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An owlbear, Y, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is a large, carnivorous apelike creature that is strong and can be seen via infravision.

An owlbear possesses two claw attacks and a grabbing attack that holds you in place and crushes you each turn.

A few special messages generated by some traps are associated with owlbears.


Randomly generated owlbears are always created hostile.

Owlbears appear among the random Y that make up the second quest monster class for Healers and make up 6175 of the monsters randomly generated on the Healer quest.

On the goal level of the Wizard quest, a peaceful sleeping owlbear is placed in the top right cell of the Dark One's dungeon at level creation.


Owlbears represent one of the many early-game threats that require players to be cautious about approaching monsters in combat: they can move at the same speed as a character that is unburdened and does not have a source of speed, and their grabbing attack can grind away HP while trapping them in place for other hostile monsters to attack freely. Greased outer body armor or a non-cursed oilskin cloak can prevent an owlbear from getting a hold of a character at all.

Ranged attacks, including spells and wands, can kill an owlbear at a safe distance or weaken it enough for your character to finish off in melee. If caught in the owlbear's grasp, you can teleport yourself free or scare the owlbear into letting you go, e.g. by using a tool to scare it or engraving Elbereth with an applicable wand; scaring the owlbear has the additional boon of keeping it away from you for at least a few turns. Inflicting sleep or paralysis on the owlbear has a chance of making it release you, but this is unreliable since the owlbear may be awakened if you are still in its grasp and attempt to move away.[1]

Once you can reliably take down owlbears, their corpses are quite filling and can also be left for any meat-eating pets, with a non-rotten owlbear corpse providing nutrition comparable to a food ration.


The owlbear first appears in Hack for PDP-11, a variant of Jay Fenlason's Hack, and is included in the initial bestiary for Hack 1.0.

From Hack for PDP-11 to NetHack 2.3e, the owlbear uses the o glyph. In NetHack 3.0.0, the various new and returning orcs are moved to the o glyph; the owlbear is moved to the giant humanoid monster class at H. In NetHack 3.1.0, owlbears are reclassified as apelike creatures and moved to their current glyph.


The owlbear (also written as "owl bear") is one of many NetHack creatures that comes from Dungeons & Dragons, first appearing in the 1975 Greyhawk supplement for the original release. The owlbear and several other creatures in particular, such as the rust monster, were based on dime-store plastic toys that were used by Gary Gygax and other play-testers as monster figures, with their appearances based directly on the toys.[2] The owlbear has since appeared in every subsequent edition of the game, as well as several other fantasy role-playing games, video games and fantasy media, and is widely considered one of the franchise's most memorable monsters.

As the name suggests, the owlbear is depicted as a cross between a bear and a giant owl that stands upright on two legs and has dark fur, feathers, and a yellow or ivory beak. It is a carnivorous creature known for aggression and ferocity, and attacks by using its beak, claws and grappling bear-like "hugs". Their in-universe origin is unclear, though the various Monster Manual editions indicate that it is believed to be the product of a wizard's experiments; in the 5th edition, some elves claim that owlbears have existed for millennia, while older fey say that they have always existed in the Feywild.

Owlbears live in temperate climes and forested areas, establishing their lairs in tangled woods, near-surface caves, within large hollow trees and stumps, and among ruins. Their favored hunting grounds are usually dense wooded areas that they were familiar with; they clawed at certain trees to both mark territory and sharpen their claws. Owlbear lairs often contain up to six eggs and/or six young owlbears; they are frequent hunters and usually appear alone, in mated pairs with a territory of 1​-​2 square miles, or in packs that consist of up to five or even eight owlbears.


The owlbear snarls.
You chatted to an owlbear.
You hear the roaring of an angry bear!
An unseen owlbear was caught in a bear trap.
You hear the roaring of a confused bear!
An unseen owlbear was caught in a web.
You howl in anger!
You walked into a bear trap while polymorphed into an owlbear.



In SLASH'EM, owlbears hit as a +1 weapon.

The Necromancer quest has a peaceful owlbear on the goal level, which is a duplicate of the Wizard quest's goal level: the owlbear occupies the same exact prison cell in the top right of the level.


In EvilHack, owlbears are oviparous: owlbear eggs can hatch into baby owlbears, which in turn can grow up into adult owlbears. Owlbears also have their first claw attack replaced with a bite attack.

The owlbear nest is a special room that contains several owlbear eggs and sleeping baby owlbears, along with an adult owlbear.

Encyclopedia entry

Owlbears are probably the crossbreed creation of a demented
wizard; given the lethal nature of this creation, it is quite
likely the wizard who created them is no longer alive. As
the name might already suggest, owlbears are a cross between
a giant owl and a bear. They are covered with fur and