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Bearskins are head-dresses, popularly called busbies, made from the pelage of bears shot in Canada and worn in the British army by the red tunic guards regiments.
Every year the British army needs 65 bears to turn into ceremonial hats. The hats, nearly half a metre (18 ins) tall and a kilogram (2 lbs) in weight, are made from bear fur
The black bears are the species Ursus americanus and shot in Canada.
and each hat requires the death of one or two black bears.
It is the 2,500 guardsmen of the Irish, Welsh, Scots, Coldstream and Grenadier regiments in their distinctive red tunics who wear bearskins, popularly called busbies. The guards wear their bearskins when on duty at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and at the changing of the guard, all favourites with sightseers.
Napoleon's Imperial Guard originally wore the bearskin, making the infantryman appear tall and intimidating. The British Guards adopted the headdress in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the battle marking the final downfall of Napoleon. The Guards seized the bearskins straight off the heads of the beaten French.
Bears and Guards march past.
Critics say there is no reason why the army cannot make bearskins from synthetic material. But after 20 years of searching for a replacement, the army has so far failed to find one. The army says that 'bearskins' made from Nylon and dyed sheepskin turn out the wrong colour, distort in the rain, blow askew in the wind or attract static electricity.
Royalty wearing a bear. The British monarch and husband (the Duke of Edinburgh) at her official birthday parade, 2007.
Proponents point out that the pelage is a by-product of culling the bears and that no one kills the bears especially to make into hats. Culls are called for because the bears are an ostensible danger to wildlife. Critics say that culling is not a substitute for humane bear management and that profiting from culling helps perpetuate it when culling should cease.
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