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‘We sacrificed having children for our furry baby': The story of Hercules the ‘millionaire bear’ who became a Hollywood star – and made his Scottish owners a fortune

As any pet owner knows, the bond between animals and their owner is a sacred one.

But even the most ardent animal-lover will be amazed by the story of Hercules, the grizzly bear cub taken in by a Scottish couple in 1976.

From that day, and for every day over the next 25 years, Hercules lived in peace with Andy and Maggie Robin, becoming the most famous bear in the world and appearing in adverts and even in the James Bond film, Octopussy, in which he briefly shared the screen with Roger Moore.

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A documentary on Ch5, Hercules The Human Bear, charts the bear's incredible life, showing unbelievable footage of the bear opening doors to have breakfast with his 'family,' Andy and Maggie Robin

A documentary on Ch5, Hercules The Human Bear, charts the bear’s incredible life, showing unbelievable footage of the bear opening doors to have breakfast with his ‘family,’ Andy and Maggie Robin

 

Hercules The Human Bear charts the life of the grizzly who was taken in and looked after by Scottish couple Andy and Maggie Robin in 1976, and lived with them for 25 years.

Hercules The Human Bear charts the life of the grizzly who was taken in and looked after by Scottish couple Andy and Maggie Robin in 1976, and lived with them for 25 years.

 

Andy Robin trained Hercules to become a professional sparring partner, and the bear found worldwide fame throughout his 25-year life

Andy Robin trained Hercules to become a professional sparring partner, and the bear found worldwide fame throughout his 25-year life

 

Maggie Robin, pictured here, became so close to the grizzly bear Hercules that he dined with them. Maggie kissed and cuddled the bear without any fear and says he was 'part of the family'

Maggie Robin, pictured here riding atop Hercules and laughing, regarded the bear as her 'baby.'

Maggie Robin, pictured here with Hercules, explains in the documentary, Hercules the Human Bear, how he became such a significant part of her life that she and husband Andy even sacrificed having children so they could devote attention to their furry ‘baby’

 

A documentary on Channel Five, Hercules The Human Bear, charts his incredible life and has extensive interviews with Andy and Maggie, showing unbelievable footage of the bear opening doors to have breakfast with the couple, sparring with Andy and tenderly cuddling up to the pair.

Andy and Maggie bought Hercules from a wildlife park in Kincraig on 20 September 1976, for just £50, after Andy decided he wanted a grizzly bear to train and enter wrestling competitions with.

‘I’ll never forget the day Andy came home and said, “What would you think if I said I was going to get a bear?“‘ laughs Maggie in the programme, airing on April 3. 

Andy devised a hardcore regime with Hercules, including sparring sessions and cross-country runs, and they trained every day.

During one training session Hercules deliberately tripped Andy and pinned him to the ground,

‘He stood back and looked at me as if to say, “I’m your friend, I’m not going to bite you,”’ says Andy.

‘It was then I knew we had star in the making.’

Little did they know what a phenomenon Hercules would become.

Hercules, the bear who became a Hollywood star

Clip courtesy of Middle Child Productions

 

Pucker up! Andy and Maggie Robin were incredibly close to their grizzly bear Hercules. Andy personally trained him and the three lived as a family for 25 years

Pucker up! Andy and Maggie Robin were incredibly close to their grizzly bear Hercules. Andy personally trained him and the three lived as a family for 25 years

People could hardly believe the close bond that Scottish Andy Robin shared with Hercules. Grizzly bears are regarded as one of the world's most dangerous mammal

People could hardly believe the close bond that Scottish Andy Robin shared with Hercules. Grizzly bears are regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous mammal

 

A young Hercules is trained by Andy Robin at their home in Scotland. The bear lived with the couple for 25 years

CAPTION TO COME

Hercules, pictured here with Andy Robin, was bought for £50 by Andy from a wildlife park in Kincraig, Scotland on 20 September 1976

 

Camera crews and reporters couldn't believe the bond Andy shared with his pet bear, Hercules

Andy takes Hercules out for a stroll in Scotland, where he trained the bear every day to compete in wrestling tournaments

Andy Robin, pictured here with Hercules as a bear cub, trained the bear every day and his Scottish home and the two became inseparable until Hercules died of natural causes in 2000

 

Their wrestling performances in the late 1970s and early 1980s were watched by millions and the unique relationship captured the hearts of a nation.

Andy and Maggie explain just how on earth they managed to live under the same roof as a grizzly bear, regarded as the world’s most dangerous land mammal.

The couple had no formal animal training, yet allowed 9ft, 70st Hercules to share every part of their lives.

It shows Hercules being called for dinner, opening the door by himself and sitting down to eat.

‘He didn’t eat wild food, he had refined taste buds,’ says Maggie.

In the morning he’d have coffee with evaporated milk and sugar with bread, eggs and beans. At night he’d have meat and potatoes soup carrots – and even sometimes a cheeky slug of beer.

‘He was happy drunk,’ laughs Maggie.

Andy and Maggie Robin were Hercules' biggest fans and even scarified having children as they were so devotes to the bear. He lived with them his entire life and was personally trained by Andy

Andy and Maggie Robin were Hercules’ biggest fans and even scarified having children as they were so devotes to the bear. He lived with them his entire life and was personally trained by Andy

 

 

Andy Robin says Hercules, pictured here as a young cub, was 'a real character,' and 'part of the family'

Andy Robin says Hercules, pictured here as a young cub, was ‘a real character,’ and ‘part of the family’

 

‘It didn’t happen often but it was very funny when he did. He’d hiccup.

‘He was a real character.’

Hercules’ fame rose and he became the star of adverts for Kleenex and Hofmeister Beer.

He was on the front cover of Time magazine, met Margaret Thatcher and caddied for Bob Hope at a golf tournament.

Hercules’ stardom took the family to California for two years, before coming home to Scotland in 1989, where Andy and Maggie build him the Big Bear Ranch in 1989.

The 30-acre site included a swimming pool.

At 20, Hercules was at the height of his career and was booked to star in a natural history film about bears for the BBC.

After filming his final scenes, he collapsed in agony.

‘We knew something was seriously wrong with him,’ says Maggie quietly, as the documentary explores the subsequent events in Hercules’ life.

In 1998, the bear went into hibernation and when he awoke he couldn’t walk.

A year later, aged 24, he went into hospital for an operation on his spine.

His treatment was covered by news crews and fans very step of the way.

He died on 4 February 2000, at 25 years old, of natural causes.

‘That teddy bear we all had as a child became my everyday reality,’ Maggie says.

‘Hercules never let me down once.

‘We shared a charmed life full of adventure, love and laughter that still, to this day, makes me smile.’

The programme concludes with a trip to the Outer Hebrides where a life-sized statue of Hercules is unveiled at Langass Woodland.

Hercules The Human Bear is on Channel Five, 3rd April, 9pm 

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