The Atlas Bear is the only known bear in the Ursinae line known to be native to Africa. An officer from the English military named Crowther first brought the Atlas Bear to the public's attention by his investigations in 1840, which is when the scientific community really recognized its existence. The Atlas Bear was classified as subspecies Ursus arctos crowtheri by Swiss naturalist Heinrich Rudolf Schinz in 1844. It is sometimes listed as its own species Ursus crowtheri.
Though the Atlas bear mainly inhabited the Atlas Mountains and surrounding areas of Morocco, Algeria, and Libya, fossilized remains of the Atlas bear have been discovered in caverns throughout North Africa. It lived in the mountains and forests.
The Atlas bear had shaggy blackish brown hair, a black muzzle, an orange rufous chest and belly, and sometimes a white spot on the throat. Its fur was 4 to 5 inches long. Its build was reported by Officer Crowther as being shorter than that of an American black bear, with a more blunt face and unusually short, although thick claws.
The Atlas Bear is believed to have fed at least partially on roots, acorns and nuts.
Following the expansion of the Roman Empire in Northern Africa, thousands of bears were hunted for sport, used for execution of criminals, and killed during venatio games. The Atlas Bear is believed to have become extinct in the 1870s.