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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019

It has been 35 years since this half-tonne bear was accidentally let loose in Scotland

Hercules’ reputation as a gentle giant saw him go on to gain international fame.

Hercules with his owner's Andy and Maggie Robin after being shot with a tranquillizer gun in 1980.
Hercules with his owner's Andy and Maggie Robin after being shot with a tranquillizer gun in 1980.

THIRTY FIVE YEARS ago today a half-tonne bear escaped his handlers in Scotland.

The bear, Hercules, had been in the Outer Hebridies filming an advertisement for Kleenex, the tissue company, when he went AWOL.

The animal’s stint in the Scottish wilds lasted a total of 24 days.

On the 13 September, 1980 Hercules was located, shot with a tranquilliser dart and then returned to his owner, wrestler Andy Robbins.

During his three weeks missing the bear captured the media’s attention. Although the official search for him was called off after three days, Robbins continued to search for the animal with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

Hercules had lost 20 stone in weight while lost. This was put down to his not wanting to eat other wild animals as he had been raised in captivity, something that humanised him in the eyes of the world’s media and cultivated the image of a ‘gentle giant’.

Speaking at the time of his capture, his owner Robbins said, “It’s a great moment – not just for me because Hercules brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.”

Animals - Hercules the Bear - North Uist - Outer Hebrides The bear in a net after being caught Source: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES

This gave the animal an international profile and he went on to feature in Kleenex’s ‘Big Softy’ advertising campaign, as well as the 1983 Bond film Octopussy and later on the cover of Time magazine.

Last year a documentary was made about Hercules and the relationship that he had with his trainers, who bought him from a Scottish zoo in 1976 for £50.

He died in 2000 at the age of 25 from old age. A statue has been erected in his honour in Langass Woods, located North Uist, and island in the Outer Hebrides.

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