Bern – Bärengraben

The bear is the symbol of the Swiss city of Bern and there’s a depiction of it in the city’s coat of arms.

The Bärengraben, or bear pit, was first opened here in 1857, although bears had been kept on public display in numerous other locations in the city before then. It was a rather basic way to keep bears and it meant that they were exposed to anyone who wanted to throw things at them, so it was taken out of use in 2009. Looking back, I’m surprised that it remained in use for as long as it did.

The replacement for the bear pit is the new bear area which is a short distance away on the banks of the river, offering the bears much more terrain. They also have their own section of the river that they can swim in and there’s much more space and foliage for them.

There are currently two bears at the site and they were kept separate for a while because they decided that they liked fighting. There’s the possibility that more space might be opened up for the bears in the future, but at the moment everything feels quite spacious.