Setting the scene

Su Yun and her family lived happily in a village on the outskirts of Kunming City. Like most mothers, her life was hectic, but she did her best to provide for her children and make their lives as happy as she could.

village, Yunnan, rural
BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

It was no easy feat, but everything seemed to be going well. Still, she felt like something was missing — the family needed a furry friend. Boy, did that turn out to be a mistake …

Going on vacation

In 2016, Su Yun and her family felt like they needed a vacation. It would be nice to leave the village for a change of scenery, so they packed their bags and skipped town. While exploring the area, they came upon a man selling puppies.

puppy, Tibetan Mastiff, large dog, cute puppy
Betty K via Pixabay

The small dogs were gorgeous. Tibetan mastiffs are a famously large, ancient, and regal breed. Su Yun was unsure at first, but her kids had their minds made up.

Tibetan mastiffs: Understanding the breed

The seller was sure to warn Su Yun about this particular breed. When fully grown, these massive canines will often far exceed 150 pounds. But don’t let their size fool you — they’re not lumbering idiots. In fact, they’re remarkably intelligent.

Tibetan Mastiff, big dog, large breed
Svenska Mässan via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Their formidable stature, strong jaws, and intelligence makes them great guard dogs — though they need plenty of stimulation, otherwise they can be destructive. Su Yun was sure the dog would have plenty of room to grow and play in their village in the Yunnan province. 

Or so she thought …

The Yunnan province has its fair share of wild animals

The Yunnan province is the most biodiverse province in all of China. It has a mostly tropical environment, which ranges from snowy mountains to lush forests. There are several endangered species that call the province their home.

Guar, rare animals, vulnerable, Yunnan Province
Animalkingdomvideos via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Among these species is the Asian gaur, or Indian bison, which is the largest bovine species currently in existence. The Indochinese tiger, Yunnan box turtle, and Asian elephant are some other rare species that can be found in Yunnan.

Every once in a while, one of these wild animals will be mistaken for a domestic animal …

They took him home

“Little Black” fit right in with his new family. They gave him the name as a joke, since they knew he’d soon grow to be massive. The children loved Little Black, and let him roam the house freely.

dog, puppy, Tibetan Mastiff, breed
loyaltibetanmastiffs via Instagram

All of Su Yun’s doubts about the dog settling in dissipated. It seemed like Little Black was exactly what she asked for — a calm, yet playful dog that was great with her kids.

But gradually, things would take a turn for the worse.

A healthy appetite

The dog was growing fast. There was hardly a time when the dog wasn’t eating. Su Yun was taken aback by the amount she had to spend and feed Little Black.

hungry pup, Tibetan, dog, big dog
max_the_tibetan via Instagram

Living in a small isolated village, there was little access to outside information. Su Yun didn’t know much about dogs besides what the seller had told her. She kept Little Black on a diet of noodles and fruit. It’s probably not the most nutritious diet for a puppy to be on, but Little Black didn’t seem to mind.

What big teeth you have

But soon, Su Yun began to notice signs that maybe the man who’d sold her the dog hadn’t been as forthcoming as he’d seemed …

big dog, suspicious, hungry, scary
stopitcharlesgetoutofmyhead via Imgur

Like the rest of the “dog,” Little Black’s teeth seemed to be growing rapidly. It concerned Su Yun, but she kept reminding herself that she’d known what she was getting herself into. She had adopted a Tibetan mastiff, after all, not a Chihuahua.

Talk of the town

After only a year of owning the pet, Little Black was already the biggest dog almost anyone in the village had ever seen. When he’d go for his morning walks, people would stop and stare at the impressive beast.

roar, run, scary, big dog
stopitcharlesgetoutofmyhead via Imgur

Soon, Little Black grew too large for Su Yun’s home, and the family had to build him a doghouse in their yard. 

