In the news: Hercules the big softy
Probably the most famous bear since Baloo or Gentle Ben went missing during production of a Kleenex advert in the Outer Hebrides during August 1980. Hercules, born in 1975, had become a star with his wrestling owner Andy Robin on World of Sport. While filming the Kleenex commercial, Hercules legged it on the island of Benbecula. The search for him was called off after three days, but then, 24 days after he’d disappeared, Hercules was spotted, tranquilised and recaptured. Being a domesticated and quiet giant used to cooked meat, he had ignored all the wildlife on the island and practically starved instead, losing 15 stone. Such good-naturedness caused his popularity to soar even more, especially with islanders who had previously been afraid of him on the loose. The resultant ‘Big Softy’ Kleenex campaign was a major success. Hercules went on to more TV and film roles – including 007 flick Octopussy – and met Mrs Thatcher. President Ronald Reagan also sent him a telegram after he was named Personality of the Year by the Scottish Tourist Board, although whether Ronald realised he was a bear or not is a moot point. Hercules died of old age in 2000 and is remembered by a life-size statue on North Uist.