Hercules the Wrestling Bear (1975-2001) was a trained grizzly bear. Professional wrestler Andy Robin and his wife Maggie, a former show jumping champion, brought him up, having bought him as a cub (for £40 according to the Daily Record; Wikipedia will tell you they spent a whole £50 on him) from the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie in 1976. Andy, having once wrestled a bear named Terrible Ted in Maple Leaf Gardens in 1968, hit upon the idea of adopting his own bear to create a star.
Hercules first appeared with Andy in his act on the UK wrestling circuit in the late 1970s. Playing the role of a gentle giant, the bear regularly drew audiences of 15 million viewers on ITV’s World of Sport programme. But it was for an event in 1980 for which he is best remembered – an event that spawned at least two ‘tribute’ 45s.
While filming a television commercial in the Outer Hebrides in August 1980, Hercules escaped; the bear was missing for 24 days. Hundreds of volunteers formed search parties to look for Hercules with no luck until a crofter spotted the animal swimming. Hercules was shot with a tranquilliser dart, netted, and flown by helicopter back to Andy and Maggie, who had built a special compound complete with log cabin and swimming pool for the animal. Being used to eating cooked food Hercules had lost almost half of his body weight during his three weeks on the run, and it was this reputation as a gentle giant that led to the ‘Big Softy’ Kleenex campaign, which kicked off his film career. In 1983 he appeared in the James Bond movie Octopussy starring alongside Roger Moore, and other film and documentary roles followed.
Hercules’ three weeks on the run spawned this dreadful disco version of the Big Bopper-penned Running Bear (originally a hit for Johnny Preston) performed by an unknown female vocal act and issued by Sonet imprint Royale Chimes Records. Brian Spence, former guitarist and vocalist for the Scottish group Bilbo Baggins, wrote the b-side. The other disc, by Donnie MacLeod and a vile children’s choir, can be heard on Youtube
Hercules died in 2001 and was buried on the Robins' estate, Big Bear Ranch, in Glendevon, Perthshire. When the couple sold the ranch in 2013 they dug up his remains and re-interred them next to a statue of the bear in a wood on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
Download Running Bear HERE
Download Come Back Hercules HERE