US Fish & Wildlife Service



Date of this Version



Published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1-2, (1999)


What animal is black and white and loved all over the world? If you guessed the giant panda, you’re right! The giant panda is also known as the panda bear or bamboo bear, or in Chinese as Daxiongmao, the “large bear cat.” In fact, its scientific name means “black and white cat-footed animal.”

Giant pandas are found only in the mountains of central China—in small isolated areas of the north and central portions of the Sichuan Province, in the mountains bordering the southernmost part of Gansu Province and in the Qinling Mountains of the Shaanxi Province.

Giant pandas live in dense bamboo and coniferous forests at altitudes of 5,000 to 10,000 feet. The mountains are shrouded in heavy clouds with torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year.

Giant pandas have existed since the Pleistocene Era (about 600,000 years ago), when their geographic range extended throughout southern China. Fossil remains also have been found in present-day Burma.

Giant pandas are bear-like in shape with striking black and white markings. The ears, eye patches, legs and shoulder band are black; the rest of the body is whitish. They have thick, woolly coats to insulate them from the cold. Adults are four to six feet long and may weigh up to 350 pounds—about the same size as the American black bear. However, unlike the black bear, giant pandas do not hibernate and cannot walk on their hind legs.