the mother’s weight. The newly born young of the common black bear are usually about eight inches long and weigh about ten ounces, representing 1/500th of the weight of the mother. That bear cubs are exceedingly small at birth was known to the ancients. In his Vulgar Errors (1646) Sir Thomas Browne disproved the “vulgar and common” notion that the bear brings forth its young “informous and unshapen” and afterwards licks them into shape and life. In Shakespeare’s III King Henry VI the hunchback Richard, Duke of Gloucester, compares himself “to .a chaos, or an unlicked bear-whelp that carries no impression like, the dam.” From this old belief arose the phrase to lick into shape, meaning to make presentable or give a good appearance to. In northern, regions bears hibernate during the winter in caves, hollow trees and other sheltered places, where they subsist on the thick layer of fat just under the skin accumulated during the summer and fall. It is while the mother is in this dormant state that the young are born. They are born blind and are nursed by the sleeping mother several months before they emerge from the den.