Who Killed The Bears?

In April 1889 there was an event in The Forest of Dean that still proves controversial today.

Two Russian performing bears and their French keepers were travelling and performing through the Forest. A rumour started it is not clear whether it said  that the Frenchmen fed their bears with the flesh of children or  that the bears killed child and injured a woman.

This led to a crowd chasing the bears and their keepers as they were travelling to Ruardean. The bears were killed and the keepers who didn’t speak a word of English were badly beaten  by the crowd led by a local innkeeper before being  rescued by the villagers of Ruardean.

Police arrested and charged 13 people from Cinderford who were charged with killing the bears and assaulting the Frenchmen.

“Who killed the bears?”  is still used as a taunt against the residents of Ruardean who were wrongly blamed for the attack at the time.

Reports about the case appeared in newspapers around the country

Gloucester Citizen April 30th 1889


London Evening Standard 2nd May 1889

The police officers involved in the case were awarded commendations for their conduct.

The prison records of the time tell us what happened to the offenders

The next document is a bit of a mystery. We have found and been sent copies from various places all purporting to come from the Drybrook Police Station Offences Book. We do not have this document in our archives.

We know that this is laid out in the style of the Station Offence Books at the time although the original would have been hand written but no one knows where the original is or where the transcription comes from.

Folk law  said that the bears were buried in the garden of Drybrook Police station.


This page was added on 23/08/2023.

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