A strange stance

One day, Su Yun walked into her kitchen to find Little Black standing up on his hind legs — like a person! She was taken aback, but quickly the dog returned to all fours. What on Earth?

what is it? strange animal, adopted
CGTN via YouTube

Perhaps Little Black just wanted to reach some food up high on the shelves, Su Yun thought, and quickly put the incident out of her mind. 

Still, it was strange …

Strange noises

No one enjoys a dog that barks excessively. But Su Yun slowly became concerned that Little Black never exhibited this common behavior. That’s not to say he never made noise, however …

looking out of its cage, animal, strange
CGTN via YouTube

It’s just that the noises he made were deeper. Much deeper than the growl of any dog she’d heard before, and it was loud enough to shake their home. 

Soon, Su Yun began to fear for her safety, and the safety of her children.

He continued to grow

It didn’t help that Little Black was now gargantuan. After living with Su Yun and her family for two years, he had grown to be 250 pounds. And he had an appetite to match.

sniff, table, weird stance, Tibetan Mastiff
tysontibetanmastiff via Instagram

Little Black was now consuming two full buckets of noodles every day and an entire box of fruit. Plus, he seemed to demand more each day. Su Yun wondered whether her dog would ever stop growing.

But his size wasn’t her only concern …

What big claws you have

Little Black’s paws didn’t look like any others Su Yun had seen. Unlike most dogs, whose nails are naturally filed down from walking on all fours, Little Black’s remained deadly sharp.

claws, what is it? strange animal, wild
Abu0804 via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Also, he had taken to walking on his hind legs more and more. This just wasn’t normal. Soon Su Yun was forced to come face-to-face with the truth: This was no dog.

But what was it?

The truth revealed

Have you guessed it yet? We’ll give you one hint: He might have preferred porridge over noodles and fruit.

Drumroll, please …

bear, Asian black bear, Asiatic black bear
PxHere

That’s right, Little Black — the dog — is really Little Black the bear! Shocked and terrified when the realization finally set in, Su Yun had to act fast. But what to do? She couldn’t just let the bear go in the forest …

The Asiatic black bear

Little Black is an Asiatic black bear, or Asian black bear. These unique-looking bears are considered medium-sized, reaching up to 440 pounds. Asian black bears are mostly herbivorous, which may explain why Little Black was happy to live on noodles and fruit.

standing bear, big bear, Asiatic black bear
Image courtesy of the National Science Foundation

Despite having relatively weak hind legs compared to other species of bear, the Asiatic black bear likes to stand upright, and can walk for a quarter mile on its back legs. 

They can be dangerous

While not particularly aggressive, they’ve been known to attack hunters, who sometimes sell their body parts for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Though Little Black had never harmed anyone, keeping a wild animal as a pet — especially one so large and powerful — is extremely dangerous.

Asian black bear, Asiatic black bear, black bear
Dr. Raju Kasambe via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Su Yun had to act fast, for the safety of her and her family. But there were some other concerns as well …

She had come to love Little Black

“I am a little scared of bears,” Su Yun later confessed in an interview. Still, Little Black had a place in her heart. She didn’t want anything bad to happen to the animal. As we mentioned, these bears are hunted and trafficked illegally — so much so that their conservation status is listed as “vulnerable.” 

Asian black bear, Asiatic Black bear, cute bear, bear cub
970souk via Reddit

Su Yun also worried what Little Black would do if he was confronted by people. Bears that have had human contact often don’t fear them the way wild animals typically do. If Little Black approached a person, and then felt threatened, what would he do?

Would she be arrested?

As you might expect, owning an endangered wild animal is illegal, especially one as dangerous as a bear. There was a very real possibility that Su Yun might wind up in legal trouble when the authorities caught wind of what had happened.

Chinese police, police search, dog really a bear
CGTN via YouTube

It doesn’t seem fair that Su Yun should have to pay for making an honest mistake. If anything, it was the man who had sold her Little Black who should be punished. Though perhaps he hadn’t known the animals were bears either. If he had, he could have potentially profited substantially by selling the animals on the black market. 

