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Bearskins,uniform.

For those who have seen the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London, one of the most striking features of the resplendent red uniforms worn by the soldiers is those massive, black shaggy hats perched on top their heads.

The hats purportedly are made of bearskin. Is it true?

According to Sgt. Maj. Richard Patterson, a guard at the palace, yes, they are authentic bearskin, imported from Canada.

The tradition of wearing the hats dates back to the battle of Waterloo, when British troops defeated a contingent of Russian imperial guards, then took their hats as trophies, Patterson said. They’ve been the palace guards’ headgear ever since.

Some still in use today date back to the original battle — some even with musket and shrapnel holes in them, he said.

The Household Division, which guards the palace, imports about 100 skins a year for the hats, but is testing some synthetic versions. They’re heavy, hot and ungainly, he said, but not that hard to get used to wearing.

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around the United Kingdom? E-mail us at: UKnews@mail.estripes.osd.mil.

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