How do you prepare for a hunting trip? Most people start with their base layers, camouflage, and boots. But if you planned to hunt bears in 1800s Siberia, dusting off the old Siberian bear-hunting armor could have been step number one!
So, what’s the deal with this crazy-looking suit? And did people actually wear it to hunt bears? Let’s dive in!
The Bear-Hunting Armor Suit
When you first look at this absurd costume, the last thing that comes to mind is “Bear Hunting.” But as this epic photo continues its tour around the internet, the captions are always the same – “Bear Hunting Armor. “
This stylish ensemble consists of leather slacks, a leather shirt, and a spiked iron helmet. The suit is covered head-to-toe in one-inch iron nails spaced roughly ¾ inch apart. A second leather lining protects the nails and is quilted into place, holding the suit together. Edgy!
Who Took the Photo?
The photo initially picked up steam after being posted to the once-popular website (Retronaut) in 2012. But the picture itself was taken by photographer Malcolm Kirk.
In 2012, the Adventure Enthusiast Blog wrote a post claiming to have contacted Malcolm Kirk’s representatives and confirming he was behind the camera. However, they would not share any additional information because the suit was in a private collection.
Was the Siberian Bear-Hunting Armor Used for Bear-Hunting?
Unfortunately, we can neither confirm nor disprove this suit is the hardcore bear destroyer we all want it to be. Some believe it’s more likely to have been used for bear baiting.
In fact, prominent conservator Barbara Appelbaum typed an email to the Global Conservation Forum in 1998 where she states: “The object is being called a Siberian bear-hunting suit, but I suspect it is more likely to be for bear bating than hunting, since I can’t imagine anyone could run around the woods in it.”
Where Did the Suit Come From?
It is entirely believable that a gnarly bear hunting costume would originate from Siberia, as most captions portray. The vast region has always been a haven for giant bears, and they were undoubtedly hunted.
But, a 2014 Masters thesis by Kristen Strange of Arizona State University writes: “While it is now thought to have originated in eighteenth- or nineteenth-century Germany or Switzerland, this costume presumably represents a folk figure seen in the Vogel Gryff Festival in Basel, but it has also been considered a bear hunting costume.“
Bear Hunting Armor Music Video
The photograph became so popular a Prague-based indie group named “Ending” wrote a song about it!
Where Is Siberian Bear-Hunting Armor Today?
The armor now resides at a museum called the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. The museum consists of collected artifacts and the private art of the de Menil family. The suit is part of an exhibit called Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision.
The plaque that describes the display reads: “‘Wildman’ costume, 18th or 19th century, Germany or Switzerland. Two-piece leather hunting suit with wood spikes and iron chain.“
The Menil Collection opened the exhibit in 1998; additional photographs of the suit can be found on their website.
So, was the “Siberian bear-hunting armor” actually used for hunting bears? Maybe, maybe not! But the comments, debates, and speculation surrounding a mysterious photo like this make it an entertaining piece of history!