Cause of death: Feet licked by bear?

I went camping this past weekend with a few friends, and I heard something from a friend that boggled my mind. Apparently his parents - both Iranian - had each told him, in complete stone-faced seriousness and on separate occasions, that my friend was at risk for being killed by bears while camping… specifically, that the bears might lick him to death.

Apparently - and this is just what his parents told him, so don’t give me any funny looks - bears are known to sneak up on campers while sleeping, and having poked their heads into your tent and seeing your exposed bare feet, they’ll promptly begin licking your feet which will… well, details are sketchy at this point, but suffice to say that you die. Somehow both of his parents honestly believed that bears were known to lick human feet, and that this was deadly.

If I were to hazard a guess, maybe it’s the rough tongues of the bear licking the skin off your feet, reducing the soles of your feet to bleeding nubs, which you somehow wouldn’t notice in your deep slumber? Maybe the bear tickles you to death? Maybe you’d die of embarrassment?

In any case, have any of you heard about a supposedly widespread urban myth, specifically among Persians, that bears are known to lick people to death? My Google search for “bears licking feet” returned results too disturbing to describe, so I turned to you, the internet’s only reliable source.

I think the sequence would be

  1. Bears lick feet.
  2. Bears eat feet.
  3. Bears eat legs.
  4. You get the idea.

I have never heard of such a story in 50 years of backpacking/camping. Maybe Persian bears are poisonous or something.

I heard something similar in Southern Georgia.* But my relatives took great pride in their ability to freak out the younger generation, so add a generous pinch of salt. . .

Anyway, the story was that bears were crazy for salt, and would lick the salt off your feet while you slept. Then you’d wake up kicking, scare the bear, and it would attack you. All barely plausible, if highly improbable.

They also said ducks hated purple,and would attack you if you wore a purple jacket near them. And of course the whole bulls with red thing. . .
*The US State, that is.

Rather like being eaten by a boa constrictor.

The OP reminds me of the South Korean belief that if you leave a fan on while you sleep, you’ll die. There’s no telling what people will believe.

No doubt based on what he was told growing up, my dad was (and AFAIK still is) convinced that if you pluck out one of your nose hairs you’re putting yourself at risk for a brain aneurysm somehow.

Perhaps based on an ancient beastiary? Some medieval manuscripts got copied, recopied and spread out very far from their origins, and perhaps some remnant of the whole lick thing remained?

My partner is of Persian ancestry, and he never heard of such a thing. But I do know that he ***NEVER ***sleeps with his feet exposed.

I could certainly see how getting your feet licked by a wild animal would lead to panic, which probably wouldn’t end well.

This video link would probably be instructional.

Which Cecil wrote about some years ago.

A small data point: Mrs. Raza is from south Asia and has related similar warnings from her mother, basically: don’t go wandering around or a bear will lick your feet and you won’t be able to escape.

Sounds like a generic parental warning as to “don’t be gettin’ ideas”, to me.

I’ve had my feet licked by a North American black bear, and lived to tell about it.

While at first glance, death by being licked by a bear sounds very embarrasing, I would still prefer it to autoerotic asphyxation. :slight_smile:

I’m sure this sort of thing is what inspired Robert Parker to write his hit song Bearfootin’.


The key is not to struggle – you’ve got to know when you’re licked.

I’ve never heard that legend before. It sounds similar to the legend of the dakhanavar, which is a foot sucking vampire. Maybe it’s a bastardization of that legend.

I’ve heard the same thing about goats before, sort of. The story I heard was that some tinpot dictator in the third world’s favorite mode of torture was to tie up his enemies, cover their feet with salt, and then let goats lick it off. They keep licking until your soles are bloody and raw.

Details please. Surely you didn’t think you were going to get by that easy?

Pics? Video?

In most places in bear territory, most of the time, you probably wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping with your feet exposed, anyway. It can get cold at night.

I vaguely recall reading an account of an African Buffalo that treed a woman who was on safari. The tree was short, and the animal was able to lick her feet with its very rough tongue. Her companions didn’t find her until the next morning, by which time the animal had licked her feet down to the bone. I forget whether she was supposed to have survived.

I suspect that story is bogus. I’ve never heard anything like this about bears.

Do goats or cows or any other herbivore have rough tongues? It’s always been my impression that raspy tongues are used for getting meat off bones and so would be a carnivorous thing. 'course, dog tongues are slippery so maybe I need to stick to what I know.

Which is that this is frikkin hillarious: