A bearskin is a tall fur cap, usually worn as part of a ceremonial military uniform. Traditionally, the bearskin was the headgear of grenadiers, and is still worn by regiments of grenadiers and foot guards in various armies.
The standard bearskin of the British Foot Guards is 18 inches tall, weighs one and a half pounds and is made from the fur of the Canadian Brown Bear and is dyed black. This is because the brown bear has thicker fuller fur. The British Army purchase the hats, which are known as caps, from a British hat maker, which sources its pelts from an international auction. The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £650 each. Proper maintenance of the caps allows them to last for decades. Some bearskin caps in use are reportedly more than 100 years old.
In 2005, the Ministry of Defence began a two-year test of artificial fur for the hats. The army has already replaced beaver hats and leopard skins, worn by some of its soldiers, with artificial materials. In March, 2005, Labour MP Chris Mullin called for an immediate ban on bearskin hats stating that they “have no military significance and involve unnecessary cruelty.”
Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has protested against the continued use of real fur for the guards’ hats, alleging that the animals are killed cruelly. For several years, PETA members have held demonstrations, including one with 70 naked protesters at St Peters Hill, near St Paul's Cathedral, in 2006. PETA wants the fur hats to be replaced with synthetic materials and claims that the Ministry of Defence has not done enough to find alternatives. Supporters of the headgear claim that the animals used are not killed for their fur but are roadkill or culled animals. A website purporting to be “an historical encyclopedia of the land forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth” claims that Inuit hunters cull 40,000 black bears annually out of a population of more than a million.
In addition to the specific units named above, bearskins are worn by limited categories of other military personnel with ceremonial functions. These include the band and corps of drums of the British Army's Honourable Artillery Company (1537), band and pioneers of The Royal Regiment of Canada (1936), and band masters of both the Royal Australian Regiment (1936) and the United States Marine Band (1798).
Bearskin accepts a new challenge with acquisition of tour company. (Bearskin Airlines; Happy Time Tours)(Focus on Thunder Bay)
Nov 01, 1991; When Harvey Friesen first took over bearskin Airlines in the mid 1970s he piloted charters in one of the company's two...
BATTLE OF THE BEARSKIN; Bear Necessity? If the Animal Rights Lobby Has Its Way, These Grenadier Guards Could Lose Their Headgear
Aug 20, 2007; Byline: Victoria Moore HIS MAJESTY was a terrifying sight when he did the gardening. 'George VIwould regularly appear from behind...
From charter to regional: Bearskin Airlines continues to define its role in serving Central Canada.(BUSINESS PROFILE)
Aug 01, 2005; THUNDER BAY, ON--Once a float plane operation serving Northern Ontario, bearskin Airlines has grown in the past 40-plus...