Mystery of The Macfarlane's Bear

On June 24, 1864, Inuit (Eskimo) hunters in Canada's Northwest Territories near Rendezvous Lake, (65°52' N, 127°01' W) killed an "enormous" yellow-furred bear. According to eyewitness, the physical descriptions as follows: Whitish buff to pale yellowish buff, darkening to pale reddish brown on the under side. Broad head. Ears set like a dog’s. Square, long muzzle. Teeth are unlike the brown bear ’s, presenting a combination of long canines and well-developed cusps with broadly flattened surfaces; the cusps of the upper first and second molar s are reduced, while the lower second molar lacks t he posterior cusp and notch. Wide at t he shoulders. Hair on t he bottom of its paws. Hind claws ar e as big as the front claws.

Naturalist Robert MacFarlane obtained the bear's skin and skull and shipped the remains to the Smithsonian Institution, where they were placed in storage and forgotten. Decades later, Dr. C. Hart Merriam found the specimen while conducting research at the Smithsonian. Upon closer study, he deduced that MacFarlane's animal belonged to a new species. While the specimen resembled the grizzly more than the polar bear, the skull and teeth were different from those of all other living bears. The skull most closely resembled prehistoric species. Merriam named the animal Ursus inopinatus, the "unexpected bear."

Illustration of Macfarlane's Bear

In 1918 he went further, placing it in the newly created genus Vetularctos. While Inuit stories about such bears continue, no other specimen has been collected. Theories concerning MacFarlane's bear suggest that it is a freak grizzly, a grizzly-polar bear cross, or a surviving representative-maybe the very last-of a type that should have become extinct during the Pleistocene.

Dr. James Halfpenny, a polar bear specialist, disputes the notion of a "throwback" grizzly but remarks that grizzly-polar crosses are documented. No one, however, has properly compared this specimen's remains to those of a known hybrid. The matter remains unsettled.

MacFarlane's Bear is different from any known "giant" bear. That much, at least, is certain. The brown bear (Ursus arctos), varieties or subspecies of which include the grizzly, the Kodiak, the Peninsub, and the Kamchatka bear, is only one species of "giant" bear.

Nineteenth-century hunter John "Grizzly" Adams once captured a live grizzly weighing 1,510 pounds. The other giant is the polar bear (U. maritimus) . One outsized specimen measured more than eleven feet tall and weighed 2,200 pounds.

In 1943, Clara Helgason reminisced about an incident many years earlier when hunters on Kodiak Island, Alaska, shot a large, off-white bear with hair on the soles of its paws.

In a 1984 publication intended to correct Merriam's 1929 taxonomy proposing 96 distinct species names for varieties of brown bear, E. Raymond Hall synonymized all 96 of Merriam's names with merely nine subspecies of U. arctos. Hall synonymized Velarctos inopinatus with U. arctos horribilis, the normal grizzly bear.

Cryptozoology A-Z: "The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature" by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark;

Mysterious Creatures: "A Guide to Cryptozoology" by George M. Eberhart;

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