Popular depictions of castle moats in film and television usually involve hungry crocodiles, flesh-eating piranhas or dangerous sharks. While most of these depictions are fanciful, one medieval castle in the Czech Republic did enjoy the protection of formidable beasts to deter any would-be enemies – a sleuth of bears!
The historic Český Krumlov Castle is the only known castle in the world to have had a bear moat. Built in the 13th century by the Rosenberg family, who played a key role in the medieval history of the Czech Republic , Krumlov Castle is the nation’s second largest castle.
Located between the castle’s first and second courtyard is the famous bear moat, which protected the castle wall, tower gate and drawbridge. From at least as early as 1707 AD, bears were kept in the moat both as a status symbol and as a stark warning and deterrent to any invaders.
Český Krumlov Castle, Czech Republic. Source: Andrew / Adobe Stock
The castle’s grizzly residents were kept in the moat and tended to by a designated bearkeeper until the early 19th century. There were two gaps in the 19th and early 20th century when the moat remained uninhabited, but in 1907, bears returned to the moat and remain there until this day.
Today, four bears inhabit the moat – Vok and Katerina, and their two cubs Daxi and Hubert. They are a much-loved part of the local community and each year, celebrations are held at Christmas and on the bears’ birthdays, during which children bring the bears presents.
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