Behind Grizzly Adams' Beard

If you had to pick the most badass beardsman of them all, it would have to be Grizzly Adams. Not only was his life just one big, wild adventure, but his legacy is still part of our pop culture, close to two centuries after he passed. The Grizzly Adams beard brings a pretty specific image to mind of an unruly and unkempt mane. This man is so much more than a beard, though.

Artwork of Grizzly Adams with his beard

Grizzly was born John in 1812. He started life in Massachusetts, and didn’t have much access to education. As a teenager, he ended up learning the shoemaking trade, picking up leatherworking and cobbler skills which would come in handy later in life. By early adulthood, however, this line of work bored him and he set out into the woods of Massachusetts to hone his survival skills. For the next few years, he would trap and hunt wildlife until an injury knocked him on his back for nearly a year. This was the beginning of a string of bad luck for Mr. Adams, that included losing his entire life savings in a fire, followed by the suicide of his father. Eventually, John had nothing left to lose, and set out for the wilds of California. 

In California, Adams attempted to live life like everyone else, trying to fit neatly into an acceptable trade or business. He tried mining and ranching, trading and farming, but none of it was truly for him. It seemed no matter what he did, he would always end up, once again, without a dollar in his pocket. Adams had enough of his failures living in modern society and disappeared into California’s untamed wilderness. 

Historical photo of Grizzly Adams beard

The Legend of Grizzly Adams Begins

Adams built a cabin with a stable in the middle of nowhere. He made use of his leatherworking skills to fashion clothes and shoes. His previous experience with hunting and survival in the forests of Massachusetts proved valuable as he began to hunt and trap wild animals for their meat and hides, and of course, the activity that made him infamous, taming. 

Grizzly earned himself that nickname because he ended up trapping and taming several bears. This man wasn’t just doing it to prove he could. It would seem he had a love for bears, and the cubs he ended up taming were like family to him. They would protect him, saving his life on numerous occasions. They even kept him warm on cold winter nights by letting Adams get close enough to share their warmth. Eventually, Adams would use his taming skills to bring the wonder of wild animals to museums and shows like P.T. Barnum’s. When Adams finally died as a result of an injury he suffered during a grizzly attack, P.T. Barnum, it is said, was overcome with grief and paid to have his headstone made. 

Drawing of a bearded Grizzly Adams

This enchanting mountain man had no need to shave and his beard grew to become unruly. It seems pretty fitting that Grizzly Adams’ beard eventually made him fit right in with the wild animals he adored. Today, if someone relates your beard to Grizzly, though, you might want to go get a quick trim.

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