Su Yun sought help

Desperate, Su Yun finally decided to contact the local authorities, who in turn contacted the Yunnan Wildlife Rescue Center. When the experts arrived, they were shocked at what they saw: The young bear stood at 3 feet tall.

bear in cage, transporting a bear, trapped bear, tranquilized bear
CGTN via YouTube

Fearing for their safety, the handlers decided to sedate Little Black before transporting him to his new home. Fortunately, there was no incident, and Little Black was safely taken to the wildlife preserve.

Little Black’s new home

Little Black has been relocated to the Yunnan Wildlife Rescue Center, not far from the village where he grew up. He’ll be much safer and happier in this environment, and so will all the people in Su Yun’s village.

Bear, Asian black bear, black bear
cuatrok77 via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Understandably, trapping and keeping a wild bear is illegal — would Su Yun get in trouble with the law for this honest mistake?

Cooperation

It didn’t take long for the story to go viral. Little Black’s adventure made international news, with many different news services running the story. 

Because the incident was an honest mix-up and Su Yun cooperated with the authorities, she avoided any harsh penalties.

bear vs. puppy, bear or dog, bear looks like puppy
Abu0804 via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 | astro.and.liathelion via Instagram

Before you judge her harshly for failing to tell the difference between a dog and bear, consider this: Bear cubs really do resemble Tibetan mastiff puppies and, this isn’t the first time this happened in the Yunnan province.

Double trouble

In 2013, a few years before Little Black came into Su Yun’s life, a frighteningly similar story would take place — not far from Su Yun’s village.

Wang Kaiyu was on a trip to the border of China and Vietnam to plant banana trees when he encountered a Vietnamese man selling puppies.

bear cub, cute bear cub, Asian black bear
The Dodo via YouTube

Wang decided to buy two of the cute creatures and bring them home. The “puppies” seemed to adapt well to their new environment, and Wang enjoyed being a pet parent.

Warning signs

Wang fussed over the animals, grooming them daily. He never had any complaints about their behavior, until one day a harrowing incident took place. Wang walked into his backyard to find that his pups had mauled and killed several of his chickens.

climbing cubs, bear cubs, black bear cubs in a tree
tontantravel via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Even though he was disturbed by what had happened, he didn’t think too much of it. After all, dogs attacking chickens isn’t exactly unheard of. Wang made sure to keep the two pups away from the chickens in the future.

Growing beasts

Unfortunately, we don’t know if Wang Kaiyu also fed his pets a steady diet of noodles and fruit, but we do know that they grew quickly. Still, Wang didn’t suspect anything fishy (or should we say bear-y) for two years, when the animals grew to be over 220 pounds.

bear cubs, cubs playing, cute bear cubs
The Dodo via YouTube

Even then, Wang hadn’t grown suspicious — but that all changed with a chance encounter, which involved him coming across a leaflet from the Public Security Bureau. 

Familiar faces

The leaflet was about endangered wild animals in the area. While flipping through the pages, Wang realized the truth about the dogs he’d purchased. They weren’t dogs at all, they were Asian black bears.

bear, Asian black bear, Asiatic black bear
Joydeep via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

He was shocked to learn that he’d been illegally housing the vulnerable species and promptly contacted the Forest Public Security Bureau.

Sidenote: It’s a good thing he acted fast once he realized his mistake, but we can’t help but wonder how long he would have assumed the bears were dogs if he hadn’t come across that brochure. Imagine the looks people would have given him as he walked two 440-pound bears standing upright on leashes.

Relocating the bears

Feng Lingui, who works for the local animal rescue center, confirmed that the animals were identified as male and female Asian black bears in perfect health. The police and handlers promptly arrived at Wang’s residence to take the bears to a more suitable home.

Asian black bear, bear on log, large bear
Grv022 via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

And so concludes another story about sneaky bears pretending to be dogs. Fortunately, no humans or animals were harmed in this story. Well, except for some chickens.