Most people born in this century have probably encountered teddy bears during their lives, for the teddy bear was developed around the turn of the century. Toy bears developed out of admiration for real bears. About 110,000 years ago, Neanderthal hunters collected skulls of a large brown bear (now extinct) in a shrine where the Cult of the Bear worshiped for over 50,000 years. In modern times, the bear is still considered a symbol of strength, courage, and endurance.
Bears share many characteristics with humans, including the abilities to stand upright and to hug, and they also fiercely protect their cubs. Bears are sometimes called the "clowns of the woods" because they dance, sit on their haunches, and roll head over hind paws.
In medieval stories, Bruin the bear was a popular character. In Russia, the bear of folklore evolved into a caricature named "Mishka." The rest of the world learned of Mishka during the 1980 Olympic Games when he became the mascot of the games and a collectible toy.
Since the teddy bear's invention, Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington Bear, Big Teddy and Little Teddy (characters in a set of stories by H. C. Craddock), Yogi and Boo-Boo Bear, Smokey, and Sesame Street's Fozzie bear have become much loved friends and toys from the bear kingdom. Psychologists explain our connection with the teddy bear as "transitional;" children rely on teddies as secretive confidants who help them move away from total dependence on their parents.