'Hercules' – Outer Hebrides, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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'Hercules'

A memorial to the acting bear whose escape caused a sensation on the Outer Hebrides. 

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The Langass (Langais in Gaelic) Woodland is a peculiar feature of the Outer Hebridean island of North Uist. Among a few other woodlands in the archipelago, Langass was planted artificially to provide residents and visitors with an opportunity to experience a type of environment that does not occur naturally on their respective islands. Another peculiarity that has not occurred naturally, not only in the Scottish islands, but the entire United Kingdom for around 1,000 years, is the brown bear. Hercules represents the meeting of both of these local rarities.

Hercules was a brown bear born in captivity in Kingussie on the Scottish mainland. In 1975, he was purchased from the town’s Highland Wildlife Park by Andy Robin, a former wrestling champion. He was raised as a performing animal and would go on to star in television commercials. In 1980, while filming one such commercial for the Andrex toilet paper brand, Hercules escaped the set on the island of Benbecula.

The escape lead to a mobilization of volunteers and authorities to find Hercules, especially as he posed a major threat to the sheep-rearing industry of the islands. Three weeks later, he was located on the island of North Uist, having crossed the causeway that connects Benbecula to the island of Grimsay, and from there to North Uist. He did not kill a single sheep, surviving on leftovers and waste from humans instead. After this adventure, Hercules’s fame only grew, culminating with a film cameo in 1983’s “Octopussy.”

He would continue to perform until 1997, and died in 2001 still under the care of Robin and his wife Maggie. Following his continued association with North Uist, his remains were moved to this site in Langaiss Woods in 2015, where a wood sculpture of him can also be found.

Robin died in 2019, and a memorial stone in his honor was later incorporated into the site. Even after the passing of both, Hercules and Robin’s friendship is still honored in this small clearing between a few trees of the Outer Hebrides. In addition to the sculpture and plaques, signs with a bear paw print can be found scattered throughout as part of a symbolic trail.

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