Great consternation prevailed the other morning in the vicinity of Commercial Street, owing to a polar bear having made his escape and running at large in the streets.
It appeared that Mr Woods, Greenmarket, had procured two polar bears, which had been brought from Davis Straits by some of the whaling ships, it being his intention to exhibit them in a tent erected on a vacant piece of ground in Commercial Street.
They were enclosed in a wooden box with a strong iron grating, and had almost arrived at their destination, when the box slipped off the barrow, and several of the bottom boards gave way, leaving a space sufficiently large for the escape of the bear.
Fortunately the box was divided into two compartments, otherwise both animals would have got out.
The scene of excitement and consternation which followed was extraordinary. The crowd which followed the barrow was scattered in an instant, everyone taking to his heels and making off as fast as he could.
Mr Woods and his assistants went off in pursuit of the escaped bear, which by this time had reached the High Street.
Everyone saw that Bruin fled terror stricken, and the thoroughfare was speedily cleared. To try his metal, a dog started off in pursuit, but he soon found he was no match for the bear. When almost at Bruin’s tail, the latter quickly turned round, and with a loud growl made a snap at the barking cur, which, terrified at Bruin’s ferocity, beat a hasty retreat with his tail between his legs.
To roam the streets in enjoyment of freedom did not seem to suit Bruin’s inclination, for on reaching the British Hotel Buildings he bolted into the shop of Mr Jamieson, clothier and outfitter, rushing wildly at the man in charge, who was standing at the door, he having been previously attracted there by the hue and cry.
To be free from danger a woman had previously taken shelter in the shop, and when Bruin entered both she and the shopman in the greatest terror sprang upon the counter.
In a moment the shop was surrounded by a crowd of several hundred persons, among whom were some seamen, who very willingly joined Mr Wood’s men in their efforts to secure the animal.
On entering the shop Bruin appeared to be more interested in the articles displayed than in continuing his chase after the affrighted man and woman, who had no alternative but to stand on the counter and watch his movements.
Bruin first demolished a show block on which a suit of clothing was displayed and then to his astonishment he suddenly saw himself reflected in the large mirror at the back of the shop.
This discovery seemed to annoy him considerably and he manifested his rage by emitting terrible growls and pawing and scraping, and bobbing up and down in front of the glass, as if anxious to get at his apparent antagonist, whose nose touched his on every occasion that it came into contact with the mirror.
Bruin for a while was frantic with rage, but failing to get any satisfaction, he contemptuously left his imaginary foe and proceeded to the back of the shop, where he made a minute inspection of the stock. Having accomplished this, he two or three times made an attempt to get out at the door, but on each occasion it was closed, and so he was prevented from escaping.
Bruin next leaped upon a counter situated below a large window, and made strenuous efforts to effect his escape by it, but, fortunately, he was not able to reach it.
He latterly jumped to the floor and went below the counter, the opening between the end of it and the wall being just sufficient to admit of him passing through.
Now was the opportunity for those in pursuit, and they quickly took advantage of it. Entering the back shop with a rope, several of them went on to the top of the counter, hanging the noose of the rope over one end, and tempting Bruin to emerge from his quarters.
The bait succeeded, the noose of the rope was passed over his head and drawn tight, and he was pulled from below the counter a prisoner. He was then carried out of the shop amid the laughter and cheers of the crowd, and safely placed in his cage within Mr Woods exhibition.
The Illustrated Police News, November 23, 1878.