Maybe the Begging Bear attacked first

March 23, 2011

Before we gather up the horses and send out a lynch mob for the young men who hauled down Guelph’s beloved Begging Bear statue, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

I’ll admit the facts, on the surface, seem stacked against them.

Last Friday night, witnesses saw a group of about 10 young men climbing on top of the famous bear, which has stood since 1999 in front of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre at the corner of Gordon Street and College Avenue.

And yes, people saw the group taking photos of each other as they rocked the bear back and forth, eventually pulling the famous landmark off its foundation and sending it crashing to the ground.

Witnesses say they jumped on the bear as it lay on the ground, and posed for more photos. And it’s also true the bronze statue was scuffed and badly dented in the fall, and repairs to the concrete footing will probably cost in the thousands of dollars.

But we don’t know what led to the confrontation. It could be the bear attacked them first, and the young men were simply acting in self defence. Maybe the Begging Bear made a comment about one of their mothers, who undoubtedly raised these boys not to take any guff from smart-mouthed statues.

Imagine their fear, as they walked to midnight mass or late-night volunteer river cleanup, when the Begging Bear suddenly lunged at them. They probably had no choice but to fight back.

And although it looks bad, perhaps they were only jumping on the fallen bear to make sure it was good and dead. We have all been there before – just when you think the bear statue you have killed is finally dead, it roars back to life and attacks you and everyone you care about.

Then again, it could be there’s more to this story than we’re hearing.

Part of the Begging Bear’s fame comes from its ever-changing wardrobe. Over the years, it has appeared as an astronaut, a hippie, a cow, and dressed itself up for occasions from Canada Day to convocation and much more. It may be the bear’s penchant for wearing such flamboyant clothes that sparked this confrontation.

More specifically, the bear is occasionally known to wear a dress, and that could be what set these young men off. Perhaps the group, fired up in a religious fervour, decided male bears shouldn’t wear dresses any more.

I don’t need to tell you bear statue cross-dressing is a slippery slope. Everyone knows that. Once we let these bronze animals start wearing women’s clothes, it’s not a far stretch to imagine they’d want to start dating other male bear statues. Then bear statue same-sex marriage can’t be far behind, can it?

In that sense, these young men were just exercising their right to express their religious values. And the last time I checked, this country was founded on those values. And there’s nothing in our Constitution about the right of bronze bear statues to wear women’s clothes.

So say what you will about these young men who have been so vilified by fans of the Begging Bear. There have been a lot of names tossed around in their direction. But maybe there’s another word for them. And maybe that word is heroes.

Or, on second thought, let’s just send out that lynch mob.

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based freelance writer. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at, and past columns can be read at


Guelph Mercury, March 23, 2011

2 Responses to Maybe the Begging Bear attacked first

  1. Bonni on May 18, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I’m a Guelph cab driver and, like everybody else, including the University of Guelph students I miss the Begging Bear.

    Sunday night while working I picked up a guy I had picked up the night the Bear was damaged – he was yakking on his cell
    phone the entire trip from the bus to Maritime – I tuned him out as I’m prone to do….until I heard him mention knocking the “Gaels”
    mascot off it’s perch….I still didn’t really tune in much – until he paid me and said to whoever – “stupid bear we showed Guelph” –
    and I can’t even tell you anything other than he goes to school at either Laurier or Waterloo cause he mentioned going to a “good”
    university in Waterloo. And I wouldn’t know him if I tripped over him….I reallly don’t think anybody from or going to U of G
    killed the bear I think our illustrious neighbour university students did.

  2. Sarah on May 18, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Seriously… your article just made my day! :)

    WAY too funny!


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