Could You Beat a Grizzly Bear in a Fight? Some People Think They Can

This is a gunfight—you are a knife.
This is a gunfight—you are a knife. / KeithSzafranski/iStock via Getty Images

Since many animals never cross paths in the wild, and pitting them against each other for sport is generally frowned upon, deciding which ones would win in a fight mainly happens in a hypothetical realm.

But in that realm, according to a recent survey by data company YouGov, people think elephants are the top dog. Researchers presented participants with a series of animal face-offs and asked them to choose a winner for each. Elephants won 74 percent of the time, eking by rhinos by less than a percentage point and outperforming grizzly bears, tigers, hippopotamuses, and lions by small margins, too.

Based on the breakdown, Komodo dragons are better warriors than kangaroos; alligators metaphorically hit harder than cheetahs; and a honey badger has a better chance of beating a horse than the other way around. Unarmed humans, meanwhile, won their fights just 17 percent of the time—putting us in second to last place, far behind ostriches (28 percent) and slightly ahead of geese (14 percent).

People apparently have just a touch more faith in crocodiles than alligators.
People apparently have just a touch more faith in crocodiles than alligators. / YouGov

Most people are similarly skeptical about their own personal chances of besting animals in hand-to-hand (or paw, tooth, talon, etc.) combat. Of all 1224 survey participants, 72 percent think they could defeat a rat—a majority, sure, but about 208 people (17 percent) think the rat would beat them (the other 11 percent answered that they simply didn’t know). Just 61 percent feel confident about winning against a goose, and a mere 30 percent think they could take on an eagle.

Considering our lack of venom, sharp claws, and all other built-in weapons—not to mention that we have little to no practice fighting wild animals with our bare hands—the doubtfulness expressed in this survey seems logical. But not everyone was so unsure. A full 8 percent of the 1224 participants, which works out to about 98 people, think they’d come out on top against a gorilla, an elephant, or a lion. And about 73 people (6 percent) think they’d win against a grizzly bear.

Surely you could beat a rat, no?
Surely you could beat a rat, no? / YouGov

It’s worth noting that the survey was not ascertaining whether people think they could survive an attack by the animal; it asked specifically about beating the animal in a fight. In other words, a not insignificant number of regular, random people think they could somehow incapacitate a literal lion or a grizzly bear with nothing but their own bodies.

If you’re one of those people, our question is simple: How?