When Su Yun bought a puppy to add to her family, she couldn’t believe how much the animal could eat. However, as the creature began to grow bigger and bigger, she realized that it wasn’t like other dogs at all. In fact, it was a different animal altogether.
Su comes from the province of Yunnan in the southwest of China. She lives in the city of Kunming with her family, and in 2016 her brood expanded by one when she adopted what she believed was a puppy.
Su had thought the animal in question was a Tibetan mastiff – a large dog that was bred to protect Tibetan tribes from wolves, bears and leopards. So given that it had a lot of growing to do, Su and her family no doubt expected the dog to eat a lot. However, its insatiable appetite came as a surprise.
According to Su, even as puppy the dog consumed an astonishing amount of food. Each day, it chomped its way through a whole box of fruits and two buckets of noodles. But at this point, the animal’s family thought little of it.
It was only as the creature continued to grow that Su began to worry that her pet was not a dog at all. By the time it was two years old, it weighed a whopping 250 pounds, which was at the very largest end of the scale for an average Tibetan mastiff.
However, the animal’s tremendous size wasn’t the only thing to raise Su’s suspicions. As he grew larger, her “dog” began to display a talent for walking on its hind legs. What’s more, it seemed to have much more balance on two limbs than your average canine.
Eventually, something clicked in Su’s mind and she realized that her pet wasn’t a dog. It was, in fact, a bear. “The more he grew, the more like a bear he looked,” she revealed. And she added, “I am a little scared of bears.”
Clearly, a family home was no place for a bear. Apart from the obvious risk the creature posed to humans, it was also illegal to keep wild animals. As a result, Su approached Kunming Zoo to see whether the facility could take the bear in.
However, since Su had no birth certificate for the animal, the zoo was unable to help. So Su turned to the Kunming Forestry Police, who referred her to the staff at Yunnan Wildlife Rescue Centre, who agreed to take the bear off her hands.
By the time officials reached the bear, it stood at around three feet tall. As a result, staff felt pretty intimidated by the animal, despite the fact it was used to human interaction. So to be on the safe side, they sedated the creature so that they could transport him to his new home.
Once the animal arrived at the Yunnan Wildlife Rescue Centre, staff confirmed he was an Asiatic black bear. The species is categorized as vulnerable by the IUCN because of threats to its existence from hunting and deforestation.
In China, the expansion of the human population has led to habitat loss in the forests of Shaanxi, Gansu and Sichuan. As a result, between the 1940s and 1990s the distribution area of black bears shrank by 80 percent.
Poaching is another threat facing the Asiatic black bear. The animals’ body parts, including their paws and gall bladders, can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. So it could have been easy for Su’s former pet to have fallen into the wrong hands.
Thankfully though, at Yunnan Wildlife Rescue Centre the animal had found a safe haven. The staff there named the bear “Little Black,” and were happy to discover he was in good health with no scars or wounds to his body.
In China, Asiatic black bears are protected by the National Protection Wildlife Law. As a result, those caught hunting the bears or catching them without the proper documentation can expect to be severely punished.
According to National Geographic, even though Su’s family eventually turned the bear in they could still face a punishment for keeping wildlife. However, police reportedly said that any penalty would likely be reduced due to their cooperation.
Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the story, it was soon picked up by the Chinese press. Shortly after, Su’s extraordinary mix-up hit headlines worldwide, and it soon became clear that many people simply couldn’t believe that someone could raise a bear believing that it was a dog.
Among the international news outlets to cover Yun’s story was National Geographic. A video documenting her family’s remarkable tale was featured on the Nat Geo WILD YouTube channel in May 2018. And it left its close to 30,000 viewers perplexed by what they had seen.
Writing in the comment section below the video, one person asked, “Just how is this even possible? [It] took them a whole two years to realize it doesn’t go ‘woof?’ This is too funny to even get mad at. Thanks for sharing National Geographic.”
But amazingly, Su and her family aren’t the only people to mistakenly raise a bear believing it was a dog. In March 2018 Chinese media revealed how a man from the same area as Su took in a stray dog only to later discover he also was raising a bear. So there’s no reason to believe than Su had any idea there was a bear in her midst.