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Urzhad (Urzhadn in the plural) were enormous cave bears that dwelled within the Beor Mountains. They were one of the five native species of the Beor Mountains. The elf name for Urzhad was Beorn (Beorya in the plural), for which the mountains were named. According to Orik, the name of this creature was used as the name of one of the dwarf clans. Like all bears, the Urzhadn were solitary active beasts living within the forests of the mountain. A male Urzhad was called a boar, females were sows, as well as the young were cubs.
Urzhadn were massive beasts, larger even than Nagra, the large mountain boars, as well as are said to be nearly as large as a house. This makes them the largest bears, second are probably regular-sized brown bears. They are described as having brown-silver fur and large hooked claws, which seems to make them appear or possibly be a gigantic version of a grizzly bear. Despite their size, they were surprisingly fast, able to catch and kill most species in the Beor Mountains.
Cave bears had an excellent sense of smell, as all bear species do. They probably used this amazingly sensitive sense of smell to track prey, find tasty plants and fruits and to find a mate. During the winter, Urzhadn would go into winter dormancy, which is similar but distinct from true hibernation as the bears don't defecate, drink, eat or awake during the process. The mother Urzhadn gave birth during this torpor to anywhere from one to five cubs: three cubs was the commonplace number. She would have defended them fiercely from other animals such as Shrrg, Fanghur, as well as even humans and dwarves. Male Urzhadn have occasionally tried to kill a sow's cubs to bring her into estrus and mate her.
Urzhadn were quite capable of taking down such prey as large deer, Nagra, Feldûnost, as well as wild oxen. But as with most bears, they were probably mostly vegetarians, eating grasses, nuts, fruit, tubers and other such fare. But they were omnivores, with the capability to eat many things, including insects and other invertebrates, fungi, fish, reptiles and small mammals. They most likely would have killed large prey by swatting and slashing at it with their large, hooked front paws until the prey was stunned enough to perform a death bite to the skull or a part of the spine. Small prey was likely killed with a fast bite or a fast swat of their mighty club-shaped paws. They would take foodstuffs based on availability or ease of attainment, like all bears.
Interspecific competition Edit
As an apex predator, Urzhadn probably had various enemies. Its top rivals are the Shrrg and Fanghur, as well as in turn intimidated them from their kills and vice versa. Competition with dragons is unknown, but a possibility, due to the extreme size of both. Brisingr includes a passage in which Eragon talks to Garzvhog about how he thinks even Saphira might lose to the bear:
"I don't think even Saphira could beat that," Eragon said.
"Saphira can breath fire. Cave bear cannot," Garzhvog replied.
Nar Garzhvog encountered one of these beasts on his first hunt during his Urgal coming-of-age ritualistic quest. He strangled the monstrous carnivore to death as it attempted to maul him and used the stomach as a confectionary tool, much like a pot, in Brisingr. This marked Garzvhog for his eventual occupant as the warchief of the Bolvek tribe, as killing a cave bear without weapons or magic is impressive by any standards.
In Brisingr, Eragon and Garzvhog see an Urzhad killing a Nagra. The story quotes as follows:
The boars had bloodied the cave bear's flanks, but that seemed to only enrage the beast. Rearing on his hind legs, the bear bellowed and swatted one of the boars with a massive paw, knocking it aside and tearing open its hide. Three more times the boar attempted to rise, and three more times the cave bear struck at it, until at last the boar gave up and lay still.
- These large mountain dwelling cave bears are probably in part based on the extinct European cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) and perhaps even the North American giant short-faced bears (Arctodus simus).
- Urzhadn are probably a giant version of grizzly bear due to the silver hair in their fur, hooked claws and large humps over their shoulders.
- Christopher's inspiration of the Urzhad was either imaging a giant brown bear, or probably the monstrous grizzly bear in the Disney movie, the Fox and the Hound, which was as big as the Urzhadn themselves.
- In J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit, Beorn (the same spelling as the Ancient Language word for Urzhadn) was the name of a character who was a shapeshifter that could take the form of a bear.
- Bjorn (pronounced beorn) is the word for bear in the Old Norse Language.