hand holding cast lead figurine in the shape of a standing bear
Bear Figurine

At first glance, this cast lead figurine appears to be a standing rabbit with erect, elongated ears. Upon closer examination, however, it is an upright bear with a collar around its neck. The casting sprue of the unfinished figurine is at the top of his head. Deposited in a soldier’s pit that was sealed in June 1610, the figurine may have come with the early colonists as a toy, a trade item, or with other lead scrap to melt for the manufacture of lead shot.

Bear baiting was a popular blood sport during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and one that she enjoyed immensely. The event took place in an arena in which the bear was chained to a post by the neck or a leg, and tormented by a dog. In another version, the bear was blinded and whipped. In 1575, Robert Laneham wrote:

“…it was a sport very pleasant to see, to see the bear, with his pink eyes, tearing after his enemies approach; the nimbleness and wayt of the dog to take his advantage and the force and experience of the bear again to avoid his assaults: if he were bitten in one place how he would pinch in another to get free; that if he were taken once, then by what shift with biting, with clawing, with roaring, with tossing and tumbling he would work and wind himself from them; and when he was loose to shake his ears twice or thrice with the blood and the slaver hanging about his physiognomy.”

Bear baiting died out in popularity in 18th-century England, and it was outlawed by Parliament in 1835. In the United States, it is still legal in South Carolina.