A bearskin hat is a tall fur cap, usually worn as part of a ceremonial military uniform. Traditionally, the bearskin was the headgear of grenadiers and remains in use by grenadier and guards regiments in various armies.
Bearskins should not be confused with other forms of headdress, including the busby, and other types of smaller fur headdresses.
The cloth caps worn by the original grenadiers in European armies during the seventeenth century were frequently trimmed with fur. The practice fell into disuse until the second half of the eighteenth century when grenadiers in the British, Spanish and French armies began wearing high fur hats with cloth tops and, sometimes, ornamental front plates. Imitating their Prussian counterparts, French grenadiers are described as wearing bearskins as early as 1761. The purpose appears to have been to add to the apparent height and impressive appearance of these troops both on the parade ground and the battlefield.
During the nineteenth century, the expense of bearskin caps and difficulty of maintaining them in good condition on active service led to this form of headdress becoming generally limited to guardsmen, bands or other units having a ceremonial role. The British Foot Guards and Royal Scots Greys did however wear bearskins in battle during the Crimean War and on peacetime manoeuvres until the introduction of khaki service dress in 1902.