A British couple who raised a bear as their own son have recently released amazing pictures of their life together.
Andy and Maggie Robin, from Scotland, bought Hercules from an animal sanctuary for $75 in 1974. And the 980-pound bear even ended up appearing in a James Bond film with Roger Moore.
The Robins trained the gentle giant and were even able to walk him around in the countryside near their home. They reared Hercules by hand, slowly training the little bear to become comfortable around humans, to wrestle Andy without killing him.
Experts from all over the world would call them to say that a grizzly bear could never be domesticated, and they would both end up dead. They did not listen, and Hercules became their child.
“We had never imagined that the little bundle of fluff we had adopted would bring us such joy and laughter, and indeed to so many others who saw him or heard of his adventures through his colorful life,” said Maggie, who has now written a book about their life together. The book that is filled with amazing photographs of Hercules being just another family member is called Hercules the Bear: A Gentle Giant in the Family.
Hercules lived with the couple, drinking his morning tea from a mug and sitting up at the table to blow out the candles on his birthday cake. At night he’d sit in front of the fire. He even drank beer at a local pub. The Robins remember him being a happy drunk.
He ate copious amounts of prawns from Marks & Spencer, preferred his steak well done, and spent his days wrestling Andy on their ranch.
After Hercules’s death, it looked as though the couple’s marriage might not survive at first.
“It was awful,” says Maggie. “Andy was just lost. His focus for life, his everything, had just been whipped away from him. For the first two years I didn’t know if we’d make it. I thought: ‘Are we going to last?’ Andy just shut himself away. He wouldn’t talk about how he was feeling.”
‘It was just the three of us,’ says Maggie. ‘We were a family, and we were happy with that. He was my boy. You actually feel like you’ve had a child with a bear. You’ve just got that connection and that depth of feeling. It was quite amazing.’
At times Maggie regrets that they remained childless. ‘Now I think, well, I would have quite liked to have had children, but we just never seemed to have the opportunity. We were so wrapped up in life with Herc, plus there’s the idea of a toddler roaming around [with a bear].”
While she compares her husband’s loss after Hercules’ death to that of losing a limb, Maggie’s grief is sweeter, more maternal. For years, she kept a tuft of the bear’s fur, getting it out every so often to inhale its sweet, musky scent.
“That was my comfort blanket,’ she says. ‘I didn’t even tell anybody I had it until about three years ago. It was mine, and I didn’t tell a soul.”
She still has the fur, but Hercules is long gone. Her memories, poigniantly shared in her book, however, will live on forever.