Sloths and Bears and Sloth Bears OH MY! – Is a sloth a bear?

A sloth bear licking termites and showing its claws
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Is a sloth a bear?

Is a sloth bear the same as a sloth?

Are sloth bears a type of sloth?

Are bears and sloths related?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit confused.

Sloth Bears are bears – not sloths

Despite the misleading name, Sloth Bears are not sloths and have no relation to sloths. They are called Sloth Bears because dear old George Shaw, a European geologist, thought that the two were related because they both have unusual teeth and long thick claws. Oh and also, Sloth Bears sometimes hang upside down from the trees. Oh and they also both carry their babies on their backs. I guess George had some good reasons…

Similarities between Sloth Bears and Sloths


Three toed sloths claws can grow to about four inches.

Sloth bears have three inch long, ivory white claws.


Sloth Bears are the only bears to carry their babies on their back. Sloth bear cubs jump on mum’s back when she walks, runs, or climbs a tree. They do this until they’re about a third of the weight of their poor old mumma

Sloths carry their babies on their backs for about three to eight months, even after they’ve been weaned.


Like sloths, sloth bears enjoy eating flowers and fruit. However the sloth bear’s main source of food is termites and ants.

Sloths might devour a few ants in their lifetimes, but only because ants have a habit of living on the leaves that sloths like to eat.

Threats to their habitat

An unpleasant similarity between sloths and sloth bears is that they are both vulnerable, thanks to us humans. Deforestation and hunting are putting both of these amazing animals at risk.

Differences between Sloth Bears and Sloths

Ok, so there are a few similarities. There are, however, some major differences.


Sloth bears are fast – they can probably run faster than you. They can definitely run faster than me. Sloths on the other hand, well – they’re the slowest mammals on earth.


Sloth Bears live in South Asia. If you fancy an encounter with a sloth bear (be careful not to take them by surprise, they get rather cross) then pop over to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

Sloths, on the other hand, like to hang out in Central and South America. Depending on the type of sloth you’re looking for (read about it here if you like) you’ll see sloths hanging out in their natural habitats in places like Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil.

Someone gets left off the International Day list

Lastly, sloths have their own special day – the International Day of the Sloth. October 20th each year is party day for our two and three fingered friends. Woohoo, munch on some leaves and celebrate all things sloth!

Poor old Sloth Bears though – they don’t get their own day.

A three toed sloth eating a leaf and showing its claws
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