The cloth caps worn by the original grenadiers in European armies during the seventeenth century were frequently trimmed with fur. The practice fell into disuse until the second half of the eighteenth century, when grenadiers in the British, Spanish, and French armies began wearing high fur hats with cloth tops, and, sometimes, ornamental front plates. Imitating their Prussian counterparts, French grenadiers are described as wearing bearskins as early as 1761. The purpose appears to have been to add to the apparent height and impressive appearance of these troops both on the parade ground and the battlefield.

    During the nineteenth century, the expense of bearskin caps, and difficulty of maintaining them in good condition on active service led to this form of headdress becoming generally limited to Guardsmen, bands, or other units having a ceremonial role. The British Foot Guards and Royal Scots Greys did however wear bearskins in battle during the Crimean War, and on peacetime manoeuvres until the introduction of Khaki service dress in 1902.

    Immediately prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, bearskins were still worn by guards and ceremonial palace Guards to this date.

    In 1768, the long cloth caps worn by grenadiers were discontinued, and bearskin caps introduced. Following the Battle of Waterloo, all members of the newly named Grenadier Guards were permitted to wear the bearskin. This privilege had previously been restricted to the grenadier company of the regiment. In 1831, this distinction was extended to the other two regiments of foot guards (Coldstream and Scots) in existence at that date. Bearskins were subsequently adopted by the Irish and the Welsh Guards when raised in 1900 and 1915 respectively. Members of the following units are currently authorised to wear the bearskin cap with their full dress:

    Along with these units, officers of fusilier regiments are also authorised to wear the bearskin as part of their ceremonial uniform. Additionally the members of the regimental bands for the five regiments of foot guards, the Honourable Artillery Company, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are also authorised to wear the headdress. The drum major of the band for the Royal Highland Fusiliers is also authorised to wear the bearskin.

    The bearskin caps for British Foot Guards are coloured black, with most caps made from the fur of a Canadian Black Bear

    The standard bearskin for the British foot guards is 11 inches (280 millimetres) tall at the front, 16 inches (410 millimetres) to the rear, weighs 1.5 pounds (0.68 kilograms), and is made from the fur of the Canadian Black Bear However, an officer's bearskin is made from the fur of the Canadian Brown Bear, as the female brown bear has thicker, fuller fur; officers' caps are dyed black. An entire skin is used for each head-dress. The British Army purchase the head-dresses, which are known as caps, from a British hat maker which sources its pelts from an international auction. The hatmakers purchase between 50 and 100 black bear skins each year at a cost of about £950 each. If properly maintained, the caps last for decades.


    Item Description

    This is an original Other Ranks Bearskin made from the Canadian Black Bear and originally issued to the Scots Guards as it does not have a position to mount a parade plume with the Scots Guards being the only Guards Regiment to do this. It is in exceptionally good condition with no bald spots or discolouration. Original Brass chinscales. Leather liner, Basket weave inner in excellent condition with no breaks. Great shape. 

    This bearskin presents well and would be dated from around 1910 onwards. Great display piece.